It’s an afternoon of sunshine and joy at the Parc de la Légion-d’honneur, in the heart of Saint-Denis. Welcome Ukrayina volunteers and the Ukrainian families they are hosting have come together for a big picnic. While the children descend in clusters the large mound of the playground, about twenty adults gather around the wooden table where the food is placed.
There is Viktoriya, who is trying to put Daniel, 18 months, to sleep in her stroller, and her husband Artem, with Rinata, 3, in her legs, while Genia, 13, plays with French people her age. Leaving kyiv as soon as the first bombings took place, the Kadeevs, who had been staying with Bertrand and Isabelle since March 10, were the first family welcomed by Welcome Ukrayina, an association created the day before by Bertrand and Marianne.
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“In the days following the invasion, says Marianne, I was in contact with a friend in Poland who told me that refugees were arriving in droves. Bertrand, he was with friends in the Channel who were already planning to welcome Ukrainians to their home. We said to ourselves that we could not remain idly by. » She then comes into contact on social networks with Ukrainians who are looking for a base, while Bertrand convinces a few friends and neighbors to join the movement, which is set up in a joyful mix of energy and improvisation.
Since then, a handful of other Ukrainian families have arrived in Saint-Denis. Some stayed, others didn’t… This Tuesday, April 5, in the early morning, 11 other Ukrainians are expected, whom two minibuses, loaned by the town hall to transport medical equipment to the Ukrainian border, are to bring back. Most will then join hosts in Deauville, Royan or Lorraine…
Surge of solidarity and impatience
As in Saint-Denis, in a few weeks, tens of thousands of French people have offered to welcome Ukrainian refugees into their homes. A surge of solidarity on an unprecedented scale. “In 2015, after the drowning of little Aylan, whose family was fleeing the war in Syria, our association alone collected more than 15,000 accommodation offers. But the wave had slowed down pretty quickly,” remembers Vincent Berne, director of the “J’accueille” program at Singa.
For Ukrainians, according to Prime Minister Jean Castex, 91,000 private accommodation places had been identified as of March 22, via the dedicated platform “I am committed to Ukraine”. At the beginning of April, Marlène Schiappa’s cabinet communicated instead on 35,000 verified citizen accommodations, or half of the approximately 71,000 places made available for Ukrainians. What greatly exceeds the needs of some 39,000 Ukrainians identified on French soil.
Which is not without creating a certain impatience. “People have offered their help spontaneously in an emergency situation, they have registered on the platform and they do not understand why they are not heard from”, explains Rouslan Sorokin, the founder of the Facebook group Solidarity accommodation for Ukrainian refugees, which has 11,200 members.
“You have to take the time to meet each family who wants to welcome”, we explain to the Ministry of Housing, which sent an instruction to the prefects at the end of March recommending that they appoint associations responsible for visiting housing, giving preference to independent housing, available for at least three months, and connecting welcoming families and welcomed, and to facilitate cohabitation.
“It is necessary to be accompanied”
“The goal is to avoid bad experiences on both sides and to ensure that it goes well”, we argue at the Ministry of Housing. “I happened to delete some profiles that seem doubtful to me, men who ask to receive single women for example, continues Rouslan Sorokin. Overall, there is no problem even if I recommend everyone to be followed by associations. »
“Citizen accommodation is an incredible experience but for it to go well, it is necessary to be accompanied”, adds Vincent Berne, in charge of the file in Singa, who explains that “the approved associations will also be responsible forliaise with partners for administrative support, learning French, job search or psychological support if needed. »
→ REPORT. In Paris, Ukrainian refugees welcomed in cardboard structures by architect Shigeru Ban
It remains to be seen whether this immense wave of hospitality will be able to last the necessary time. In Lagny-sur-Marne, in the Paris region, Pierre Tebaldini, chief of staff to the mayor, saw residents get started very quickly. Corn, “from the beginning of March, some came to ask us to relieve them”, he explains. While the state pays a small allowance to displaced Ukrainians, no compensation is provided for hosts.
“One of the hosts told me he didn’t have the income to feed four more mouths, continues Pierre Tebaldini. Another got tired of sleeping on his sofa and not feeling at home. There were also arguments about communication not working well, because of the language barrier, or questions about what to do when you go on a weekend or on vacation. » He concludes : “Citizen accommodation, it’s beautiful but it can also be complicated. This is not a decision to be taken lightly. »