First published on Le Monde on 23 July 2022
It's abrupt, but since the start of the full-scale Russian military aggression against our country on February 24, 2022, we've had to learn to get straight to the point: We need your help. The war is going on. We know it: it will not end tomorrow. In the face of this ordeal, the Ukrainian people are showing an admirable resistance that few, apart from ourselves, knew we were capable of.
It is also thanks to the international support, in the bordering countries as well as throughout the world, that Ukrainians find the strength to continue to fight to exist, as individuals and as a nation. This fight is also the fight for peace in Europe, for the values of democracy and for the future of our children on our continent.
More than ever, our destinies are linked. The losses, material and human, are immense. Some of our cities have been razed to the ground. Some of our regions are occupied by Russian tanks. More than a quarter of our population has suddenly had to flee, in Ukraine itself or abroad. On the scale of France, this would represent more than 17 million people.
We resist, we fight, we live
Our children are constantly sick to their stomachs with anxiety and nightmares populate their nights. Our mothers are constantly afraid that their children will be even more traumatized, that their husbands will be killed at the front. Our women, when they find the strength to listen, tell of the atrocities they have suffered. Our civilians who had the misfortune to meet the Russian army testify to the extreme brutality that targets them, and to death.
Our dreams of yesterday are shattered, those of today would have made us smile four months ago: for some of us, getting a tin of meat gives us as much joy as finding a treasure would have done then, we are happy just to reach a relative in occupied territory and hear "hello", and waking up in the morning alive and in an intact building seems like a miracle.
Despite all this, we resist, we fight, we live. To continue to do so, we simply say to our French counterparts, presidents of regions, departments and agglomerations, mayors of cities and villages: "We need your help. The efforts you have made since February 24, with civil society and the State, are admirable.
The need for a "prykhystok", an asylum, a refuge
Your solidarity in action has made it possible to welcome several tens of thousands of our people, to provide us with material support and moral support, both of which are equally crucial. You have honored the fundamental values of the French Republic, which are also ours. For this, we have for you the deepest gratitude.
Unfortunately, we are obliged to ask you for more. The emotion of the first few weeks is waning, but the fighting continues and the situation is getting worse. Our needs are immense and growing exponentially. They vary from one area to another and, in addition to defense supplies, range from bed sheets to drinking water, from underwear to building materials, from anti-allergy medicine to remote jobs for the suddenly unemployed and suffering from inflation, from canned fish to baby shampoo.
Many civilians need a "prykhystok", an asylum, a shelter, a refuge. For a short time, in order to "breathe" away from the horrors of war, or for a longer period, before returning to rebuild the country. Better informing them about the conditions of reception and identifying together beforehand the territories that could welcome them would be beneficial for everyone.
Urgent help for children in Ukraine
Here is a first precise request: a few weeks of respite in France for the children of Ukraine, orphans or from poor families, far from the military front and the tension. As we know, the usual functioning of local institutions makes it difficult to respond to these requests in the time allotted.
There are the rhythms of the commissions, the procedures for compiling the files, the deliberation processes, the other subjects of mobilization of the services, and the vacations. We understand this, because this is also how we used to operate in the past. Unfortunately, we are not in a usual situation. This is war. We have learned to adapt in order to carry out our mission in the service of the common good as close to the people as possible, like you.
We are not asking you to act as if France was also under military attack, but to take into account the violent reality on the ground in order to provide the concrete help that Ukrainians need. We know you can do it, we know you will do it. From where we are, just a few hours away, we are counting on you.
Together, we will alleviate the suffering of the victims of war, carry out our shared missions to the best of our ability, and bring solidarity between our countries to build a future of democracy and peace. Slava Ukraini! Long live the Republic, and long live France!
The signatories of this opinion paper are: Benjamin Abtan, Director of Europe Prykhystok; Anatolii Fedoruk, Mayor of Butcha; Vitaliy Kim, Head of Mykolayev Regional Administration; Vitali Klitschko, Mayor of Kyiv; Kostiantyn Koshelenko, Deputy Minister for Digital Transformation; Maksym Kozytskyy, Head of Lviv Regional Administration; Ruslan Martsinkiv, Mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk; Viktor Mykyta, head of Zakarpattia regional administration; Andriy Raikovich, head of Kirovohrad regional administration; Andriy Sadovyi, mayor of Lviv; Oleksandr Senkevych, mayor of Mykolayev; Serhiy Sukhomlyn, mayor of Zhytomyr; Ihor Terekhov, mayor of Kharkiv and the 490 gromadas (territorial communities) of the National Association of Gromadas of Ukraine; Sergij Morgunov, mayor of Vinnytsia ; Ruslan Martsinkiv, mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk; Kostiantyn Koshelenko, deputy minister of social policy in charge of digital; Serhiy Sukhomlyn, mayor of Zhytomyr; Andriy Raikovich, head of Kirovohrad regional administration; Viktor Mykyta, head of Zakarpattia regional administration; Odessa City Council; Sergey Zelensky, mayor of Lozova; Volodymyr Borysenko, mayor of Boryspil ; Yuriy Bova, mayor of Trostianets; Volodymyr Shmatko, mayor of Chortkyv; Ivan Ilchyshyn, head of Sambir regional administration; Bogdan Yanko, head of Stryi regional administration; Stepan Kulinyak, head of Drohobych regional administration; Yaroslav Komynsky, head of Yavoriv regional administration; Khristina Zamula, head of Lviv district administration; Vasil Markevich, head of the Zolochiv regional administration; Andriy Dyachenko, head of the Chervonograd regional administration; Oleksandr Simchyshyn, mayor of Khmelnytskyi ; Ihor Polishchuk, mayor of Lutsk; Volodymyr Remenyak, mayor of Horodotsk; Maksym Lagodienko, mayor of Noviy Bug; Serhiy Ananko, mayor of Smila; Dmytro Zhivytskyi, head of the regional administration of Sumy ; Viktor Kovalenko, mayor of Zolochivska; Oleksandr Grynchenko, mayor of Valkivska; Oleksandr Moroz, mayor of Vysochan; Pavlo Kyrylneko, head of the Donetsk regional administration; Inna Sovsun, MP; Roman Hryshchuk, MP; Veniamin Unhurian, regional councillor of Odessa Region; Ihor Yaskevich, head of the Humanitarian Department of Horodotsk City; Zhytomyr City Council; Kirovohrad City Council; Chernivtsi City Council; Bogdan Skoropad, Zhovkva City Councillor; Svitlana Marchuk, Rivne City Councillor; Tetiana Bei, Lviv Regional Councillor; Olena Strilets, сheffe of the Chernihiv City Council; Tetiana Carlo, First Deputy Mayor of Smila; Pavlo Holodnikov, head of the territorial community of Zmiiv; Valentyna Konik, head of the Dovzhytsk district of the Zolochiv village council; Viktor Simkanych, head of the territorial community of Dovzhansk; Oleksandr Husarov, head of the Pecheneg village council; Oleksandr Slavinsky, first deputy mayor of Noviy Bug; Iryna Dontsova, head of the NGO "Defense for the sake of victory", Kharkiv city