“All my thoughts are in Ukraine”: arriving at the start of the war, refugees leave

“All my thoughts are in Ukraine”: arriving at the start of the war, refugees leave

REPORTAGE

The 117th day of the war in Ukraine also marks World Refugee Day. The opportunity to talk about the Ukrainians who arrived in France at the start of the Russian invasion, on February 24th. They are between 85,000 and 100,000 on French territory. A total of six million Ukrainians have already left their country. For the past few weeks, many have been making their way back, especially the inhabitants of the West of the country, which are more spared.

Not a minute without thinking of Ukraine

Ania arrived in Paris on February 28 from Lviv with her mother and son. They have since been staying with long-time friends. Although their departure date is not quite fixed, Ania’s objective is clear: for her son to return to Ukraine in September. He’s even already enrolled in school there.

“I am there physically, but my heart and all my thoughts are in Ukraine”, she explains at the microphone of Europe 1. “I think there is not a minute where I do not think about the ‘Ukraine.” Rebuilding her country, reuniting her family… The reasons for the imminent return of this 36-year-old French teacher are multiple.

Initially, they arrived with three backpacks. “Inside, we just had business for a few days,” says Ania. “To go home, I think we will have more than three backpacks anyway,” she jokes, referring to the many donations received in the weeks following their arrival.

“No better place on earth than home”

For now, no idea where they will put their luggage again in Lviv. Their apartment is currently occupied by friends of friends who have come to take refuge from the East. For Ostap, Ania’s son, soon to be six years old, another lack is felt: his father, and his cousins, who stayed behind. Her father, Taras, Ania’s husband, will try to come briefly this week, to celebrate her birthday.

For her part, Irena, Ania’s mother, is also eager to return, even if she feels “very good here”. However, she wants to “go back because there is no better place on earth than the house”: “It’s the fortress, it’s where you feel good.”

This return to the country also promises painful separations. The 60-year-old woman has become very attached to the two daughters of their foster family, to the point of now considering them as her granddaughters. Thomas, Ania’s 25-year-old father and friend, does not prefer to think about it, evoking “a void”. He knows, however, that it will be for the best: “The day they leave, we will have a very nice party because that day, the situation will have calmed down in Ukraine.”

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