ReportageOur reporter Florence Aubenas and photographer Samuel Gratacap hit the street from Paris with 25 Ukrainians residing in France. Some are going to search for their kids left behind, others wish to be a part of the armed battle.
The anti-aircraft alert has simply been lifted and the bus is already setting off, all lights extinguished, to cross the border. Behind him, he leaves Poland. Forward, the street plunges into the night time amid a whirlwind of snow. “Welcome to Ukraine”, declares the driving force on the microphone. Normally he launches a vibrating “lengthy dwell the nation! », and the passengers, all collectively, reply with an equally vibrant “Glory to the heroes! “. That is the custom to greet the arrival within the nation. However this time, silence falls. Nobody dangers trying on the girls, the kids, the outdated individuals, this tottering and ever-increasing crowd that we see by means of the misting of the home windows, fleeing the Ukraine at struggle. The bus enters it, as if in reverse of occasions.
On board, they’re 25, all Ukrainians, easy residents residing in France, as many males as girls. The faces are closed, everybody appears to have taken refuge within the depths of themselves, instantly alone on this planet. It is a kind of moments the place historical past forces you to decide on. Keep within the nation? To run away ? Return ? Who may be positive, in these tumults, to make the correct resolution? We’re on March 2, nearly midnight, the Russian invasion has began for every week. In Kiev, a legislation has simply been handed prohibiting any man aged 18 to 60 from leaving the territory, besides in distinctive circumstances. The controls are significantly strict. These on the journey know that they’re diving into the unknown: there shall be no return for them earlier than a date that nobody can know. Solely girls will be capable to depart. In the event that they get there.
Paris, the place they embarked thirty-five hours earlier, already appears distant. Natalya, a 47-year-old pediatrician, had come to convey medicines to the place to begin of the Burak buses (beetroot, in French), a journey firm which gives common connections between France and Ukraine. With the struggle, Burak additionally started to ship help: the solidarity is spectacular, in donations in addition to in volunteers. All day, Natalya had helped load the automobile, unable to maneuver away from it, the one place the place her ache appeared to subside. Kiev beneath the bombs occupies his physique and his mind. Natalya thinks she’s going loopy when her mom and sister do not reply to her messages instantly. There, each beg her to remain secure. The motive force is about to begin, the primary embark. And Natalya hears herself asking: “Is there a spot left? » She has lived in France for twenty years. Nobody amongst his family members is knowledgeable of his departure.
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