Ukrainian refugees. “You welcomed us like family”

They pullThey arrived here fleeing the war and during the holidays they want to thank the whole community. Since 15 March, 28 people have been hosted in the city

For nine months they have been welcomed, helped, pampered by almost an entire city, starting with the mayor Franco Spada and its administration.

So much so that, on Christmas Eve, the Ukrainian refugees – who fled the war in mid-March – heartily wish to say: «Thank you Tirano». Were it not that the conflict still rages in their land, that many of their friends and family are under arms or stuck in a destroyed country, for the Ukrainians in Tirano it could be a beautiful Christmas in 2022, strengthened by the affection received and with a great desire to reciprocate it.

For this, they take advantage of the columns of our newspaper, to tell the generosity of people and associations that have worked – and are still doing – for them.

Spokesman of the Ukrainian community in Tirano is Natalia Tereshchenko who, in Italy for more than ten years, has also rolled up her sleeves to help her people. When Mayor Spada learned of what was happening in Ukraine, he went through the list of nine Ukrainian residents in Tirano at the registry office and asked them who could lend a hand as a translator in view of the arrival of some families. Nataliia, who speaks excellent Italian, didn’t think twice: she immediately accepted. But for her it wasn’t just a question of translating, because, in fact, she herself became a volunteer and now also works in the Sai project (Immigrant aid system) activated by the Il Gabbiano community.

«For this Christmas we want to thank the Municipality which has helped us a lot – says Nataliia -. Since 15 March 28 people have been hosted, now there are about fifteen left. Those who remain are accommodated with the help of the mayor, the municipal administration and Caritas, generous private individuals; Nothing could have been done without them.”

Nataliia does not skimp on defining the mayor, the councilor Camilla PitinoCouncilor Doriana Natta and many other “heroes”. When the Ukrainians arrived in Tirano, the mayor would pick them up directly by car or public transport. “They found a warm house waiting for them, diapers for the children, food, service with the doctor – he continues -. We have never filed a lawsuit: in 48 hours, they were all in place, registered and in order. The State Police of Tirano is always available and the commander of the local police is precise and reliable Fabio DellaBona».

Many children who fled the war have (re)found normalcy here. «Camilla Pitino has thought of everything. Already from the first week the children were included in school. It doesn’t matter if they didn’t understand the language yet. It was important that they were with peers. Before their frightened eyes were the smile and open arms of the manager of the comprehensive institute in Tirano, Elena Panizza. And, Nataliia, on behalf of all Ukrainians, thanks the individuals – impossible to name them all – who have helped: from the Maganetti Foundation to Francesca Zucchetti up to Adriano Opiatti of Teglio.

«Like relatives»

Now some have felt too strong a desire to return to their country. «Everyone feels the urgent need to return to Ukraine at least once – says Nataliia -, but at the moment it is neither safe nor possible to stop. There is no light, there is no heating throughout the country.

I know that they feel like plants uprooted and turned upside down, but I explain to them – especially to the children – that Italy is a country from which to learn a lot and, perhaps, bring something to Ukraine in the future, as well as the beautiful things of our country to transmit them here. The friendships will remain for life and are so close and sincere that it almost seems that they have become family relationships. As for Mayor Franco: thank you, thank you, thank you. Because he was the first to move. And, if I’m allowed a joke, I’d say: of course Franco isn’t married. He is the father of the whole world.”


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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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