‘Our house was bombed’: This Ukrainian family who welcomed Mamers testifies

A Ukrainian family found refuge with Marc Llongarriu and Hervé Frelon in Mamers.
A Ukrainian family found refuge with Marc Llongarriu and Hervé Frelon in Mamers. (© Le Perche)

On the screen of his cell phone Natalia44, shows the remains of the supermarket in his town, which is on the outskirts Kyivat Ukraine : nothing, a gaping hole, in a debris field.

In other pictures she points to her house, which no longer exists. “She was bombed the day after we arrived in Mamers,” she says in Ukrainian on her cell phone, which is then translated into French.

36 hour bus ride

Since Monday, March 14, 2022Natalia, her two children (Maksin, 9 years old and Vladislava, 16 years old), daughter-in-law (Yuliia) and granddaughter Sonia (3.5 years old). provided in the house of Marc Llongarriu and Herve Frelonin the great residence of the “Madrigal”, in Mamers (Sarthe).

This is where these displaced Ukrainians, fleeing the war, finally feel “safe”.

We no longer need to hide, no more planes fly past, no more bombs fall.

Natalia Ukrainian refugee

The small force was able to reach the Sarthe after 36 hours of bus travel and thanks to the help of French volunteers. “They told us it was too dangerous to stay near Kyiv and took us away. »

The family arrived with two panniers.
The family arrived with two panniers. (© Le Perche)

With only two luggage bags, the family left with a heavy heart and left behind men fight : Natalia’s two sons (24 and 26) have taken up arms and her husband is providing logistical support at the front.

Before they could leave Ukraine, Natalia, Yuliiia and the children watched helplessly as their neighborhood was destroyed.

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“Basically we didn’t want to run away, we thought we’d stay in the basements while it goes by. »

Just a few weeks ago, these mothers could not imagine finding themselves in a country at war.

For 8 years there have been conflicts in the Donetsk region. We didn’t think that Russia would suddenly attack our whole country.

Natalia

Three days without speaking

The Ukrainians, forced into exile in an emergency, arrived upset. “Maksin did not speak for three days. And Natalia collapsed,” commented their hosts Marc and Hervé.

Marc and Hervé opened their doors.
Marc and Hervé opened their doors. (© Le Perche)

Since then, the youngest have rediscovered the joy of play and making friends. “Sonia was able to go to kindergarten and Maksin joined a CE1 class. In a few moments, they made friends,” says Hervé, who admires the “resilience” of these uprooted children.

Vladislava should be able to continue her hairdressing training at the CFA in Alençon.

Natalia and Yuliiia can take French lessons. “It is normal to learn the language of the country that welcomes us. We thank the city of Mamers for the admission. »

At the beginning of April, the family can be accommodated in a furnished apartment made available to them by the municipality. With the Orne prefecture, she will benefit from an unprecedented system of “temporary protection”.

News from the front

Natalia, founder of a crèche, and Yuliiia, who works in a biscuit factory, have to wait before returning to their country. Although they hope to return to their city “as soon as possible,” they affirm.

Sonia, three and a half years old.
Sonia, three and a half years old. (© Le Perche)

In the meantime, they closely follow the news about the conflict on their smartphones. “Thanks to the Internet network opened by Elon Musk, Natalia can see the images sent by her sons and her husband,” explain Marc and Hervé.

For them, the experience is strong. “We’re trying to calm them down. But also to distract them with excursions. We learn a lot from this family. »

Supported and accompanied by many local associations (Rotary, Secours Catholique, Restos du Coeur, Récup&Co…), Marc Llongarriu and Hervé Frelon are happy to see that France is capable of “beautiful solidarity”.

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