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Welcoming two young Ukrainian refugees into the Orleans community

W eventTuesday, 31 January 2023

Having a separate place called « l’annexe » from the house where Sister Anne used to work as a psychotherapist, the community was thinking earlier this year about how to put those rooms to good use. According to our project centered around hospitality, we wished to make it a place to welcome primarily young people : the « AMA », those on a civic service, those needing a pause or some awareness… We have thus progressively equiped this place like a small studio.

As we were about to make our offer known with a flyer and on social media, the war between Russia and Ukraine broke out. We learn that the prefecture has opened a website to gather possible housing for Ukrainian refugees. Facing this emergency, we decided to offer our studio. We thus enabled our equipment : we bought a fridge on « Le Bon Coin », sold at half the price when the buyer learned it would go to Ukrainian refugees, bought some dishware and so on. A few weeks later, the association responsible for the urgent accomodation of Ukrainians in Orléans contacted us. Twice, we were asked to welcome one man and then two. Community insight : we are not very comfortable with that idea, we would prefer women. The association understands our concern perfectly and promises to keep in touch. Indeed, on May 11th, they suggest us to house Iryna and Maryna, two 28-year-old and 32-year-old friends. Our project of welcoming youth in the « annexe » is coming through !

The two girls join us on May 17th. They have been in France for ten days, they are tired and still in shock… They don’t speak French at all, some English allows us to quickly communicate with Iryna. We quickly download a translator on our phones to be able to talk to each other !

The accomodation being totally separated from the house, with a straight exit to the street, we rarely see our two girls. They are very resourceful and move around town freely with the GPS on their phones. They undertake all the administrative actions themselves. We also want to respect their need for rest, privacy and freedom. We feared being disturbed, but it is quite the contrary… They are the ones who want to avoid bothering us as much as possible ! And we are moved by the fact that they simply share with us the food sent by associations when there is too much for them. Slowly and discreetly, bonds are made in solidarity. On both sides, we must learn the right distance, learn to conquer timidity while respecting each other’s freedom.

Learning French has been the urgent matter from the beginning. When they arrived, Iryna and Maryna were enrolled in an intensive course organized by the city council where they met about 40 Ukrainians. But there are no level groups and they are a little lost since the others began a month and a half before them… Yet, to find a job quickly, effective learning is required. After a month or two of adaptation, they realized they had trouble learning effectively and accepted to « bother » us for a weekly hour of conversation. Sister Ghislaine is happy to offer that service !

We don’t exactly know for how long the girls will stay with us. The war was supposed to last three days but it has been going on for six months and keeps going. As the social workers told us, the best favor we can do them is stability, without adding any additional stress to the harsh situation they are bravely undergoing.

Ukraine in school as well !

One of our families has welcomed a mom and her 8-year-old daughter and so the girl was included to a CE2 class. But the teacher cannot give her the time she would need to teach her French.

As asked by the director of the school, we decided to work twice a week with Veronika during the « Point Ecoute » with Ghislaine and Hélène. The picture books found at school help us a lot to pass as French teachers ! Her classmates volunteered to participate to this work and who better than a child to explain something to another child ! Veronika is a fast learner, her progress is spectacular week after week. We rejoice to finally see a smile on her face !