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Three out of ten Ukrainians arriving in Tarragona are minors

Yuri is seven years old and has started first year of Primary at the Col·legi El Turó. Vova is smaller, he is only three and already goes to class at the Escola Europa in Salou. They are two of the children who a few weeks ago have landed in Tarragona fleeing the war and who are going to school, like a vital part of your adaptation.

The exodus due to the invasion cannot be understood without the notable volume of minors: 33.5% of temporary protections given by the Subdelegation in Tarragona are not yet 18 years old. The children are an important part of the refugees but also the women, since most of the men remain in the Ukraine and, in one part, enrolled in the struggle. yesccording to data from Tarragona province, of the 1,709 petitions received, 69% are from women.

Elena (22 years old) is Vova’s mother. They live in a hotel in Salou and she takes the little one every day to her new school. Carlos Ferrer, one of the people from Tarragona who brought them from Poland, where they came from his country, has been in charge of the process. He has even provided them with a map so they can make the journey: «At school they have helped us a lot, they have given us facilities, they offered us the food scholarship». Vova, like so many other children, cried on the first day. “It’s always hard to enter a school where no one speaks your language,” says Carlos, who convinced Elena to let her little one stay at school, taking into account that they will be away from home for a while. “I made the mother see the importance of socializing with other children. Right now he is a sponge, he can learn many things about the language, for example»Carlos explains.

The next day Vova left school happy. She had a great time and she was already looking forward to going back the next morning. Elena, who is pregnant, takes the opportunity to take care of Timur, her other son, at the hotel. Advances are fast. «When I was little I studied abroad too and I know what it’s like to be talked to and not understand anything, but you adapt to everything, maybe children are faster at it. He and the whole family have a lot of love for me, a lot of trust, they know that I want the best for them, “says Carlos. Sofía, 13 years old and also a member of the family, has started third year of ESO at the institute.

“It was a bit difficult at first”
Yuri started two weeks ago at Turó, where he studies from Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The little boy arrived from Ukraine with his mother Anna, who has already found a job. Both live provisionally in Sant Pere i Sant Pau, in the house of a family from Tarragona who welcomes them temporarily until they can become independent. «We thought that he had to go to school as soon as possible, among other things to start with the language. The first day was very long. In Ukraine they are used to a schedule from 8 to 11:30 a.m. and here it is longer. Yuri had a hard time, at first he told his mother that he didn’t want to go, but He is a very happy boy and he is getting used to it quickly»describes the mother of a family who welcomes Yuri and Anna into her home.

Àlex Galván is the Primary coordinator and Yuri’s tutor: «The first days are being a contact, adapting to peers. The language barrier is important and that is why you have to be very close to it.

All educational centers take on the challenge of facilitating the integration of these new profiles with some tools. “We do a very personalized accompaniment. The first objective is to get to know the spaces, to the companions and that he is comfortable. The most important thing is that he adapts, that he makes friends, that he finds himself in a good environment. The first day he was tired but then he got used to it », says Àlex, one of those responsible, along with the other teachers, for welcoming Yuri.

Yuri, seven years old, with his mother Anna. He has started studying at the Col·legi El Turó. Photo: Pere Ferré

They use Google Translate to understand each other and the little follows the usual class syllabus, although it enjoys some occasional support. «In the classroom we sometimes put some reinforcement, a person with him, so that he is more on top. In the faculty we have said that everyone is for him, that they put a face to him soon, that they take care of him also in spaces such as the patio or the dining room. They have to know the situation to be by his side. The children, the colleagues, who are well informed about what is happening in Ukraine, also know it”, says Àlex.

Yuri smiles, has fun and plays like one of the others. «He is very communicative, he already knows some words, he seems happy, eager to play and very smiling. He has quickly become his classmates, perhaps because playing is something like a universal language », says the teacher. He and other experts stress the importance of schooling: “Children have to go to school, it is a point of integration on a social and emotional level.”

The challenge from an educational point of view is delicate and complex, as Enriqueta López, child and youth psychologist in Tarragona, acknowledges: “Managing these arrivals is complicated, they come from an important trauma of the whole war and the separation with the family also influences, because many of the parents stay there. Another problem is the language.

Lopez bets on a “welcome that gives them peace of mind”, «That it happens to put yourself in their place, to understand where they come from, to listen to them a lot, to know their stories, that they unload, explain to you everything they experienced, the past fear, and with the children it is the same». Accompaniment is vital, always placing the person at the center: “You have to create a space of comfort and tranquility, but starting from them. We are not the ones who have to go as experts to speak, but we have to listen very actively, that they can emotionally unload the experiences. All of this takes time. Y It is a process that needs monitoring.because the adaptation has been good but we have to look more in perspective, in the long term».

Almost a thousand registrations
As hospitality unfolds in the schools, the welcoming gear in the administration is also in full swing. In this, the contribution of Immigration is decisive, with more than 1,700 protections –about 600 for minors–, the tool to cover the emergency. The sub-delegate of the Government in Tarragona, Joan Sabaté, values ​​the “great work being carried out by the officials of the National Police Corps to provide a rapid and effective response to the requests presented”.

In Tarragona there has been 967 registrations of Ukrainians during the month of March, an absolutely record figure due to the diaspora, according to new statistics from the INE that collects the population impact of the war. In February there were only 11 and in January 8. The Creu Roja statistics in the province show similar data and place 1,700 people who arrived from Ukraine and who need some type of coverage. These are figures, all of them, that perfectly illustrate an unprecedented exodus.

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