20 children from Bucha spent a two-week vacation in the French city of Dunkerque as part of the international program Europe Prykhystok. This is already the 21st trip of Ukrainian children to French cities. In total, about 500 Ukrainian children have visited France since the start of the program. In 2023, the program plans to expand to other European countries.
In addition to entertainment such as amusement parks, walks by the sea, and tours of historic sites, the children participated in various debates with French peers, from freedom of speech to environmental protection. 16-year-old Sofia says, "Among the many events, I really enjoyed telling French children about Ukrainian culture and learning more about theirs. And it was also important to feel that we all understood: we are not the same children we used to be."
The partnership between two war-torn cities separated by 70 years is symbolic. Dunkerque Mayor Patrice Vergriete notes: "We remember that over 80% of our city was destroyed during World War II. Everyone here has relatives who were victims of bombings, survived the tragedy of war, and lost their homes. Looking at today's Ukraine, I feel like I'm witnessing the stories of our elders. When we saw the horrors happening in Bucha, I immediately wanted to show solidarity, but I didn't know how. I turned to Europe Prykhystok - and they quickly organized a partnership between our city and Bucha. The young Ukrainians we hosted impressed us with their intellectual curiosity and resilience. I can only encourage other communities and cities to join the program."
The goal of the program is to directly connect Ukrainian local communities with local communities in other European countries for cooperation. The program receives many requests for assistance from various cities and regions of Ukraine. Benjamin Abtan, co-founder and director of Europe Pryhystok, explains: "We constantly listen to war victims and local authorities to determine the best way to organize meetings and exchanges. We are proud to help build bridges of friendship and solidarity between different communities."