The family, who came from eastern Ukraine, first passed through the center of Agde before settling down with a family from Montpellier. It was the Singa association, a reference in the accommodation of refugees from all countries, which made the link between the two families.
Séverine and Thierry live in a house, not far from the town hall of Montpellier. A floor occupied by them and a ground floor recently freed. Last Thursday, they welcomed Elya, his wife Yulia, Andrii (17) and Artem (12), their children. A family escaped from the hell of war.
A few months ago, Elya was a consulting engineer in industrial projects in Zaporijia. Yulia was also an engineer, converted to confectionery, following the closure of her factory in the face (already) of the events of 2014. Russian-speaking, the couple is no less viscerally attached to the country. At the beginning of March, when the shelling of the area by the Russian army began, they fled by car with the children towards the west of the country. In Chernivtsi, with relatives.
From Slovakia to France
Yulia remembers: “We thought it was going to calm down. And then there were bombings every night, we were living in the basements”. They leave the area to reach the Slovak border. If Elya was able to stay with his family, it was after a heart problem that occurred in 2017. Since then, he has been wearing a pacemaker. Which will allow him to be exempted from fighting.
The family will follow a long journey in Europe, in crowded refugee camps “we lived on top of each other”, Yulia feels sorry. Then they make their way to a Slovak “very warm but he lives in open country and we no longer existed there”. They leave, not knowing where to go. They pass Austria then Italy.
An acquaintance sends them the SOS Ukraine contact in Montpellier. The car breaks down. They will arrive by bus to Montpellier. Picked up at the SOS Ukraine reception centre, they will remain in transit for several days in Agde. Before being spotted by the humanitarian association Singa and meeting Séverine and Thierry.
Education, employment, future
Séverine justifies the family choice: “Just watch the news and put yourself in the shoes of these families. It could be us. Overnight, leaving the house, with your suitcases”. Affected by the geographical proximity of the war. “They are like a mirror, we feel close to them.”
The first appointment is made on Wednesday April 6, at SOS Ukraine Montpellier: “We had a translator. It went very well”. Last Friday, the Ukrainian family moved into the accommodation. The bonds are tied quickly: “They invited us on Sunday evening to share a Ukrainian dish. We communicate with a translation application. We discovered their journey”welcomes Séverine.
This week will be devoted to the schooling of children. Parents are looking for a job “language is a problem”. They will take French lessons. As for the more distant future, it remains uncertain: “This is the second time that Russia has invaded our country. It won’t stop. We are not safe. We don’t know what to do yet.”. For relatives who remained in Ukraine, the couple assures us: “We are in constant contact.”