This family from the Nordics welcomed Ukrainians and... their 12 cats! - THECHOWANIECS.COM

This family from the Nordics welcomed Ukrainians and… their 12 cats!

Frédéric, Olena, Olga, Lucile and Céline with the cats from Lord Inouks Cattery.
Frédéric, Olena, Olga, Lucile and Céline with the cats from Lord Inouks Cattery. (©AS Hourdeaux/Northern Cross)

Céline and Frédéric live in Odomez, near Saint-Amand-les-Eaux and Valenciennesin Nerd. For two months they were hosts Olga and her Ukrainian family, but also their 12 cats!

Arriving in France in April 2022, Olga’s family could count on the welcome of this cat breeding couple before finding a house to rent in Ferrière-la-Grande in June 2022. How did this solidarity go? We found them together, because friendships continue.

Their love of cats brings them together

Céline Blaise and Frédéric Brihaye love animals. They have four dogs and about twenty cats. In particular, they rescued several abused Spanish dogs, the Podenco. In addition to their professional activities, they are Scottish and Highland Fold and Straight breeders (ears folded and erect).

There was no indication that they would be hosted by a Ukrainian family they barely knew for months. It was their love of cats that brought them into contact with Olga, herself a breeder of the same cat breed.

Here is the Scottish and Highland Fold and Straight near St Amand les Eaux.
Here is the Scottish and Highland Fold and Straight near St Amand les Eaux. (©AS Hourdeaux/Northern Cross)

A first contact via Facebook

Céline Blaise explains: “I was in contact via Facebook with Olga, Scottish’s Ukrainian farms are well known. In our sector, we were aware of solidarity with Ukrainethere have been departures of trucks with food there, especially thanks to the Maxime butcher shop in Bruille-St-Amand ”.

Through the social network, Céline learns that Olga and four members of her family, with their cats, have took the road to Romania. “They hoped to settle in Italy, but that fell through” (see box).

Kittens love to have fun!
Kittens love to have fun! (©AS Hourdeaux/Northern Cross)

When the owner of the residence in Romania asked them to leave, Céline and her companion Frédéric did not hesitate: “We asked them to come to France and that we would receive them! “In 48 hours it takes find beds, rearrange the house to accommodate five more people: Olga, her mother, her sister-in-law and her son… plus 12 cats!

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Olga, Ukrainian: “I didn’t expect so much help!”

Olga drove 3,000 kilometers with her family to escape the bombings in Ukraine. Barring leaving without his 12 cats, the car was well loaded! When she left Kiev in early March 2022, she stayed in Romania for several weeks. Olga told us about her situation in English. “I had a proposal in Italy for accommodation, but in the end it was cancelled. I didn’t want to go to France at first, it was far too far, I had a small car…”
But in the end, it is in France that Olga and her family find a solution.
“Without Céline and Fred, I had nowhere to go. Few people would have done what they did! Especially since we only knew each other through Facebook… I didn’t expect so much assistance.”
Arriving in Odomez at the beginning of April 2022, the five Ukrainians stayed two months in Céline and Fred’s house before finding independent accommodation. “I sent 100 requests for a house, I had many rejections.” Finally, at the beginning of June 2022, it is near Maubeuge that she settles down with her whole family.
In Ukraine, Olga worked for an American mobile app and website company, she considers herself lucky, she has always been able to continue working and pursues this job from France.
The future ? “I don’t think about it. My life is today and tomorrow, no more.” Since then, the family has been able to welcome a new member, Olena’s 6-year-old grandson, into their new home.

“You should know that in Ukraine there are many animal breeders gave their animals to the border to save themor died with their animals during the bombings because they did not want to leave their breeding”, Céline points out.

She and her companion opened their house wide open to strangers without conditions.

Lord Inouk's cattery in Odomez took in a Ukrainian family and their cats for 2 months.
Lord Inouk’s cattery in Odomez took in a Ukrainian family and their cats for two months. (©AS Hourdeaux/Northern Cross)

Many administrative procedures

How was this incredible welcome? Relations between the two families were immediately warm. “We had a lot of small Ukrainian dishes. We did that too excursions togetherwalks in the countryside, local concerts…”, explains Frédéric.

We also had to do a lot of administrative procedures for Olga’s family, who didn’t speak French at all.

We took them everywhere, the prefecture, the doctors… We were looking for a translator. It’s an obstacle course when you don’t speak French to assert your rights, even to open a bank account.

Frederick

He adds: “Our Ukrainian friends have shown a lot of resilience…”

The northern couple also finds that behind the fine talk about helping Ukrainians in France, there is a lack of action. They didn’t get as much support as they might have thought. They would like to thank those who were up to it: the Maxime butcher shop, the Red Cross, Restos du Cœur in Fresnes-sur-Escaut.

A house after 100 files!

That looking for a house was also on the program, and it was complicated: more than 100 inquiries went unanswered or rejected. Céline and Fred even say they are shocked by certain reactions. “When people knew it was for Ukrainians, they said no immediately, they didn’t want to do not help strangers… It’s sad”, laments Céline.

But there were other bursts of solidarity that warmed their hearts, especially for food, people and cats.

Eventually a home was found near Maubeuge, the couple from Valenciennes stood surety. We had to find furniture, make the move. “We would never have had a house without Céline, she’s wonderful,” Olga says in perfect English.

” That’s life “

Céline and Frédéric know one thing: that this solidarity does not stop. ” That’s life, we cannot leave them. We keep in touch, we see each other as often as possible when we are an hour away by car. »

In June 2023 is already planned a photo exhibition of Olga and Céline’s cats in Roubaix, during the 2nd Animal Fair. The idea came from Lucile Devlaeminck, who knows Céline and Fred and their animals well because she intervenes there for animal communication. “This solidarity is rare, it’s an achievement,” she points out.

We want to know what the Ukrainian cats think about this trip!

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