A family recounts their escape – “We had 20 minutes to pack”

bad Duben.In the Spengler family home in Bad Düben, everything seems completely normal. Grandmother Valentina (68) sits at a large wooden table and turns a few pieces of a puzzle in her fingers. “Picturesque Landscapes” must be created from 1000 parts, announces the packaging. Next to it, Lisa, seven years old, is lying on the sofa and finds something exciting in a cellphone. But here nothing is normal, indeed: it is an absolutely exceptional situation.

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Valentina and Lisa are two of nine Ukrainian refugee women and girls who have found refuge in the Spenglers’ large new holiday home. They all belong to a family, Valentina is the “Babuschka”, the grandmother, the great-granddaughter Lisa is the youngest. For Madlen Spengler (75) and her daughter Nicole Großmann (45), who run a physiotherapy studio on the ground floor of the house, it was almost immediately clear that they would help.

Großmann and Spengler don’t want to make a fuss about it. “This is completely normal,” says Großmann. “I also have three children. I guess if that had happened to me. Then I just want someone to help me.” When the city of Bad Düben was looking for accommodation about two weeks ago, they got in touch.

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Family Reports on Escape: “I Didn’t Know Where We Were Going”

The family of nine arrived on Sunday 6 March. The women had almost nothing with them, few bags, papers – that’s all. Aljona (27), Lisa’s mother, talks about the escape. She speaks Ukrainian, Russian, some English. Somehow communication works, also and above all with the help of translation apps. “We had 20 minutes to pack,” she says. Where are their husbands and children? “They defend the city”.

The family comes from Jahotyn, a town of 20,000 inhabitants in the district (oblast) of Kiev. Aljona shows Jahotyn photos of a burning school on her cell phone. One of Babushka Valentina’s daughters organized the escape. Aljona takes her cell phone again and shows a completely overcrowded platform in Kiev, then the train they took to leave their homeland. A soldier with a machine gun stands in the doorway in the midst of a crowd of people.

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The train was also overcrowded, people were huddled together, says Aljona, imitating someone standing who is stuck in a crowd. Thus they arrived at the Ukrainian-Polish border. Aljona cannot explain why he can continue from there to Germany and the town of Bad Düben in northern Saxony. “We didn’t know where we were going,” her phone translates over and over. You have never been to Germany and you don’t know anyone here.

Great willingness to help in Bad Düben

Barbara Paul knows how the family came to the Spenglers. She works in the social affairs department of the city of Bad Düben and is one of the people who take care of the refugees. After the war broke out in Ukraine, a bus driver from the region raised donations. “There was so much that it became a real bus convoy to the border,” Paul reports. “And then she asked us if we didn’t want to fill the bus with refugees on the return journey.”

In Bad Düben high school, children Jewa (lr), Christina and Kira from Ukraine received small sugar sachets with sweets as a welcome.

Everything happens quite spontaneously and quite improvised, but it works. The city began looking for housing. Bad Düben is located in a tourist and recreational region. “We have a lot of vacation homes and apartments here,” says Paul. Bad Düben alone could accommodate 60 people from Ukraine, even before the state of Saxony regulated its facilities.

Paul thinks that if anything can be called good in a situation like this, the first refugees must have had it well. According to the state management, more and more refugees are arriving in Saxony. Large cities have long begun to use corridors with emergency beds as accommodation. According to the Interior Ministry, more than 3,000 Ukrainians had been registered in the first reception centers by midweek. Nobody knows exactly how many people found additional private accommodation.

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“When the war is over, we’ll go back”

There are still many unanswered questions in Bad Düben. Spengler and Großmann do not know how long the Ukrainian extended family will stay with them. So far they have not received any financial support for their work. But that’s not the main goal either, says Madlen Spengler. “It will work out, for sure.” She is happy that the city is organizing some daily life for the Ukrainians. The children are now enrolled in school and can go to the disco and play volleyball.

According to Barbara Paul, the extended family is not expected to live with Spenglers for the long term. And other people shouldn’t stay on quickly procured vacation properties. The responsible district of North Saxony will rent apartments. The big question of money is still being clarified. Ukrainians can receive assistance under the Asylum Seeker Benefits Act. So far they would have received an advance from the district office of 100 euros per adult and some donations paid.

Aljona cannot say anything about her future. “When the war is over, we’ll go back.” But when will it be? Madlen Spengler says Valentina, Aljona, Lisa and the others can stay as long as needed. “They have everything they need in the apartment. And it is also necessary. They have so much pain inside that you have to try a little to dull it. “

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RND / dpa

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