“We don’t know when and where to return”: This Ukrainian family finds an everyday life far away from the bombs in Germany

On the morning of the invasion of Ukraine “My children found me crying at the breakfast table”, says the German Katrin Bilger. The shock has passed and the family decides to act.

“Pretty quickly the three of us said to each other that we would help in any way we could.”explains this 37-year-old woman, an executive at an international company who is single-handedly raising her 9-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son.

Shortly thereafter, the family, who live in the affluent municipality of Kronberg near Frankfurt, opened their doors to 40-year-old Tanja Bila, her daughter Anastasia and her mother Svetlana, who fled Kyiv shortly after their home country was invaded by Russia.

“When the bombings started it was scary, we didn’t sleep all night. We realized we had to go. Drop everything and go.”says Swetlana, 69, who visited her daughter and granddaughter at the beginning of the war.

Almost 240,000 refugees in Germany

Katrin Bilger is one of thousands of households in Germany that have offered shelter to refugees fleeing the Russian war in Ukraine.

The wave of solidarity is more than welcome for the authorities who are struggling to cope with the flow, especially in Berlin, where most of them arrive first.

The authorities have currently registered almost 240,000 refugees, but the number could be much higher as not all are registered at the border. According to official information, two thirds are currently housed in private households.

While the majority of the approximately 3 million refugees have found refuge in Poland so far, the government in Germany expects a figure of 1 million.

“Maybe we should stay here”

Kronberg, a small town with around 18,000 inhabitants, has organized shelters for around 400 refugees, around 80 of whom are staying with families.

At the Bilgers, the two women and little Anastasia, 7, have found some stability again in the last two weeks. That Saturday they prepared a traditional lunch of soup and ravioli shared by the two families.

The little girl has already started school and has started to learn German. On the other hand, his mother Tanja, who worked as a financial expert in a German company in Kyiv and is raising her child alone, is worried about the future.

“We don’t know when and where to return. Will our home be safe? Will it be destroyed and we will have no place to live?”she wonders.

“Maybe we should stay here, learn the German language and start a new life in a new place? I don’t know, I have no idea”she lets go.

Kronberg regularly organizes public meetings downtown to educate residents and recruit volunteers.

The community has also set up a center where residents can drop off their donations, food, clothing or medicine.

Tanja goes to this collection point several times a week to help other refugees or to collect clothes for her family. “We came with winter clothes and don’t have anything for warmer weather”, She says.

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