war in ukraine
Since the war began more than 5 million Ukrainians have fled the country, with nearly 45,000 finding refuge in France. Many of them arrive at the Gare de l’Est in Paris on trains travelling via Germany. Waiting to receive them is the Red Cross along with a number of Russian volunteers eager to offer the displaced Ukrainians their support.
At Paris’s Gare de l’est, several Russian volunteers are on hand to assist the Red Cross, who lack translators to help with newly arrived Ukrainian refugees.
Anna, a volunteer for the Red Cross, is from St Petersburg and has been living in France for a long time. She knows Ukraine well, as she often travelled there with her parents. “To be honest, when the war started, I cried for two weeks straight. What totally devastated me in the beginning was that these cities being bombed, being destroyed and looted are in fact the cities of my childhood. I felt I had to do something”, she says.
With a few rare exceptions, the presence of the Russian interpreters is well received by the refugees. Natalia Perepelytsia, a Ukrainian from Kyiv, says she doesn’t mind the contact with Russian interpreters. “We don’t make a difference between Russians and others, we judge people on their qualities and not on their nationality”.
Many Russians living in France share Anna’s distress over the war and have used their right to freedom of speech here to publicly denounce Russia’s invasion – an action with serious consequences back in Russia where using the word “war” in the context of Ukraine can lead to time in prison.
Click on the video to watch FRANCE 24’s report.