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Ukrainian refugees adjust to live in Brazil

Months ago, Sofia Okhrimenko was worried about solving equations in her first year of mathematics at a university Lviv, Ukraine,…

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Months ago, Sofia Okhrimenko was worried about solving equations in her first year of mathematics at a university Lviv, Ukraine, but its responsibilities radically changed gueraHe unexpectedly shipped to brazil Along with his two younger brothers.

“I feel responsible, my parents trust me and my brothers too,” this 18-year-old girl, who now takes care of 16-year-old twins Valeria and Vladislav, told AFP, who is 10,000 kilometers away from her. farther than home and from your parents.

“I try to do my best,” he says, trying with English, Sophia, with fair skin and blonde hair, A hall of the church that welcomed them in So José dos CamposIn the interior of Sao Paulo.

His parents, a teacher and a furniture salesman in normal times, volunteer at a temple in Ukraine, helping people who are homeless or without food. With him is the youngest of their 4-year-olds.

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The family split when the three brothers moved to this industrial city in Brazil without a return date in late March, a destination otherwise unimaginable.

They arrived in a group of 33 Ukrainians made up of women, children, teenagers and the elderly. He was received by a church of evangelical worship, a member of an international network, which offers him free apartments and donations from believers.

On this day the warm temperature and especially the blue sky gives comfort to Valeria. But he sheds light above the “safety” of the place, away from missiles and bombardments in his country.

Although she thinks of her loved ones in the midst of these dangers, she remains optimistic: “Praying in this calm environment is very reassuring. I believe that God is helping and giving them strength.” And giving hope,” says teen in Russian, Ukraine’s second language…

The biggest challenge Valeria faces these days is getting up in the morning to attend virtual classes at her school in Ukraine, she says.

In some sleep in the early afternoon, she writes in her notebook phrases in Portuguese that she repeats with her countrymen in class in chorus to insert herself into the new environment.

While waiting to return, Valeria also wishes to make some dreams come true: “Know the sea and, perhaps, climb a mountain,” she says with a smile.

uncertainty and hope

Some 5.5 million people left Ukraine because of the war with RussiaAccording to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR. Most of them fled to Poland (more than 3 million) and other Eastern European countries.

No Latin American country is among the main destinations for refugees. A Brazil A small minority arrived: the foreign ministry granted 141 humanitarian visas as of last Thursday.

They are mainly found in the cities of Paraná (south), where the largest community of Ukrainian origin lives in Brazil; Minas Gerais (southeast) and Sao Paulo (east).

“We miss Ukraine, but here we feel good and safe, we feel loved,” Ihor Nekhev, 62, the group’s only adult in Sao Jose, told AFP.

The Ukrainian government has banned the entry of men between the ages of 18 and 60. Among them, his eldest son, Nikolai (40), who was a distributor of mineral water and now rescues people and collects bodies in critical areas of conflict.

“We are scared for him,” says 60-year-old Svetlana, Ihor’s wife.

News about the war fills the screen in the living room of the apartment where the couple is settled with a daughter and two teenage grandchildren, lost in their cell phones.

“We all think about going back when we finish, but we don’t know whether we’ll have a place to return. The Donetsk region (east), where our city is located, is being destroyed,” to the woman. have regret.

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The couple had already left their home in 2014 amid a separatist insurgency. Like that time, they resign themselves to waiting.

“Every day teaches something new and interesting,” says Svetlana, hoping that “the war will end soon and Ukraine will bounce back for the better.”

Ihor shook his head. Shocked by the host country, he is fascinated by the colors of the recently celebrated Carnival.

“I will always keep Brazil in my heart,” he says.

Cruz Azul, the workers of the Hidalgo plant will protect their source of employment with their lives