“Next week my phone may not work because if war breaks out I will leave, I will return home to Ukraine to defend my country.” The voice of Doctor Oles Gorodetsky does not tremble. The tone is serious and each word is weighed. It recounts the past, the present but speaks very little of the future, which now boils down to a huge question mark. Like most of the approximately 236,000 Ukrainians registered in Italy last year, Doctor Gorodetsky arrived in Rome some twenty years ago. “I had just finished my specialization in general surgery and I had won a scholarship to come and spend a few months in Italy and participate in the construction of a small hospital with the religious order of the Camillians, it did not happen but I stayedhe says. With us we say: “nothing is more stable than the temporary”. »
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After throwing away his white coat and stethoscope, this 40-year-old born in Ternopil in western Ukraine in 1976 decided to change his life. Today, he represents the community of Ukrainian Catholics in Rome, which brings together around a hundred people and campaigns for peace. Just last week, Oles Gorodetsky was in Kiev, the capital. There, he says, people are ready and they are no longer afraid of war. “It’s terrible to say, but we get used to the smell of war, of death, it’s been lurking around us for eight years, every day, the television says that a kid is dead, war no longer interests the media, it has become invisible but it devours us and drinks our blood every day”he believes.
He says that in Ukraine, mortars have been part of daily life for eight years now and that the “snipers” hide to better reach their targets, as in Sarajevo thirty years ago already. He also says that his compatriots are very tired but that they are organizing to enter into resistance. And that many Ukrainians who put their suitcases in Rome a very long time ago are already preparing to make the trip upside down to fight and defend their land.
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For the past few days, the winds of war have been blowing hard again on the Ukrainian community established in Italy, the largest in Europe. According to the Ministry of the Interior, the Peninsula hosts 28% of the total number of Ukrainian migrants settled in Europe. In Rome, they would be around 20,000. Men work in construction, women take care of the elderly and thus replace the almost non-existent retirement homes in Italy. They are called the “joking” the Italian equivalent of carers. According to the Ministry of Labour, they represent 15% of the payroll of home helpers and 5% of the number of migrants established in Italy.
Their living conditions are often difficult because they have left behind their children who are growing up with the grandparents and in Italy the salaries are not particularly high. The work is hard because you have to be present twenty-four hours a day. The “badante” do everything: cleaning, laundry, shopping and even washing and dressing and, incidentally, injections. The salary is meager, about a thousand euros plus the thirteenth month and paid holidays according to the collective agreement which is not always applied. According to the National Institute of Social Welfare, two out of three home helpers would not be declared.
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Today, these women are afraid. The specter of war hangs over Ukraine and also over Italy, which hosts eight NATO military bases, located in particular in the south of the country. “If the situation gets worse, those who left their children behind with their grandparents want to go back to help the sick and injured, the men also want to go and fight, they say they are ready, they hope that the situation not going to rock but they know Putin is unpredictable,” summarizes Oles Gorodetsky. This February 17, at noon, the Ukrainians of Rome will demonstrate in front of the Russian embassy and in the afternoon, the pro-Russian association of “Friends of Putin” will take over. Previously, they will meet in front of the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus of Ukrainians, located behind the Colosseum, where they will pray for peace.