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Haute-Garonne: Ukrainian families accommodated in a holiday center

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Some Ukrainian families fled from the first days of the war. They arrive from eastern Ukraine or the kyiv region and have been welcomed for a few weeks in Mondonville, a town near Toulouse. These women and their young children are accommodated in a vacation center by the Haute-Garonne department, where they find an almost normal life.

“There is our bungalow for three families”, describes Yana, who makes the visit in perfect French. His studies to become a French and English teacher in Ukraine allow him to be very comfortable. Her husband stayed in their house 150 kilometers from kyiv. He can be mobilized at any time to go into battle. Yana fled from the first days of the war. “I was not sleeping, I was very stressed,” she says. “I was still breastfeeding my son Vladimir, and every day I had to hide in the cellar.” So she left with her son and five-year-old daughter Larissa.

“Everything is free here”

A difficult journey through Poland, Italy and finally France where she found this accommodation offered by the Departmental Council of Haute-Garonne. Nine families are settled in the Domaine d’Ariane de Mondonville, near Toulouse. Accompanying persons are there to help them with their administrative procedures and a canteen provides meals. The kitchen of their bungalow allows them to prepare breakfasts and snacks.

A way to keep a little autonomy. All are women with small children. “I’m very happy to be here after everything I’ve been through,” admits Yana. “I spent more than 1,000 euros on accommodation, bus or train tickets, you had to be very careful, because I don’t have a lot of money. Here, everything is free. We eat twice a day at the canteen and they give us something to prepare breakfast. The people are very nice and it feels good.”

French “it’s difficult, but less than German”

A translator is present several times a week to teach them French. “It’s difficult, but less than German,” says Oksana, who fled Zaporizhia to the east of the country with her one-and-a-half-year-old son Mathev. She, who was a beautician in Ukraine, imagines herself staying in France to raise her son, but this speech is an exception.

She lives with Katerina, who is from Dnipro. In their bungalow, labels are stuck everywhere where you can read “plates”, “forks”, “knives”, or “light” in French and Russian. “We learn French thanks to these little words”, says Katerina. “I want to start by learning the language before I consider being able to work here.”

Katerina left her husband and father there in Ukraine, whom she regularly contacts via Telegram or Facebook messaging. “We feel good here because we are calm, far from the fighting. We made this decision to shelter the children, but every day we hear from them.” Now, she is only waiting for one thing: the end of the war to return home and find her loved ones.

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