Some weeks ago our friends Antoinette and Niall replaced their television, and asked me if one of 'my' Ukrainians would like their old one, which still worked perfectly as a television but wasn't as modern and connected as a new one. I knew my Ukrainian friend Natacha D had been without a television since she and her family arrived as displaced persons in April 2022 so I offered it to her.
Natacha now lives in Tours because her teenaged children will have better opportunities there. Her son M is training with the firefighters (perfect for him as he is very sporty and not at all academic) and her daughter V is attending high school (lycée). We don't have a high school in Preuilly, and most kids board during the week in Tours or Loches.
I messaged Natacha to say Simon and I would drop by with the television late morning. Natacha promptly messaged back to say 'don't eat too much for breakfast, I'm going to make something!' I thought she meant a cake for morning tea, but it turned out she meant a proper Ukrainian meal, with kotleti (Ukrainian rissoles), potatoes topped with cheese and baked in the oven, chunks of red pepper, cucumber and tomato, blue cheese and olives, plus homemade pizza, washed down with soursop tea. What she didn't realise was that we were due to go to lunch with a colleague after visiting her! So that was two lunches! I tried to stick to mostly salad in both cases...
We talked a bit about how things were going. She's doing an internship in a small neighbourhood shop. V is doing very well at school and all her teachers are impressed. They had just come back from Romania, which is where her parents have fled to. She said it is very hard for her parents as they are in their mid-seventies and there is no State financial support in Romania. So they find themselves working in a paint factory. She also showed us a video from her cousin's wife as she planted a flag to remember him by in Maidan Square in Kyiv. He was killed not so long ago. Her cousin had been a strawberry farmer. By chance his flag was being planted very close to an Australian flag and some International Brigade flags. M and V's father is still in Mykolaiv where they come from. It's a big river port city in the east, on the Dnipro. He has found work as a window fitter. There is a lot of call for new windows because of the shelling, but he is afraid of heights, so it is not his ideal job. He had sent a huge box of Ukrainian lollies (candies, sweets) and Natacha sent us on our way with a big bag of them, and some of the soursop tea leaves. She says she won't return to Ukraine if the Russians take power.