Last March, with her two children David (12) and Sofia (6), she left the Krapivnitsky region in the center of the country. The war had only just begun. “My sister’s husband is a psychologist for war victims,” she says. So he knows what it is. He immediately told us that we had to leave. At the mention of the departure, the tears drive away the smile. Maria’s husband takes them by car to the Moldovan border. Then he turns around: like all mobilized men, he has no right to leave the country. Maria and her family only thought of leaving for a month. “I thought Ukraine would win quickly,” she recalls. It was probably naive. My brother-in-law was right, I had no idea what war is. »
They settled first in Spain and then in France, where they were given an apartment in Pau for a small rent. The family moved there in June. Maria loved this city which she nicely describes as “an agricultural capital”. The peasantry and the French terroirs speak to her, she who defines herself as a “beginning farmer”. Two years before the start of the war, she had bought land to start farming. “If I had stayed here longer, I would have done an internship in Jurançon to learn how to grow vines. Or else I would have learned French to attend agronomy courses at university. This will remain in the conditional. Two weeks ago, Maria and her family decided to return to Ukraine. The risks are great. Although the news from the front is better, the war is not over and Russian missiles are still raining down on Ukrainian cities.
“My daughter said ‘we will return after the war’. My son said ”we’ll be right back”. My husband remained neutral. He wants to see us again, but he also knows that he cannot guarantee our safety. So it was I who decided, she concludes. I know it’s dangerous, but I can’t take it anymore, I want to go home so badly. Here, the people are adorable, everyone helps us. I am very grateful to your country for its welcome… but it is not my country. “. She wants to see her family who remained there, her mother and her husband, who can still be mobilized but for the moment spared by three waves of conscription. “Two weeks ago, we spoke on the phone. I saw that he was going badly, ”she recalls. The French government pays for the train tickets for the little family to Paris. From there, Maria, David and Sofia will take the bus to Lviv in western Ukraine. Maria’s husband will pick them up there.
Before leaving, Maria has planned a last city tour, just to say goodbye to the Pyrenees and the Château de Pau. She suspects she won’t be back for a while. Her beautiful smile comes back when she talks about the encounters made here. She addresses the crowd. “You are family to me. I have attended all of our events. I sewed Ukrainian flags with scraps of fabric. I can’t sing but I bawled songs. We have shown together that we are still there, that we must not be forgotten. We need the world to continue to help us. »