The Ukrainian diaspora in Alsace, the second largest in France, saw its role and responsibilities change after the 24 February 2022 when Russia's aggression against Ukraine began.
In an exchange of views held with the Sub-Committee on Diasporas and Integration, Iryna Petrovska, Vice-President of PromoUkraina, spoke about the support the association has been providing to Ukrainians fleeing the war who found shelter in Alsace.
She told the subcommittee how the association, initially established to promote and foster closer ties between Ukrainian and French civil society through history, culture and exchanges, had to reinvent itself overnight once the war started.
From immediate support - such as translation services, provision of housing and the collection of humanitarian help in close co-operation with the local authorities - the work has moved towards longer-term actions geared at the integration of the Ukrainians who are still unable return home because of the war.
Teaching French to Ukrainian refugees, ensuring education in Ukrainian for their children, providing mental health support, raising the awareness of French society about developments in the war in Ukraine and providing job opportunities are some of the key activities carried out by PromoUkraina.
As she recalled that Ukraine was under air attack at the very moment she was speaking, Ms Petrovska stressed that: “Ukraine is still not a safe place, and this is why integrating Ukrainian refugees has become a necessity while the war is still going on.”
Answering a question from the sub-committee’s Chair, Paulo Pisco (Portugal, SOC), Ms Petrovska underlined that a key challenge remained access to housing for Ukrainian refugees.
The exchange of views took part during the 4th part-session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, with the objective of illustrating through a concrete example how diasporas play an important role, both in the host country and in the country of origin.