“Here the happy little ones ride bicycles”

Polistena, the challenge of hospitality:

In all, more than 110,000 (to be exact 110,133) people have fled Ukraine and have arrived in Italy so far since the war broke out on 24 February last. These are mostly women (57,266) and minors (38,088). These are the latest figures released yesterday by the Interior Ministry, indicating that the increase over the day before was 808 admissions. Of the refugees who have arrived, about 10,000 are being welcomed by Caritas Italiana, Oliviero Forti, head of the immigration area, said yesterday during a conference on local welfare and hospitality that took place today in the hall. council of the municipality of Portici in the province of Naples. Meanwhile, the stories of welcome and integration are multiplied across the territory. As the more than 100 refugees who hosted Tuscany yesterday, with bibs from the Angeli del Bello Foundation and with the flag of Ukraine, took part in the “Thank you Florence” initiative at Piazzale Michelangelo: armed with pickups and bags to distinguish waste, refugees would thank the city for its welcome with a symbolic gesture.

Some kids bike through the trails, others play with Lego. One of them shows two ‘blocks’ smiling, one with the white, red and green of the Italian tricolor, the other with the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. We are in the “Luigi Monti community” in Polistena, administered by the fertilized fathers. As we wrote on April 27, it houses 96 Ukrainian children and 7 companions from the devastated cities of Bucha and Irpin. We visited them, talked to the operators and experienced the solidarity of the Calabrian city. While observing children and young people, a gentleman comes with a bag full of eggs. “They are fresh, picked up today, they are for the kids”. Then two guys arrive with some trays of candy and it’s a true assault. Even the bikes that children ride on the trails are a gift from many citizens.

“This participation was truly an indescribable feeling,” said Rita Gerace, Community Coordinator. There has been an exceptional response from humanity. Do you think that when the bunk beds for the children arrived, there were forty people to unload. “The village band arrived on Sunday, May 1. They show us the video that plays the Ukrainian anthem, where the children sing and put their hand on the heart. The operators tell about the first days. “They saw the light after days in the basement. The first thing they asked for was sleep. But then they asked for toys and climbed trees. And they started playing football like all children.”

Yes, just like everyone else. “Some have come without anything, only with a small backpack. A very small child has put an orange and a lemon in his backpack, picked from our plants, for them they are almost a luxury. Also other things that cost very little to us. When we suggested making pasta and chickpeas, one of the mothers told us “it costs too much, let’s put the beans” ». Children want to do. So when they saw the Calabrian children who were guests in the Community painting, they asked them to do the same. They drew the Ukrainian flag, colored hearts, painted with their hands, but did not make war pictures. Yet “they have seen death, violence, destruction, but they do not talk about it.”

Although some reactions are a clear symptom of what they have experienced. “They mostly build houses with Lego. And of course it’s no coincidence … A small child hurt his finger, and when he saw the blood, he began to shake. The elderly have anxiety attacks ». Rita tells us two stories. “A 17-year-old girl told me, ‘I had everything, I went to the hairdresser, I made my nails, now no more.’ It is as if they have lost their normalcy. Another girl wears a hat and never takes it off. It’s from his military brother. It’s like feeling close to him. ‘ Also for this reason, talks with the psychologist began immediately, as the Ukrainian consul had explicitly requested. But watching them play, they seem calm.

“They asked to go to school. We try to understand in which classes we should place them, otherwise as listeners.” Strong help came from the Calabrian children and young people who were guests in the community. “There is a beautiful cohabitation. They have become helpers, they play with them, they translate on their mobile phones. “The reaction from the companions was different, some of the children’s mothers.” They cry from both grief and relief, so they let go of the tension. “While the children do it by running on bikes. “They started smiling again, they play, and the grief disappears.

Not for women. When I saw one of them crying, she replied that in the supermarket she had seen people smile. And he had thought about what was happening in his country. They have husbands at war. They show me their houses, cleaned and burned ‘. And now they’re afraid of what Putin could do on May 9. “If Putin says war, it will be war,” they tell me. But they only talk about it among themselves. And they wept. But they want to help. They cook, set the table. “You have opened your heart to us, and we must not burden you.” We remind you that this hospitality, which must last two months while waiting to organize the reception in families, is based only on volunteer work, no public contribution. Anyone wishing to help can send offers to the association “Amici di Padre Monti Onlus” through Iban IT10Y0306905066100000003 849.

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