Luxtoday

Who is helping refugees in Luxembourg after February 24 and how

Ilya Ostretsov
Ilya Ostretsov
Ilya Ostretsov
I am one of the founders of RUHelp ASBL. Before moving to Luxembourg, I worked in the Russian office of a Japanese company. Its European headquarters are in Luxembourg. I am a typical expatriate who has been relocated by a company.
Who is helping refugees in Luxembourg after February 24 and how

I had been to Luxembourg regularly for business purposes before. So, I knew the country quite well. My family and I had no hesitation in accepting the offer to relocate.

How to get legalised

I moved as an employee of an established international company 7 years ago. I have a choice to move or not. But today many people are being forced to relocate from their motherland.

I had been legalised as a salaried employee and my family came as family members. We had been supported by our company's HR department. The process — then and now — was pretty standard.

I can't remember now. What was the hardest part at the beginning? I'd say nothing 😊

We quickly found an apartment. We made the necessary preparations for buying a car, opening bank accounts and other for other important things. Places in school and the Maison Relais were quickly found for the children in the municipally.

There must have been some difficulties. But we don't remember them now. The first months were quite positive.

Until the notorious events of 24 February. Afterwards, many things changed in everyone's life. And I was no exception.

How to unite the Russian community

The answer came to me on the way to the border between Poland and Ukraine. We were driving there in five cars — three Russian, one Ukrainian and one Polish.

The plan was simple: to take humanitarian aid. We had collected it from friends. Something we had to buy — partly with our own money and partly with donations. Another important thing to us was to pick up refugees at the border who needed to get to this part of Europe.

On the way, we had plenty of time to think about what had happened and about this disaster. It was not our fault, but we did have a sense of responsibility. As we shared our thoughts with our fellow travellers, we decided that we had to try to offer something that would unite the divided Russian-speaking community of Luxembourg.

This is how the idea was born — to create an organisation for all the Russian-speaking people in Luxembourg who were looking for ways to help the refugees from Ukraine. And to help everyone to handle the moral pressure. That was something that every one of us felt at that time.

The idea is simple: bring people together through various creative, cultural and intellectual activities. And then, based on this growing community, we could create humanitarian projects to help refugees and all those suffering from these events.

I think we made the most important thing to us. Bringing together a few dozen people around our activities. And of course, it is important for us to be able to help real people. I hope we made the hardship of refugees a little easier.

How to help people

We have a full-time co-ordinator, Alice. She is also a refugee who came to Luxembourg with her daughter. Alice receives and processes all incoming requests. She coordinates the work of the volunteers and gives them assignments.

  1. For example, someone is in need of help with a heating connection in a house that the commune has allocated. However, details such as the activation of the gas contract have been forgotten.
  2. Someone needs financial help with medical bills. Sometimes doctors can't wait 4 months for reimbursement from the CNS. They demand payment at the current moment.
  3. Someone has come with their pets. They cannot afford to buy expensive food and medication. It is necessary for them to get what they need.

We have also been lucky to work with some talented people. For example, a photographer for our charity events. I think that helping to integrate, however small, is very important.

As an organisation, helping people is not a one-time move for us. We are responsible for the promises we make. We do everything we can to keep them.

For example, in April we organised a concert by the violinist Alyona Baeva and her husband, the pianist Vadim Kholodenko. He is Ukrainian, by the way.

As in the Six Degrees of Separation rule, one of them took us to Alyona and another to the Banque de Luxembourg, which hosted us in the concert hall. This is probably only possible in Luxembourg because of its tiny size.

For many people, it was also a way to help: by buying a concert ticket, they could contribute to helping refugees.

The concert was organised in support of Ukraine and we bought Ukrainian books in Kyiv for the Ukrainian library in Luxembourg. We also helped to organise a trip to an amusement park for refugee children. At any time, kids should have a childhood.

Volunteers and service providers are always needed. Medical, veterinary, legal, educational, anything! Anyone interested in co-operation on a preferential basis.

Not necessarily free of charge. But deferred, discounted or prioritised. Some problems are acute. Some people don't have time to wait for a meeting for a few months.

It is important to help those who have been forced to flee from the war, not only from Ukraine but from Russia as well. One of the tasks we see is to help students and university professors who have lost their jobs because of their public position.

We also want to help refugees realise their business ideas. To do so, we need volunteer lawyers and business consultants who are willing to advise on legal issues related to citizenship, work permits and so on.

When disadvantages become assets

I like Luxembourg for its multiculturalism and lack of national prejudices.

It's a great place to live with your family. It's quiet and safe, with a good level of education that opens up a huge range of opportunities for higher education in any country in the world.

It's also a great place to start or relocate a business.

As for what I don't like, I'd say low population density. It makes the development of the services we are used to in big cities — Uber, car sharing, food delivery at any time of the day or night — almost impossible. But on the other hand, it is a plus point: it allows you to plan your time in a better way 😊.

If you asked me to describe Luxembourg in one sentence, I would say: "Almost like paradise!"

Share your stories with us. If you would like to tell us about moving to Luxembourg and about life here, please write to our editors via Telegram or email editorial@luxtoday.lu. One person's experience can help many.