Reception of a Ukrainian family in Marcenat (Cantal)

“Up until February 24, our life was beautiful and happy. We had a nice house, a steady job and the opportunity to travel a lot. But on February 24th at 5am we were woken up by an explosion. My husband says: “The war has started. Russia attacked”. And from that moment on, all of life was divided into “before” and “after.” We learned the sound of a siren. We found out where there are air raid shelters in our city. We experienced panic. We slept together in the bathroom because it was the safest place in the house. i cried I prayed. We held hands. And for the first time in my life I was so scared.

From Dnipro and its millions of inhabitants to Marcenat, 500 inhabitants

After “seven long days” in fear, Irina, Yuri and their two daughters, 10 and soon to be 3, decide to leave the city, south-east of Dnipro, where they were born and grew up, the capital of Ukraine with more than a million residents. They leave their families behind.

Fourteen Ukrainians were welcomed

Irina says: “On March 4, under the howl of a siren, I threw things and baby blankets into a bag, my hands were shaking, I didn’t know what to take. Documents, children’s drawings, money, food and water”.

During the whole trip to France we were scared. We just felt safe when we got here.

Here it was Marcenat, a small town in northern Cantal of about 500 inhabitants, who welcomed them thanks to “an old friend with whom we stayed in touch and who helped us a lot. Thanks to him and all those who help us, France has now become our second home,” says Irina.
Today they say they are “relaxed. Marcenat is the best place for us, especially on a psychological level. It’s calm and quiet, there aren’t many people.” Even if the first few days were difficult. “Every time I heard a loud noise, like an airplane or a fast car, my heart started beating faster,” explains the mother. And when a car honked, Mia-Maria asked me if that wasn’t a siren. She is only two years and ten months old. She knows what war is.”

Reception of six Ukrainian refugees in Pontgibaud (Puy-de-Dôme)

In Marcenat they found peace. But they don’t forget their families who stayed in Ukraine. “It’s very hard to watch TV and follow the news all the time because we worry a lot about our parents, who we call three times a day every day,” Yuri explains. However, they “do not regret leaving. It was the right decision.”

Here we will try to start living again after losing a lot. But keep the most important thing we have… Our family.

And one day return to Ukraine when the war is over? “We’re really not sure if we’re going back. You can’t make plans. We live from day to day. For now we want to stay here to protect our children.”

Isabelle Barnerias

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