Standing at the exit of the Montreal airport terminal, suitcase in hand, the young Ukrainian takes the time to breathe, her hair blowing in the wind, after thousands of kilometers traveled and a long journey mixing drama, nightmares and hopes.
She is not alone. With her three friends, at the start of the week, they are laughing, chatting, laughing and enjoying this sunbathing.
It was hard, but now it’s alrightsays, the playful voice, Maryna Khrennikova.
Nothing suggests, at first glance, the tragedy experienced by these young women aged 17 and 18, who have just left their native Ukraine hastily to settle temporarily in Montreal.
Yelyzaveta, Maryna, Anastasiia and – again – Anastasiia. These four students have left everything behind: their university, their city of Kharkiv, their families. They left, alone, to cross the Atlantic and join the Department of Political Science at the University of Montreal (UdeM), which for weeks has struggled to welcome them to Quebec.
Half a dozen other Ukrainians, from the same university, should find them soon, once the administrative formalities have been completed.
Their happiness is not feigned. Together, they laughingly describe the passage of a Ukrainian reality TV show, which talks about Montreal.
Montreal is like Paris, they say. With snow and a harsher winter. cool“,”text”:”But it’s like in Ukraine, so it’s cool”}}”>But it’s like in Ukraine, so it’s coollaughs Maryna.
Barely major, the latter is the only one to know and master the
gorgeous French language.years old”,”text”:”I started learning it when I was little, at 10″}}”>I started learning it when I was little, at 10 years old, says this young brunette, with a contagious smile. Her friends, for their part, will benefit from French lessons offered by UdeM, which also pays for their accommodation and tuition fees.
Montreal, however, is only a stage, a passage, an opportunity
extraordinary to be
I want to go back to Ukraine.
I only want to stay here for a few months, maybe a yearproclaims Maryna, in an astonishing speech of lucidity.
” I’m sure it will be a wonderful experience [à Montréal]but I want to come back to Ukraine because it is my country. »
gesture of solidarity significant
To bring these students, the University of Montreal has set up a humanitarian fund. The young women did not have to pay anything. It all started with a call from Martin Carrier, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, who knew representatives of the National University of Kharkiv.
We made a call to see if we could help. It is a gesture of university solidarityhe explains, while evoking the
huge pitfalls administrative. It was
madhousehe blurts out.
His colleague, Magdalena Dembinska, of Polish origin, contacted relatives to accommodate these young women in Warsaw.
Seeing them here is a relief, she admits. It’s important to help them graduate. They no longer have the possibility of completing their studies in Ukraine.
We find these four young women two days later. In front of the University of Montreal. Packages by hand. They have just opened a bank account and made some purchases.
The laughs are still there. A manager of the establishment gratifies them with a vibrantbye the pop star!”,”text”:”bye popstars!”}}”>bye the pop star!
But reality already seems to be taking over. Sitting on a bench, Maryna observes a nearby park. Then, evoking her departure from Kharkiv, one of the first cities bombed by the Russian army at the end of February, she freezes. The smile disappears.
It was March 18. At 23and day of this war.
I heard the bombsshe says, slowly, her voice trembling.
There were a lot of planes. I heard them. A lot of noise.
She stops. Febrile.
It was really hard. Really awful.
Three months earlier, the family was celebrating Christmas. Without the shadow, obviously, of fear.
We weren’t thinking of war. We thought everything was fine. Now,
every day is stressfulshe summarizes.
Just before leaving for Montreal,
my grandmother’s house was destroyed. What happened?
Can we not talk about it?she asks, shyly.
His older brother and his family took the direction of Lviv, in the west of the country, near the Polish border.
They are safeshe says, while admitting to avoiding
watch the news.
I speak with my parents, they tell me. But I don’t watch Instagram, it’s really very difficult, too stressful. If I do, it’s impossible to work. It’s better not to look at them and work hard.
Maryna nevertheless wants to be
positive. In Kharkiv, the city is already trying to rebuild itself, she describes. But in Mariupol, almost completely ravaged by the Russian army,
it’s really hard for them, she says, before pausing. An understatement.
Despite the war and the need to leave her country, Montreal, she continues, is a real choice.
It has always been my dream to go to Canada. I love speaking English and French. French is my favorite language.
Getting to Quebec was nevertheless perilous. Buses, trains, planes. These students multiplied the means of transport and criss-crossed Europe.
After a stint in Slovakia, Maryna and her friends went to Warsaw, Poland. Impossible, however, to get an appointment there to obtain their biometric data. An essential procedure to arrive in Canada.
Then Frankfurt, in Germany, then Lyon, in France, to complete these administrative formalities. Before going to Paris, with little luggage.
shopping“,”text”:”We have some clothes for the different seasons. But we’re going shopping”}}”>We have some clothes for the different seasons. But we are going to do shoppinglaunches Maryna, with a newfound smile.
But with a voice full of wisdom, the young woman brushes aside the superficial.
Now I understand what is important. It’s not having Channel or an expensive car. There are two important things. First, the people who love you. And you gotta do just what you wantshe exclaims, with surprising clairvoyance.
If you don’t like your studies, your job or your boyfriend, you have to change. It’s really very important to live every moment, because you don’t know how long you have to live in front of you.