ReportSurprised by the Russian attack, more than 4 million Ukrainians have already fled their country. The hastily prepared luggage of the refugees who have crossed into Poland tell of the life before it, the amazement, the regret. They also tell in their own way about the largest European exodus since the Second World War.
Her red bag first sat in the corner of her room at home in Ukraine for ten days. Far from his eyes. Inside are diplomas, a school report card, a passport photo of his mother, a T-shirt and a size 70 bra, plus a fleece, a towel and a pair of socks still married by the label yarn. “A small bag for two days”, commented Anna Furman, 52, professor of Romance philology at the National University of Dnipro, a large Russian-speaking city in central Ukraine, on the banks of the Dnieper. A travel bag, not an exile bag.
“I didn’t want to leave.” Anna Furman postponed watching United News at home, a single television channel that has brought together all Ukrainian news channels since February 26, two days after the Russian offensive. Ruins of Kiev or Mykolaiv, Siege of Mariupol, Conquest of Kherson, before, today, the mass graves of Boutcha, it was like continuous horror television.
From her ninth floor, the top of the building, she began to look out for black clouds of smoke or the hum of a Russian plane. She took her bag ten times, she says in the old theater where volunteers from associations receive her, in Warsaw. “I put it down ten times. This building, my neighborhood, my city Dnipro, is my life. My apartment is my homeland,” a homeland of 37 square meters from which she rarely strayed.
Dnipro, Jewish city with a million inhabitants, was home to some famous figures. It is the birthplace of Ihor Kolomoisky, the wealthy businessman who put Volodymyr Zelensky into orbit on his TV channel 1+1 at a time when European leaders regarded the future president as a Slavic copy of Europe.Italian Beppe Grillo. Previously, the city was the birthplace of Leonid Brezhnev’s mother.
Anna Furman still remembers the Soviet era well. “I was born in 1969 and outside of Ukraine I only know Russia. I love his poets, Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov [un Caucasien mort à 26 ans] and of course my favorite to death, Vladimir Vysotsky » – her guitar, her raucous songs and her untimely death in 1980. She traveled to Moscow to pray at their graves. “Now ‘Russian’ has become a dirty word. †
The arbitrariness of exile
For a week, in mid-March, sirens howled around her. Still haven’t looked at the bag. But the day she learns that Russian strikes liquidated shoe factory very close to her building she buys a ticket for Warsaw online. “Since my mother died, I have only been responsible for myself. † Then change your mind. Try to pay back. Calls the station, where a hoarse voice explains to him that the ticket is not exchangeable. Grab her bag, throw in her phone charger and her two passports, “one for Ukraine, the other for elsewhere”.
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