АвторAuthor: Iryna Semenova | Translation: Anna Shliakhova
7 September 2022
Ivano-Frankivsk is the hometown of Lesia Mozdir. It was bombed during the first days of war. Despite the fact that she was thousands of kilometers away from Ukraine she experienced everything that Ukrainians did. These destructive emotions she immediately turned into actions: she took part in rallies and volunteered. The most important for her was the ability to help Ukrainians, who were thrown by the war to France. She supports them in experiencing this horrible war.
Communicating with Ukrainians the last weeks before the war, I felt anxiety and tightness. On 22nd of February my friend and I discussed that russian and belorassian were conducting a joint train for a reason. Later she told me a fake that russia withdrew its troops from the border. It calmed me down a little bit. But on 24th of February I was woken up by my husband’s words: “Wake up, the full-scale war has begun.” Ivano-Frankivsk is my hometown. It was bombed. There was no sleep in sight already. I was shocked, afraid, and lost. I didn’t know what to do.
I started googling. I tried to figure out what was going on in Paris, if there were any volunteers, if there would be any rallies. I instinctively wanted to run, to transform my shock and pain into useful actions.
A rally was planned at 11 a.m. near russia’s embassy. There was a downpour, we all got wet. Coming home, I thought that my condition was similar to all Ukrainians. As I was completely drenched, I went home to change my clothes and drink some hot tea, so I would go to another demonstration that evening.
I have friends and relatives in different regions of Ukraine. My godmother with small children spent 2 weeks under the shelling in Irpin. My friend lives in Mykolaiv where fire has not ceased. I worry so much for everyone out there.
My parents and my brother also live in Ukraine. First of all, I asked them to leave for me. At the very first day a military unit where my aunt worked was bombed. I pleaded with my mom to flee, because I also have a 10-year-old brother. But she told me she wouldn’t leave her mother, my grandmother, alone. My grandmother refused to leave her home. I had to accept their choices. Then I pleaded with them, at least, to write to me everyday and to use blinds for blackouts. When sometimes my mom forgot to send me a message in the morning, I was scared and worried.
I tried to not contact russians. Still, I have acquaintances who left russia long ago, who don’t support putin’s regiment and help Ukrainians. We collected food for our army near a shopping mall. My good friend initiated it, she has a shop in that shopping mall. We went to her when we needed something. With the Ukrainian flag around my shoulders, I was going to her shop to took something, when I heard: “Viva rus, bomb for Ukraine”. The meaning was clear without any translation. It was a young man who cried aloud. But I realized it made no sense to talk to him.
I volunteered together with the French. In a church we sorted out clothes and humanitarian aid for Ukrainians who lost their home. I was impressed by the helpfulness of French people. Because it happened in my country, it hurt me! They just came to the Ukrainian church to help. Now the help is slightly reduced or, maybe, I don’t know about it. But at the beginning there was a lot of help.
When they placed cans or other food in the basket I thanked them sincerely, but they replied that it was their duty. People I met in France were very sympathetic. Once I was going home with a poster after a rally, and a guy just came to me and gave me his words of support and compassion to our country.
I sorted out humanitarian aid, and looked for Ukrainian-French translators. From my home I gave everything: blankets, disposable tableware (I had a lot of it), towels. I sent all that to Ukraine by carriers who worked for free. We collected humanitarian aid in supermarkets and shopping malls.
Two weeks we worked with Polish people who temporarily closed their restaurant. I was touched by their sincere support and relentless help. We collected medicine, food and clothes. I helped pack everything, translate and write the labels on the boxes.
A few times I was in the refugee center. They just needed someone for babysitting and giving support. I missed no rally in the first two months, they were twice a week. Shouting loud helped me to turn my aggression into actions for the sake of Ukraine.
I also fight the information war together with the Internet Army of Ukraine completing their tasks for free. They included informing foreigners about the war, putting pressure on the different companies so they leave the russian market, and so on. Now I’ve been working every day for 2 months as a volunteer supporting people in France with the “Ecoute.Ukraine” Association that was created by a friend of mine. We conduct group therapy, art therapy for children, crisis consultation and adaptation work.
In newspapers that were distributed in the subway or supermarkets for a few first months Ukraine was in the headlines. Now there is almost no news about Ukraine. There is less activity. The French realize the consequences, they are afraid that putin wouldn’t stop, and Europe would be the next. Some of them are even considering a mountain house with a garden. They know why it’s important to support Ukraine, but not all of them.
I study psychology and now work as a secretary-assistant in the psychology association. As I can see many Ukrainians still are in a state of shock even here in relative safety. They are anxious, frightened for their future, and lost. A few months passed and now many of those who were near the front line and were forced to flee, have post traumatic stress disorder. It often appears in a relative safety (they have disturbed sleep, obsessive thoughts, and war flashbacks), when life threat is over, but the mind still feels this unexpected and traumatic experience.
Many newly arrived Ukrainians go to language courses, because without knowing the language the only job you can find is cleaning, babysitting or filling shelves in a supermarket. A specialist should know French, only English wouldn’t be enough. Ukrainians study French and then go to the employment center. Many of them come to group therapy with the “Enconte.Ukraine” Association. They can find support here that helps them to live through this period of life. Not all of them are ready to go to work, some of them are in acute stress.
Paris is overcrowded with Ukrainian refugees. But still France provides Ukrainians with housing in apartments, hotels and camping. In this case the financial payment is 6 euro per person per day, if I am not mistaken. Those who have found themself a home, receive 14 euro per day. There is additional help for children.
Only from 3 to 5% of Ukrainians with whom I spoke want to stay here. Many of them are planning to go back. Some of them are afraid of coming back, but they still constantly think about Ukraine. The other country, especially when emigration is forced, is a stress.
It’s a little bit different in Poland. The language and the culture are more similar. It’s harder in France, especially when conditions are not suitable, for example, when people are sent to live in the country with no transport connection and job opportunity.
Our phycology association is a charitable organization, we all work as volunteers and look for funding sources through French and international funds. There are more than 30 phycologists, a secretary, an IT-specialist, a president and a vice-president in our team.
We conduct group therapy every day except weekends. Every group has from 12 to 15 participants. On some days we have 2 groups. Also we provide individual crisis consultations for replaced people. Ecoute.Ukraine was founded because of the war, and it continues to grow because they need it.
Even before the war I decided for myself that I want to live abroad. The war has made clear for me how much I love Ukraine. I live in France, but I am ready to do everything for Ukraine. For me every Ukrainian is a hero. They are building their lives with the constant threat of air-raid. It’s not easy at all; it’s scary. That seems beyond human capabilities.
I can’t imagine myself living there. I want to go there so badly. Even though Ivano-Frankivsk is far away from the front line, I’m not ready mentally for it. We’re going to have a lot of work ahead even after the war ends. Not only we need to restore Ukraine’s economy, but also to restore the psyche of Ukrainians. It takes years. Sadly… But I believe we can do it.
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Iryna Semenova | Translation: Anna Shliakhova