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Ukrainian and Russian exiles in France: “I have decided not to speak to my Russian cousin at all”


Nina, in Paris

“I sold my mother’s apartment in Moscow”

Nina was happy to receive her mother in Paris for a few days at the end of April. She managed to sell the apartment that the latter owned in Moscow. But she does not know how to send the money to France, the Russians being prohibited from transferring currency abroad, she tells us, her dog Kesha on her knees. Nina is no longer a volunteer with the Red Cross for the reception of Ukrainian refugees and until May 9, the day of the victory over Nazi Germany in Russia, she feared the announcements of Vladimir Putin.

“APRIL 25 WAS MY BIRTHDAY, It changed the atmosphere a bit. My mother came from Switzerland, where she lives. We celebrated Russian style for several days with visitors. We sang, danced, discussed, ate and drank. My mother gave me a card with the number 57 written on it, but I turned 58! [Nina sourit]. Even if it’s sometimes complicated – she has her periods, her schedules that you have to follow – I’m always happy to see her. I sold his apartment in Moscow, giving power of attorney to a family member. I changed the rubles into dollars, on the black market. But now the money is blocked in Russia. I don’t know how to bring him here.

My last mission as a volunteer translator was canceled because the Red Cross closed its reception point for Ukrainian refugees at Montparnasse station. I no longer wish to work with the Red Cross. I find that there is an organizational problem at the management level, we are briefed in three minutes. I am a manager, I know how to organize the work of a team so that it works. I’m not talking about the volunteers, organized on Slack or Telegram messengers, and who take their money to buy water, coffee, tea, biscuits to distribute to the refugees.

We are faced with people who are suffering, who are weak, each case is different, and I found the protocol too rigid. I continue to go to the station to help a team from the SNCF translate the refugees’ ticket requests.

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I speak with my friends who stayed in Moscow, they are all depressed. One of them, who is now in Riga, Latvia, tells me that the atmosphere in the Russian capital is heavy, as it must have been in Berlin in the years 1937-1938.

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