As refugees at a campsite in Indre-et-Loire, Ukrainians Artur and Viktoria try to find a peaceful life with their three daughters. But the war does not forget them.
They arrived huddled in their gray station wagons in mid-March after a four-day journey from Novomoskovsk in eastern Ukraine. Loaded with petrol cans and with Chappy, their wild dachshund, they left the house they had built on the banks of the Loire.
Welcomed by the Red Cross at a campsite in La Ville-aux-Dames, they and 18 other families end up in the wooded suburbs of Tours. The afternoon begins with a fitting in the center of the ephemeral “village”.
Viktoria, 35, and her two oldest daughters found sneakers among the donations. “Thanks“, the mother starts in French. Karolina, 16, also chooses some clothes. “Thanks very much‘ she ventures while volunteers install a television in a corner. Kids immediately plug in a console and start a game of Mario Kart.
Artur, 41, confides in Russian in her “Anne de Bretagne” mobile home. “On February 24th we were woken up by the rockets. After that we weren’t bombed again for two weeks, then on March 11th it started again‘ says the civil engineer.
“We understood that it would fall even harder. We drove to the Polish border.“Nestled in the red sofa of the overheated small apartment, the father congratulates himself:”Children sleep well here. There you go to bed with the idea that you might not wake up.“
Karina, 11, and Irina, 6, rush in and out of the RV. The two sisters are looking for other children in the campsite playground reserved for welcoming Ukrainian families. “At first, the girls were afraid of any plane or even the noise of trucks. Now it is better“, breathes Victoria.”Also for us‘, says Artur, who has already had experience in exile: he was 8 years old when his family found refuge in Ukraine after the 1988 earthquake and left Armenia.
“We manage not to think about the war. There are activities, it’s easier‘ replies Viktoria, who is excited to soon be starting physical education classes organized by the Red Cross. But she does not forget the war. Artur receives a text message. It’s Viktoria’s mother: Novomoskovsk was attacked by Russian strikes Woman is touched. Her mother refuses to leave town.”Maybe she’ll go if the bombing stops“, she hopes with tears in her eyes. Daily life has yet to be secured. Thanks to a solidarity grocery store that is moving to the campsite, Viktoria has already managed to prepare borscht and proposes a “salad des Oliviers”, a traditional celebratory dish Artur peels the eggs.”When I’m not working at home, I help out with the cooking. I’m not working today‘ dad launches ironically.
Karolina comes home from French class and peels the carrots. The powerful brunette girl wants to be a chef, she continues to take some online cooking classes. War seems far removed from his main occupations. At the age of 16″but soon 17!“She wants to play basketball again like in Ukraine. She is impatient, the next day is her first training session with the Etoile Sportive de La Ville-aux-Dames.
The teenager never loses his smile. Except when the emotions are too strong, like this benefit concert at the Opéra de Tours. The Ukrainian artist Inshaya, also a refugee, sang about the war, Karolina and Viktoria cried.
At the end, the artists sang the Ukrainian anthem. Invited and installed on the balcony of the Italian theater, the family then stood hand on heart to sing. Silence returned, Artur dived back into his phone. News from his sister-in-law: Novomoskovsk and its tank farm were shelled in the evening.