behind the beautiful stories, the galleys of the French who welcome the Ukrainians

Emmanuelle ended up writing “diabetes + type 1 “. on Google and his eyes widened in front of the screen. “My God !” exclaimed Toulousaine, more accustomed to testing the waters of real estate than to leafing through medical books. Here she is grabbing her phone, ready to move heaven and earth so that the youngest of the three Ukrainians she is hosting can take care as soon as possible. She contacts a medical friend, who puts her on the trail of an endocrinologist, who yells at her on the phone that she needs “absolutely find a solution within two or three days”, What’s this “matter of life or death” … what is it “incompatibility between Ukrainian and French material”. We are in mid-March and Emmanuelle, who has thought “just helping by reaching out to a needy family”, he finds himself in “facing a life-threatening emergency” between two business meetings.


Finally everything is back to normal. They find solutions and insulin doses and Sophie, 16, can continue her diabetes treatment 2,940 km from home as if nothing had happened. Emmanuelle, herself a mother, takes a good shot as she recounts this episode and as Larissa and her daughters, Anastasiia and Sophie, return to the countryside: “How stressful! It was incomprehensible to me, I didn’t know anything about it. Between us, I felt quite helpless in the face of the situation, I didn’t control everything “.

Sophie, Anastasiia and their mother Larissa, April 8, 2022, in their apartment in Toulouse (Haute-Garonne).  (RAFFAELE GODET / FRANCEINFO)

It is a fairly shared observation: after 76 days of war, some French who have helped little, a lot, enormously the 70 thousand Ukrainian refugees in our country are starting to get tired. Among these anonymous they told us their story, nobody, absolutely nobody do not regret the time and energy spent. “Simply, they warn, we have to admit that we have to manage things that are beyond us. ” Emmanuelle, for example, also had to find an optician’s appointment for Larissa, the mother, who forgot her pair of corrective glasses while fleeing from Kyiv, but obviously not in the Health Insurance files. Her husband, too, Arnaud “unbundled” so that the mother and her two daughters benefit from itliability insurance “in case something happens to him” in the apartment in the center of Toulouse that the couple has kindly entrusted to them.

“It’s going on for everything”sums up Laure, a 59-year-old Parisian who put up her job “paused pIn a week, “time to accompany a Ukrainian family who landed in Paris with a tiny shopping trolley and two backpacks”. We had to dress them up, find a cell phone, fill the fridge … “In short, to make sure that everything goes well, that everyone is well settled, that nothing is lost. The first few days I must have made a hundred phone calls.”

“It’s not the old friends you see again. It’s the people who fled the war.”

Isabelle, 58, didn’t think much about it when an acquaintance called her to give her a mission: “Could you support a Ukrainian family, please?” “I said yes right away. My first question was: how can I help?” Result: in a month and a half I became a banker, travel agent, psychologist … “

The question of money, however delicate, always arises very quickly. While every Ukrainian refugee is entitled to the asylum seeker allowance, the ADA, which amounts to € 6.80 per day for a single person and € 10.20 for a couple, French caregivers are not entitled to any expenses. Laure lets herself go in an embarrassed whisper having already passedstar “several hundred euros”. And Isabella, “far from being a millionaire”, “something like 2,000 euros”, between Airbnb accommodation (600 euros), shopping (100 euros) or train and bus tickets (400 euros) … “In front of the emotion I didn’t count. We laughed about it, but I almost couldn’t use my credit card. I was in fact in the red”.

“We organized pots, we asked our relatives if they wanted to participate”.

Lucie also begins to check her accounts. She has been lending since March its 70 m2 T3 which he usually rents for 1,200 euros per month to Alexandre, Arthur, Alexandra and Viktoria, two Ukrainian couples and their children Arina, 6, and Léon, 9 months. But now, seven weeks later, “I am faced with a dilemma: on the one hand, I would like to be able to recover the accommodation and let it again by this summer. On the other hand, it is impossible for me to turn it off”. At the Toulouse town hall he was made to understand that there was really no solution. Finally, yes, there is one: charging the rent to its guests. “Out of question”she answered. “Do you see me asking for money from people who have lost everything? If I loaned this apartment at the base, it was disinterested.”

However, neither Emmanuelle, nor Lucie, nor Laure, nor Isabelle are rolling in gold. So why, for example, not to imitate Italy, which pays between 25 and 30 euros a day to each host, as explained The Republic ? Asked by franceinfo, the entourage of Marlène Schiappa, Minister Delegate for Citizenship, did not want to answer us. It is therefore impossible to say whether such a device is possible in the short or medium term.

Laura thinks she has the explanation: “It’s very simple: let’s be a good Samaritan but then it’s your turn. I have the impression that the state is dumping on individuals and associations, which do an excellent job. I am thinking of the Red Cross in particular. She says “guilt” for example at the prefecture of Calvados. “They offered to host several Ukrainian families in a disused barracks near Caen, including the one I accompanied as best I could. Very well! Except that the place was not up to a decent welcome., The toilets were dirty. and clogged “, she assures. Hence, the March 18, two hours after the prefect’s tweet who welcomed the initiative, Laure, who works loyally, did not hesitate to say what he thought : Dear Mr. Prefect, thank you for your welcome but … these refugees have clogged toilets tonight, no wi-fi for [avoir des] news from relatives in Ukraine, etc. Thank you for your attention in improving their welcome. ”

Contacted by franceinfo, the prefecture of Calvados promises that the families will be hosted at the Bretteville-sur-Odon site “in renovated rooms with individual toilets and showers and the essential comfort for this temporary hospitalization to take place in the best conditions. One person was affected by this problem of clogged toilets when the device was put in place. L The association intervened without delay to respond to these inconveniences “. Laura thinks aloud: “And if I hadn’t done this tweet, what would have happened? How many people elsewhere in France are still waiting for an answer right now?”

A Red Cross volunteer helps Ukrainian refugees on March 10, 2022, at the Gare de l'Est in Paris.  (XOSE BOUZAS / HANS LUCAS / AFP)

In fact, it is not always easy to find an interlocutor at the town hall, the prefecture or the department council … “And when you have someone, it’s rarely the right one, ironically one of the witnesses. Last week the city hall told me to check with the prefecture and the prefecture told me to check with the city hall. He is Kafkaesque “.

Isabelle, for example, had to wait three weeks before the Ukrainian embassy in France answered her about a family wishing to return to their country.. “I wrote to the embassy on March 31, I received an answer on April 24. I was waiting for instructions, the beginning of a response, I didn’t have much”. “I and the other people who were helping this family, we found ourselves in a strange position. On the one hand, who are we to judge the danger or otherwise of returning to Kiev? if we don’t tell them what we think, who will? And yesDoes something happen to him on the way back? What can we do ? Seize them? she jokes. This is disproportionate as a responsibility. “” It must not invade too much private life, but it actually invades, ends up admitting Laura. You have to find the right support posture, help without making all the decisions for them. “

“You almost find yourself adopting a family. I hadn’t adequately measured the organizational impact.”

In Paris, in the offices of the Coordination Committee for Aid to Ukraine, which depends on the Ukrainian embassy in France, the phones ring less now than at the end of February, when bombs began to rain on Ukraine. . But Iryna Kuderska and her volunteer team now notice “something else” : “We get phone calls from disillusioned French people. A few days ago, a person who lives in Ile-de-France contacted us to say: ‘Please come and get the Ukrainian girl I’m hosting because she’s ungrateful, she always blows her mouth’ “, he says, still stunned, the spokesman for this facility hastily constituted himself at the start of the war to inform Ukrainians arriving in France and the French trying to help Ukraine. “In fact, it is someone who comes from a country at war, who sometimes still has relatives there. There is a reality, it is not a pension. In the medium term, yes, there could be problems of character compatibility.”

“We are all volunteers. The students who accompanied us now have to review the lessons, I work. We were between 25 and 30 at the beginning of March. Now we are between 10 and 15”.

Iryna Kuderska

to franceinfo

However, out of the question for Isabelle, Laure, Emmanuelle or Lucie to discourage anyone from being helpful. On the contrary: if it were to be done again, everyone would do it again. “I will welcome another person within the hour if necessary”repeats Isabelle, who regularly receives news of “her” family now back in Ukraine. As for Lucie, a few days ago she again invited her “hers” six Ukrainians to lunch. It was a Sunday. You will soon also have to set another date.

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