Sofia, Dima and Slata, from the hell of Ukraine to the city of music

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They arrive exhausted, with incredulous eyes and wrinkled clothes, worn for too many days in a row and only two suitcases. They covered four thousand kilometers in four days, grinding asphalt, hope of making it, fear of hoping, uncertainty and, in the end, the joy of being safe. A heavy joy: that of those who had to abandon everything to save their life.

We hug each other and I invite them to enter. We do not understand a word of those we exchange but we all have shining eyes and a big lump in the throat. They are Ivan and Marianna, 32 years old and not yet 30 she, with their children Sofia, Dima and Slata aged 11, 6 and 3 years old.

They are accompanied by Angela, Ivan’s mother, and Fabio, from Cremona Doc, whom Angela met in 2020 and married last year in Cremona. Together with Ivan and his family, Angela’s other four children – 27, 18, 15 and 13 years old – were also in Chernivtsi, in Ukraine, near the border with Romania. When the war broke out, Fabio and Angela left to pick them up. Ivan is the oldest and since 3 March he and his family have been guests with me. Only Alina, the 27-year-old daughter, remained there.

We make a coffee: “In the refugee camp I saw desperation»Says Fabio. “Unimaginable. Terrified children, desperate adults, incredulous elders that it can happen again. But I also met a lot of humanity: the Romanian people who crammed their cars with food and basic necessities at the border; the passage offered to unknown people who we accompanied to Italy by relatives who live here. It was the first meeting with my grandchildren in law that I had never seen. We left behind the tears on the phone, the bombings and the sirens, the nights spent sleeping in the cellar, the darkened windows so that the light would not leak out and betray us ».

On social media I learned about Fabio and Angela’s project, whom I did not know personally, and I followed them in their adventure, one post after another. In the end, I felt like I had known them forever, so I thought I’d contact them to offer them the willingness to welcome in the holiday home that from time to time I rent to tourists passing through Cremona: the house is large enough for a family of five and could have been a good alternative to an attic converted into a dormitory with the mattresses thrown on the floor, waiting for more appropriate accommodation. And they accepted.

As soon as we entered, Sofia’s eyes lit up. In Ukraine she was studying music and in my living room there is a piano. Without taking off her jacket, she started to play; her brother Dima, mad with joy, dived onto the bed while little Slata jumped like a hare.

In the days immediately following their arrival, Sofia expressed her desire to learn Italian in this way we began to study it together, at their place or at my house, upstairs. In two hours Sofia learned to read the Latin alphabet, to write and pronounce the first sentences, demonstrating a moving stubbornness.

In the meantime, the process to settle here has started: Fabio accompanied the adults to do the documents, the children were vaccinated and enrolled in schooland the whole family is receiving the solidarity of Cremona which has provided everyone with clothes, toys and stationery.

The network of institutions has also been activated and is working hard to assist those who have arrived here: almost 200 people, of which just under half are children. The Police Headquarters and the Municipality are doing their part. Alongside them, the world of culture has also mobilized: the Small Librarya children’s library located in the city’s natural history museum, purchased bilingual Italian-Ukrainian textbooks and grammars to support children in the linguistic integration process, while the Circolo Arcipelago association donated Sofia a computer through Digital Solidarity, a project that distributes reconditioned computer material to people or families in difficulty, and offered Ivan and Marianna the opportunity to take literacy courses to be able to integrate into the new reality as soon as possible.

A glimmer of light, after the horror. “We have nothing left. Nothing more»Marianna whispers quietly while Angela translates. “That’s the only thing we have left” and she shows me a bag full of photos, mostly black and white portraits from the thirties and forties; they are the grandparents, great-grandparents in traditional clothes, together with more recent photos, the small children, Ivan and Marianna engaged, the brothers left to fight in Ukraine. Their loved ones. Because when you have to escape from the bombs, you have to decide what to take away and what to leave. They have left everything; they brought only the memories.

Source: Vanity Fair

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