War in Ukraine: Victoria and Polina now live with me

Victoria and Paulina at the “Peace Now” demonstration on April 2 in Bern. Sladosha / swissinfo.ch

Fleeing the city of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, Viktoria Belichenko and her daughter Polina came to Switzerland and now live in Bern, 2500 kilometers from their homeland. Indeed, their daily lives have changed drastically, but mine has changed only slightly.

This content was published on 04 May 2022 – July 09:00,

In late March they arrived with two bags in one hand and two in the back. A Swiss civil protection officer drove them, put the bags in the house and then returned.

After the outbreak of the war he registered with the organization for refugee aid in Switzerland. Where she was deeply touched by the human suffering experienced by the displaced and the images of mass destruction left by Russia’s hated aggression against its independent neighbor. It is true that hanging Ukrainian flags on windows and posting pictures of peace doves on social media is a good and positive thing. But as a person enjoying a comfortable retirement life in wealthy and peaceful Switzerland, in the face of this miserable war, I realized that just showing sympathy was not enough.

When I got a call from the Federal Center for Refugees in Bern to ask if my offer was still valid, I was a little shocked. Can I really do that? Do I really love her? Then she was encouraged and agreed. And now they are here, both.

They quickly unloaded their luggage and Victoria brought two cups of tea, some cutlery and a tablecloth from her house in Mykolaiv and placed them in my kitchen in Bern. “Part of our house for Paulina,” she said.

After I spent the first night at my house, Victoria stood in front of me and said, “I miss my husband.” Her husband, who was a puppet in the Mykolaiv theater, was obliged to stay there, like all men in Ukraine from eighteen to sixty. So does her brother and mother-in-law, both of whom live in Ukraine, while her mother lives in Poland. However, it was she who advised her daughter not to stay there. With more than two million displaced people arriving in Poland, there is no longer any shelter available. And so the two – Victoria and Paulina – arrived in Bern, after a four-day trip through Warsaw and Vienna.

A marathon between the competent authorities

When four days had passed, Paulina was now ten years old, sleeping in her room. I also painted a painting of high mountains and a hut. It is similar to the Alps, though you have never visited it.

A week later in Bern, my refugees got an S-class asylum card. But Victoria’s salary is not enough to live here, so we went to the refugee service, lined up in a long line and tired of those who tried to prevent others, and there seem to be some Ukrainians of this kind as well. good. The next day we opened an account at the Post Office Bank and then went to the Foreigners Police and the School Education Directorate. After the spring break, Polina will enroll in an intensive German language class, along with two other Ukrainian children living nearby.

Snow in the spring, a new experience for both. swissinfo.ch

Little by little, something like everyday life began to take shape: the 34-year-old Ukrainian works as an IT trainer in a Canadian company and works during the day in front of a computer, not in Mykolaiv as it once was. but in Bern – then we can say that she is a digital nomad. As for her daughter, she is educated electronically. However, the number of lessons is constantly declining. Of the 33 children brought by the war riots, only ten remain. So I occasionally help Paulina learn German, using a flash card game, some illustrations, and a Google Translator.

Differences in culinary culture

In my house, which is accustomed to vegetarian food, the smell of meat spreads, as Ukrainian cuisine is full of meat and fat. And the fridge was fuller than ever. Large supermarket exhibits with yogurt, chocolate etc. are very tempting for both. I also have more plastic waste than before.

The first Swiss currency. Victoria believes the Swiss banknotes are “extremely beautiful”. swissinfo.ch

Be that as it may: Victoria and Paulina are excluded overnight from their daily routine, scared for their parents, who live under the constant fear of bombs and have no running water for several days. So a faulty energy filter is not the end of the world.

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