The Singa association, housing aid for refugees, facilitated the connection.
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 Friday they welcomed Elya, his wife Yulia, Andrii (17) and Artem (12), their children. A family from eastern Ukraine, 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 after – already – 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 Putin’s 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 was shelling 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 free of fights.
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 really knowing where to go. They pass Austria then Italy.
An acquaintance sends them the contact of SOS Ukraine in Montpellier. The car breaks down. They will finally arrive by bus in the Languedoc metropolis. 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 (read below) and meeting Séverine and Thierry. “Just watch the news and put yourself in the shoes of these families. It could be us. Overnight, leaving the house, with his suitcases“, justifies Séverine. 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“, explains the landlady. Last Friday, the Ukrainian family moved into the accommodation. The links were quickly tied: “They invited us to share a Ukrainian dish. We communicate with a translation application. We discovered their journey.“
This week will be devoted to the schooling of children. Parents are looking for a job “language is a problem“, they think. They will take French lessons. For relatives who remained in Ukraine, the couple assures us: “We are in constant contact.” 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…”
Singa expands its program
Launched in 2015, the program of the association for housing assistance for refugees Singa, through its platform jaccueille.fr, is present in Paris, Lyon, Montpellier and Toulouse.
In order to respond quickly to current needs, Singa is extending its program to seven new cities in France: Marseille, Nantes, Bordeaux, Rennes, Grenoble, Lille and Strasbourg.
To apply for the program, simply register online at jaccueille.fr, in order to participate in an initial presentation meeting. Refugees and families are then put in contact for an initial exchange, before any commitment.
At Joffre, students are fully involved
Five students from Ukraine had joined the first module in mid-March, among small Spaniards, Moroccans, Georgians or Sri Lankans.
This six-week “Senghor” device makes it possible to assess the level of a maximum of twenty students. “As soon as the student shows significant progress in French, he enters an inclusion system in an ordinary class via the UPE2A (educational unit for incoming allophone students). This system allows the students concerned to benefit from reinforced teaching. in “French as a second language”, according to their needs and their linguistic and language skills”, explains Fatma M’Dallal, the main assistant at Joffre College.
On May 10, Ranina, Genia, Kamila, Tim, Polina, Nazar and Ksenia will join a class, all the usual, in contact with other students in a college. They will be positioned in classes of a level similar to that which they had in Ukraine, “with perhaps a year’s lag, it takes about 9 years to be perfectly at the level”, she points out.
And they put the package. “I am amazed by their ability to learn and develop compensation systems,” explains the principal, who benefited from this same device in her young years. These teenagers develop an extraordinary capacity for social acclimatization, “from their break, they over-repair and that galvanizes them”!
A social worker is available to reassure them about the bond of trust they must establish, about acceptance and “about the idea that they are welcome, that they are not options”. When they begin to formulate their first sentences in the language of Molière, “they become precious administrative support for their families”.
That morning, we work to identify the parts of the body, knee, head, ears… The Ukrainian clan is turbulent and is called to order, but what could be more normal when you are 15 years old. A student remains a student.