” VSwas too much. I turned off the TV and never turned it back on. » In the cozy living room of the apartment at 17and district of Paris which she occupies with her two children, Tetiana, 40, is struggling to dry her tears. Sunday April 3, she discovered “the horror” at the opening of the news. The lifeless bodies and abuses committed by Russian troops in the suburbs of kyiv. “I fear that my eldest has already seen too many images, she laments. At night he has nightmares. During the day, he thinks he sees lightning, like missiles in the sky…” So, to “preserve” Bohdan and Mark (13 and 5 years old), for herself too, it’s now a black screen.
In Rohan, a peaceful town on the outskirts of Kharkiv, the country’s second city, war broke out on March 3: “I packed our suitcase at the first explosion. “What we feared was true. The Russian planes were indeed bombing civilian neighborhoods…”, still finds it difficult to believe Tetiana. Her husband, Oleksandr, convinces her to play for time – taking the road is uncertain – and to hole up, them and their children, in the basement of a neighboring building. “We hoped that humanitarian corridors would open up. After ten days of waiting, we organized a car convoy ourselves and went to Poland. First Slevtovosk, then Vinnytsia, the Polish border, Lublin and finally Warsaw, where she and her two sons embark for Paris.
Tetiana knows the City of Light well, she has visited it three times in the past, with her younger sister, Anastasia, who moved there in 2013. She would never have “thought of returning in such circumstances”. In the three-room apartment in this 1970s building, she talks about life in times of peace: the birth of her children in Kharkiv, her job as a home beautician, her meeting with her singing teacher husband… Her voice breaks. Tweaking her wedding ring, she evokes the daily phone calls to Novovolynsk, in western Ukraine, where he is now. “The separation is very difficult. He is not at the front but we are both afraid that he will not see his children again…”
An untroubled daily life
She sits up, ties her blond hair and tells her mother, a pediatrician. It was unable to evacuate the Donbass in time, the eastern coalfield whose total control has become the Kremlin’s priority. “She finally feels useful there, she takes care of everyone, even the elderly, and does not have them paid. From Starobilsk – a town in Luhansk occupied since February 28 by separatist groups supported by Moscow – the messages she sends to her daughter bear witness to a daily upset. “There is no more military action. But the official language, currency and TV channels have changed…”
The days of Tetiana, Bohdan and Mark, too, are no longer the same. Between the metro journeys to kindergarten, the administrative procedures (obtaining temporary residence permits, opening a bank account), Tetiana’s baby-sitting hours, their respective French lessons… Surrounded by dozens of post- it (“sofa”, “table”, “window”…) dotting the furniture in the living room, she smiles: “It’s the Bohdan teacher’s method for learning vocabulary. “The eldest, who follows in a college of the district 18 hours of French per week, “is the most advanced of the family”, she insists.
Caught up in her smartphone notifications, Tetiana scans through the latest news. In Kharkiv, the fear of a Russian assault is daily. “My children are out of danger, but I am constantly worried! she laments. I won’t be quiet until the war ends. With reddened blue eyes, she confides: “I have only one wish: that we all return to Ukraine. Only there do I feel like myself…”