“It’s nice that not all Russians are aggressors,” say Ukrainians fleeing the war in Bulgaria.
According to official figures, after the start of the war, about a million refugees entered Bulgaria from Ukraine. The country was unable to accept such a number of people, provide them with the necessary support and temporary accommodation. Therefore, in the end, about 50 thousand Ukrainians remained in Bulgaria. Elena Bondarenko, leaving her homeland, could not even imagine that the Russians would extend a helping hand to her in a foreign country. She says:
“Maybe in the first second it was a shock, but the next – on the contrary. I am pleased that not all Russians are aggressors.”
The woman lives near Burgas with two small children and a mother. In a children’s camp, the co-owner of which is a citizen of Russia. Since the beginning of the full-scale war, the camp management has placed 160 refugees on its territory. From the government, the company receives a daily allowance of 7.5 euros for each refugee, and all additional costs are covered by the Russian and his Bulgarian partner.
A woman from Russia who rents out accommodation through Airbnb has settled several Ukrainian families in her apartments. She says she feels “indescribable shame” for her homeland. And an entrepreneur from the Russian Federation, Viktor Bakurevich, the owner of the Beryozka retail chain, has provided about 50 refugees with jobs in Bulgaria since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. He is also uncomfortable with Russian aggression:
“I felt a huge shame, just a huge shame, that even if not directly, then indirectly I am somehow connected with this. I don’t believe in collective guilt, but I believe in collective responsibility, so I decided that I should help people who suffered from the war “.
Oksana Shurdova is one of the new employees of Beryozka. She notes that working in the store allows her to rent housing and provide a decent life for her family:
“My relatives believe that not all Russians support the government’s policy. The fact that our leadership, not in words, but in deeds, shows that they really support refugees and oppose the war, convinces them that there is no need to generalize.”
“Beryozka” not only offers work to Ukrainian refugees, but also provides them with hot meals and food – about a hundred people, placed in a recreation center near Varna. Ukrainian Anaida Petrushenko says:
“When you left your home, and you have no roof, and you need to save your children, it does not matter who will help you – Bulgarian, Russian, Armenian, Ukrainian. Whatever nationality you are, if you remain human and are ready to lend a helping hand You don’t have to give it up.”
As of early December, according to the UN, more than 7.5 million refugees live in countries neighboring Ukraine. Only in the first two months of hostilities, 1/3 of the population of Ukraine left their homes.