Refugees in Geneva – In the places of reception, the whole Ukrainian society parades


If, at first, it was the wealthiest people who fled the war, now the exiles come from all social classes.

At the Salvation Army temple, refugees can drink coffee, eat or simply rest. (illustrative photo)

General Hospice

Lucy, Elena, Natalia and Sasha. The four Ukrainians have in common to have left their country to flee the war. Like many exiles, for ten days they have been welcomed into the Salvation Army temple in the Old Town for coffee, an emergency bed or simply to settle down after an often exhausting journey. In the field, professionals and volunteers saw the refugees arrive. “The first people who came to knock on our door were obviously part of the upper social classes, relates Grégory Builles, social worker for the Salvation Army. Highly educated, well-dressed people, but most of them have lost everything.”

Highly Connected Refugees

Thus, Valery Bragar, volunteer translator, tells the story of a thirty-something, project manager for Ukrainian television in kyiv. “Three months ago, she came to Geneva to visit friends. today she is back as a refugee after five days of travel. When the war broke out, she left home in a hurry, dressed in her warmest ski suit.

Then, as the conflict got bogged down, other social strata of Ukrainian society arrived in Geneva and were welcomed into the space co-managed by the Salvation Army and the General Hospice. “It’s starting to change,” confirms Grégory Builles. Whatever their social status, the Ukrainian refugees “mix, exchange information, help each other. They have in common that they are all very connected,” remarks Sylvie Meyer, social worker at the General Hospice.

They had just bought a house

In Odessa, Lucy and Sacha had just bought a house, with the idea of ​​starting a family there. The war will have got the better of their plans. He, a “well-paid” delivery man, she, a graduate in ecology, but earning her living by rendering “esoteric services”, left everything when the bombs fell on their city. “Because of the passage of the planes and the blast of the bombardments, the roof collapsed, the windows exploded”, explains Lucy. Arrived at the border, they had to abandon their car, “because we had to pay a bribe and we did not have the means”, underlines Sacha, who, unfit for military service, was able to pass. In Geneva, where they arrived, without ties, they especially hope that the war will end as quickly as possible in order to return home.

A hope that Elena also cherishes. Originally from Kharkiv, this kindergarten music teacher, led “a modest life there, she says, but stable” that she wants to find again. With her 2-year-old daughter, she left her town in a panic when the conflict began. “We had to leave, anywhere, but leave.” She came to Geneva after passing through Germany and Poland, thinking she could find help there. But that did not materialize once there. In Switzerland, for the time being, it “lives from day to day”.

Register your business in Switzerland

The life of Natalia, originally from kyiv, was quite different. Freelance specializing in technical recruitment, this mother of a teenager traveled a lot for her job. “When the war broke out, we were in Lviv, but normally we move around a lot.” In perfect English, she says she chose Switzerland “because it is a safe country”. Since her arrival, she particularly appreciates the cosmopolitan side of Geneva and the fact that the city is home to a large community of expatriates. His two concerns for the moment: getting his daughter to school quickly and obtaining the S permit in order to register his business in Switzerland and resume his professional activity. “Currently it is difficult, my company is in Ukraine, which is subject to restrictions.”

Lucy, Elena, Natalia and Sacha all registered online at the federal center for asylum seekers in Boudry. They are now waiting for a summons which will mark the formalization of their stay in Switzerland, Geneva or another canton.

For Sandro Cattacin, professor of sociology at the University of Geneva and expert on migration, the flow of refugees arriving in Switzerland follows an ordinary order. “In general, the first to leave are those with the highest qualifications. The privileged categories have the knowledge to organize their mobility. They are skilful people, who can benefit from international networks.” The researcher explains that the lower social categories follow in a second step. “They are the ones who are now arriving in Switzerland. These refugees are people fleeing death and do not necessarily know where to go. They just want to leave the war behind them.”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.