Ukrainian and Russian students in France face hardship as war rages –

Ukrainian and Russian students in France face financial difficulties and find it increasingly difficult to renew their stay because the war in Ukraine impacts them when they are several thousand kilometers away. EURACTIV France with AFP reports.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent Western sanctions, Ekaterina, a Russian student studying in France, co-founded the “SOS Russian Students” Twitter account, which allows them to talk about the difficulties they were confronted, in particular their frozen bank accounts.

“We are in a way the collateral damage” of the situation, she told AFP.

“At the moment, we are cut off from the resources sent by our families,” she added. “We can no longer withdraw money from ATMs, pay with our Russian bank cards, pay for our accommodation,” said the geography and planning student in Aix-en-Provence.

Ekaterina added money to her French account at the start of the war, but says she has “about enough money to finance between a month and a month and a half at most”, after which she “doesn’t will no longer be able to pay” for her accommodation.

She is expecting €200 in the form of a Crous voucher.

She explained that the renewal of her residence permit is also an issue because “you always have to have the money necessary to finance the following year”, she explained. Russian students in France have launched a petition to request an exceptional simplification of the procedure.

Alexandra, a master’s student in Slavic studies at Sorbonne University, describes a “really difficult” situation.

“Currently, French banks do not open accounts for Russians. It’s a problem,” said Alexandra, adding that she is one of the lucky ones who has a French bank account, a scholarship and student accommodation.

If the fact that she is Russian does not subject her to “any discrimination”, “when the French ask me where I come from, there is always an awkward silence”, she says.

The 21-year-old student would like to stay in France for at least another year but is worried about her residence permit.

“Psychologically” difficult

“For students who are already in France and whose visas are about to expire, the official instructions have not yet been published, but they are invited to go to the prefecture and request a review of their situation,” said Campus France. , the promotional agency. higher education system abroad said.

According to the organization, 1,637 Ukrainian students and 5,146 Russian students are currently in France.

If many more Russian and Ukrainian students were to enter France to study, as planned, access to support from universities and Crous could become difficult. Many universities have already set up support systems in Bordeaux, Nantes, Angers and Lyon.

At Paris-Saclay, south of Paris, emergency social assistance is also provided to Ukrainians and Russians on campus. For example, 19-year-old Oleksandra left Ukraine just before the conflict for a two-month internship. “I left with no idea there would be a war, without taking a lot of clothes with me,” she said.

“Emotionally, it’s very difficult,” said the student, worried about her family. “But I’m happy to have the opportunity to study and think about something else,” she added. Her thesis director has already offered to stay longer, and she is now wondering “how she will continue her studies”.

Like universities, the Crous network uses its emergency services, which include €1 meals for non-scholarship students living in difficult conditions and other aid programs.

The Crous network currently welcomes more than 200 Ukrainian students in its residences, including Nataliia Kyselova, 25, a scholarship student studying cinema and the visual arts in Lyon and settled in France since 2020.

“When the conflict broke out, it was very unexpected for me. I was in so much pain that I had to be hospitalized for several days because it was too difficult psychologically,” she said. “I’m better now. I accept reality. I try to be as strong as possible to help however I can,” she added, worried because she hadn’t heard from her grandmother in Mariupol.

“It’s hard, but I’m not giving up hope,” she also said.

Kyselova is applying for financial aid from the Crous and has a residence permit until January 2023. “But I am trying to extend it because I would like to do a doctorate, and it is not easy at all”, a- she added.

[Edited by Daniel Eck/ Alice Taylor]

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