Two weeks ago, 57 Ukrainian refugees arrived at Saint-Vaury in Creuse. Among them Natacha, her three daughters Ksenia, Katia, Anna and her niece Dacha. Meeting with these women and the associations and communities that are helping them to rebuild, here or elsewhere.
Two weeks ago, 57 Ukrainian refugees arrived at Saint-Vaury in Creuse. Among them Natacha, her three daughters Ksenia, Katia and Anna and her niece Dacha: ” nWe arrived by bus with many Ukrainians. Some went straight to families, others live in apartments here ».
What immediately strikes me about Natacha is her almost perfect French, punctuated by a Slavic accent. This allowed us to discuss the time of day about their integration in France. We start our discussion over coffee.
Natasha is still haunted by what she and her daughters experienced in their village in the Kyiv region. They left behind their father and husband, who served in the Ukrainian army in Donbass. “We call him every day. All is well ‘ she confides, before continuing: ‘ Well, not very well because it’s war, but it’s fine for now. “According to her statement, her husband did not want to retire because he knew that he would have to move soon.” he didn’t tell us so as not to worry ».
Anna, her eldest daughter, tries in vain to reach her father on her cell phone that day. Recently the network in Ukraine is not very stable, she will try again later.
Natacha wants to keep her daughters. For war they know. ” The girls saw everything, heard everything. They heard the planes flying by, the bombs. You saw the bombings. ‘ she confides. When Natacha talks about her daughters, her eyes cloud over. This is a touchy subject for this young mother. ” For me, the most important thing is that my daughters are not in danger. We feel very comfortable here. You must learn French ».
Natacha and her daughters have found solace in their second family, Christiane and Jacques Forgeron, who have been running the Corrèze Creuse Association for Children of Ukraine for 29 years.
The couple have known Natacha since she was eight, she came to Creuse for language classes and stayed with them for years. ” I called her there when the war broke out, she told me that she didn’t want to come, that she wanted to stay in Ukraine, and we heard on the news that she was about a hundred kilometers from Chernobyl, in a very remote village we were very worried. confides in Christiane. In their exchanges, their looks, I feel like these two are very close. And for a good reason.
Natacha tells me very briefly about a part of her childhood, once again associated with a catastrophe. “ I am a child of Chernobyl, I have a card on which it is registered, it is recognized forever “. In 1986 she was living a hundred kilometers away when the explosion of the power plant happened. With the radioactive fallout, she tells me that her parents are seriously ill, especially with the thyroid gland. They died. That’s all she will tell me about it .
The Corrèze Creuse Association for the Children of Ukraine was founded right after this disaster in 1992. Natacha is therefore one of the first children to benefit from the dual program of educational-linguistic and humanitarian reception. Jacques and Christiane were members at the time. Natacha has always been her protégé. ” It was clear to us that she had to take refuge in Saint-Vaury ‘ says Christiane.
Our discussion of their meeting is interrupted by the return of Natacha’s three daughters, her niece and Jacques Forgeron. He had accompanied her to take the identity photos needed to build her file to apply for temporary protection decided by the European Union in early March. This emergency measure will enable them to work, go to school and receive social and medical assistance.
The four young girls proudly swing their valuable portraits, the first step into their new life.
This new beginning was facilitated by some donations from the Creusois, such as these dolls that the young Ksenia, 7 years old, plays with. ” Ever since she got them, she’s only played with them confides in her mother and looks at her daughter. Ksenia and her sisters do not speak French.
A week after my interview with her mother, we shoot a report on the integration of young Ukrainians in Saint-Vaury. They are eight this morning to join the school with their tutors, French students. Among them Anna, Natacha’s eldest.
For the past two weeks, thirteen other families have temporarily settled in these apartments made available by the Saint-Vaury town hall. Natacha and Christiane take me to Anna and Olena, two beautiful sisters who came with their daughters Eva and Anna.
You are from Kyiv. It’s been a few minutes since we met and they’re already telling me they’ve lost everything. « nWe left our husbands, our fathers. Our homes are destroyed by bombs and floods. We spent our lives building our houses, we have nothing today, but we will rebuild it after the war» they trust each other with a closed face.
We will rebuild everything after the war.
This is the first time they come to France. « We have the impression that we are on vacation here in France. We hope we can work. We’re not used to sitting around and doing nothing. We want to work », the two women pass.
When I ask her: « What is your first impression of the French? » e.gThey look at each other and smile. « They’re good people, you can tell, but we can’t talk to them, so we don’t really know what to answer… In Poland, we don’t speak their language, but it’s similar. .. Our languages have nothing to do with that, we cannot understand them and make ourselves understood. »
Being able to speak French and to work is Anna’s priority. She is a hotel and gastronomy student but would like to do internships to learn the trade in France. She explains to me that she repeats French every night for mobile applications.
Earlier in the day Christiane and Jacques Forgeron had given me an appointment at the town hall. When I arrive, I find her in the hallway Philippe Bayol, the mayor, Frédéric Giraud, the town hall director and Christophe Marguerite, director of the Creuse Welcome Committee.
They commission me to do a regular joint inventory to enable the Ukrainians to integrate as easily as possible into community life. This morning the focus was specifically on medical care for refugees. ” We try to coordinate all players in the sector, there is more than we thought, we are discovering more every day. says the mayor.
Two new people have been appointed to the Creuse Welcome Committee to assist Ukrainians in particular with administrative procedures. Question of proximity explains to me his director. ” Educators and social workers have invested a lot. The fight against exclusion is one of our values. »
A collective work carried out since February 25th. First by providing a bus to send Ukrainians essentials during their journey from Ukraine, and then by deciding to take a bus trip to the border with Poland to rescue the 57 Ukrainians who had been in Saint- Vaury had arrived.
An investment I experienced while spending the day with Christiane Forgeron.
From morning to night his phone didn’t stop ringing: alerting host families to the responsibility of hosting a Ukrainian family, informing Ukrainian families of the steps to follow before going to the prefecture, the steps to donate explain.
Christiane fears that this cohesion will fade in the medium term. in the long run it is difficult when you receive 4 people at home, it is complicated. We welcome traumatized people who may have lost a father, husband, son in the countryside. You must be aware that this is not a fortnight’s story. »
Unity is strength. Together, Jacques and Christiane have dedicated their lives to Ukraine, welcoming young Ukrainians for language and humanitarian stays. They tell me that the association has lost some momentum recently, with membership falling.
They had planned to take in a young student in the fall, she arrived in her new family earlier than expected. A second family, loving and benevolent, which she will surely keep for life, as is already the case with Natacha.