They are painted with delicate colorful patterns and are solid like wood. Exactly, they are made of wood. “A child can throw these eggs on the ground without damaging them,” laughs Brigitte Riegert, who oversees the “10,000 eggs for the children of Chernobyl” campaign of the association of the same name based in Roggenhouse on the Upper Rhine.
“People are convinced that we must help Ukraine”
Every year just before Easter, the sale of these eggs, made by artisans in the Ukrainian Carpathians, is used to fund the activities of the Chernobyl children. The association was founded in 1993 by Alsatian Thierry Meyer after UNESCO called for children affected by the 1986 nuclear disaster in the Ukrainian city of Chernobyl to be welcomed to health holidays.
But for that 29e Edition, despite around 30,000 pysanky offered for sale, “stocks are almost exhausted,” admits association member Agnès Simonnin in her shed at the Easter market in Sélestat. “This year they are very successful because people are convinced that Ukraine should be helped. I hope to have enough eggs by Easter…” Although Les Enfants de Tchernobyl were able to stock up on pysanky just before the Russian invasion broke out on February 24, the war prevented restocking.
Over 620,000 eggs since 1993
“Since the association was founded, we have sold 620,004 eggs,” recalls Thierry Gachon, a former journalist and member of the NGO. At a rate of €4 per pysanka, before the Covid, the association was able to finance the transport, administrative procedures and first stay with a host family for 1,500 children in five departments of the Grand Est. “Your cesium-137 content drops by 30 percent in three weeks,” says Maurice Roussel in Sélestat. A few years ago, he took in two young Ukrainians. He recently heard from Galiena, now 25, who hid on the Kiev subway to escape the bombings.
Refugees stay with their former host families
The NGO is currently unable to send aid to Ukraine. “We plan to bring medicines produced in a German laboratory,” explains Thierry Gachon. She also plans to return to the 19 Ukrainian villages near the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
“They were the first to be ambushed by Russian troops. They say they are surrounded and starving. Russian and Chechen soldiers destroyed gas stations, cars, looted shops and attacked civilians. »
Today Ukraine comes to them. About sixty refugees who were housed as children and some of whom are now parents are being cared for by their former host families. “Others will probably arrive soon,” Thierry Gachon thinks, recalling the case of a 4-year-old girl who came with her aunt, without her mother, who stayed in the country.
However, the completely non-political club shouldn’t exactly help the Ukrainians. On the borders of Russia and Belarus, the melted Chernobyl reactor has affected three countries. “All the children are sick, the entire population is infected,” recalls Thierry Gachon.
“We mustn’t talk too much about Russia at the moment”
Little Russians have been welcomed in the past. “But since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, we have avoided mixing Russian and Ukrainian children. In protest against the Ukrainian aggression, the founding president of the association, Thierry Meyer, presented the Russian ambassador with the two Russian medals he had received.
“We shouldn’t talk too much about Russia at the moment. When people read the words Russia and Belarus on our flyers, they ask us to remove them,” regrets Agnès Simonnin. “But we don’t blame the Russian people. »
Pysanky is available at the Sélestat Spring Market until April 20th. List of points of sale on www.lesenfantsdetchernobyl.fr