my home is your home

Véronique said to me: “We want to tell you the story of our Ukrainians, but you don’t name us, we don’t do it to get flowers… Deal? I said, “Deal.” »

Posted at 5:00 am

Véronique and her boyfriend Simon have a house somewhere in Montreal. A courtyard. In the yard is a tree with a rope covered in knots, which her two daughters swing from, holding on to with their feet.

The house is large. And when Ukraine was attacked by the Russians, when they saw the devastation, when they saw families fleeing the bombs, Véronique and Simon, like everyone else, felt helpless.

What do you want to do as a man, as a woman, to hold back the tongs of history?

nothing you can do nothing

The condemnation of men and women of goodwill around the world has no bearing on the geostrategic contests of the megalomaniacs who rule the world…

Véronique: “I told my friend: I want to welcome Ukrainian refugees…”

Simon said: “Okay, go. The couple agreed to host a mother and child and figured they would stay in the empty space upstairs. It would be his small contribution to try to restore order to the world.

And one thing led to another, word of mouth – someone who knows someone who knows a Ukrainian seamstress (one thing led to another, I said) – we offered to welcome Véronique and Simon to a Ukrainian woman who would soon be coming to Montreal with us Her child…

Then the day before the lady called us and told us that it stopped working. But she was desperately looking for a family to take in a Ukrainian family, the father, the mother and their two daughters… And a little boy of 20 months.

Simon

Simon and Véronique looked at each other: Cristie, we’re taking her where we don’t have room…

you would refuse.

Then her contact sent the description of this Ukrainian family. The two girls? Within a few weeks they are exactly the same age as the two daughters of Simon and Véronique…

The eldest of the Ukrainian couple is called Sofia.

The first name of Simon and Véronique’s eldest: Sophia.

If it isn’t fate that…

Well, Simon and Véronique went down to the basement, looked at the layout and wondered if we could pack some furniture…


Photo Dominick Kies, LA PRESSE

When they left Kyiv, the small Ukrainian family first fled to Julia’s family cottage.

It could be.

For the past two weeks, Oleksii, Yulia and their children Sofia, Barbara and Andreï have been living in the basement of Véronique and Simon’s house in Montreal.

During the week, the Ukrainians live in the basement. You have access to the kitchen, the two families live in parallel on the ground floor. On Saturday and Sunday the two families meet on the ground floor and in the courtyard and eat together.

“The idea, says Véronique, is that we don’t step on each other’s toes. To make it last…”

I recently visited the two families at Véronique and Simon’s farm. The girls ran everywhere, little Quebecers and little Ukrainians, looking like four sisters: dark hair, brown eyes, the same inexhaustible energy.


Photo Dominick Kies, LA PRESSE

“I miss my home,” says Yulia.

Oleksii is doing very well in English. It’s more difficult for Julia. Luckily there is Google translator, on the phone. They told me about the shock of February 24 when Russia invaded their country. Yulia: “It was the sound of a bomb that woke us up. The feeling: first disbelief. I should point out that before the invasion of Ukraine, very few people believed that Putin wasn’t bluffing. Oleksii: “In the worst case, we said to ourselves, he will try to take Donbass…”

Except no, it was all-out war with the ambition to steal all of Ukraine from the Ukrainians, take Kyiv in two days.

They told me about their departure from the Kyiv suburbs with three backpacks and their three children, the flight to Julia’s family chalet, a chalet that was already full when they arrived, full of family members, friends, strangers. They told me that in the beginning there was nothing to eat, that we had to beg in the neighborhood…

Ah, I forgot. Oleksii is a biologist. He worked in in vitro fertilization in three centers in the Kyiv area. It took him a little time to go to the cabin because he decided to freeze embryos because he felt responsible for the dreams of the parents-clients of said clinics …


Photo Dominick Kies, LA PRESSE

Oleksii, a biologist, was offered a six-month contract at a Montreal fertility clinic.

The chalet – the dacha, as they say – was full.

” How was it ? “

The Ukrainian searches for his words and fails. He pulls out his cell phone, finds Google translatorenters words, shows me the translation:

“Anger connects people! Everyone wanted to survive. There was only solidarity. »

The train to Poland, Ukrainians of military age are told to leave the train at the border to return home. Oleksii was able to leave Ukraine for only one reason: he has three children. Under the bars of the three children, you were prevented from leaving the country.

After Poland we had to decide where to go, says Oleksii. Denmark? Mexico? United States ? Canada? The biologist sent messages to all of his foreign contacts in the fertility world. It was a Montrealer who answered him and offered him a six-month contract here…

What followed was a long geographical and bureaucratic crossroads – from Poland to Slovakia, via Austria, Germany and France – to get papers for Canada.

They finally landed on May 9 bound for Blainville to find temporary housing. On the 12th, Oleksii was at work at a fertility clinic in Montreal…

I listened to them and I had a headache before their trip, before the upheaval this family has experienced since February 24th.

Véronique and Simon served raw vegetables and sausages, then the little girls stopped running into the courtyard to come and eat. Oleksii showed me pictures of the family’s life in Ukraine, before and after the invasion. He praised the generosity of the people who, like his hosts, welcome and help people like him and his family. Yulia wanted to say something, was looking for words, I said to her: “Pass by Google translatorJulia…”

She typed words, showed me the screen: “I want to study because I’m depressed and I miss my home. But we can’t go home. »

She wants to learn French as quickly as possible in order to integrate.


Photo Dominick Kies, LA PRESSE

Sofia is having fun in Véronique and Simon’s garden.

In the large courtyard of Simon and Véronique I observed them, these two families. I wrote everything down, the little screams of joy from the four girls running around and the words of the parents, beautiful and terrible. And I thought of Gilles Vigneault’s words, as I often do when it comes to these people who end up here for a thousand and one reasons…

From this great lonely land
I scream before I shut up
To all people on earth
my home is your home
Between its four ice walls
I have my time and my space
To prepare the fire, the place
For the people of the horizon
And the people are of my race

Yulia, I translated these words for you to read in this column, I hope they will ease your sadness which I know is immense:

З цієї великої самотньої країни
Я кричу, перш ніж замовкнути
Усім людям на землі
Мій дім-це твій дім
Між його чотирма стінами льоду
Я вкладаю свій час і свій простір
Щоб підготувати багаття, місце
Для людей горизонту
А люди моєї раси

Long live freedom. Long live brotherhood.

And fuck Putin.

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