The winds, the rain, the snow and even the birds, these peoples of the azure, tint our dispositions of mind and dictate our daily lives. Along her recent paths, our collaborator Monique Durand opens up a few sections of skies, from here and elsewhere, where the wind of the days and the lightning of the birds pass. Third of eight articles.
last May. The three little girls hop on the ground in the brand-new spring. Behind the house, there is the immense bay, the islands, the sumptuousness of the Lower North Shore. Artur exults: the Tête-à-la-Baleine grocery store has finally received beets. His borsch soup is on the fire. Snizhana, dressed in yellow and blue, holds the youngest, the fourth, in her arms. ” It’s a coincidence. You see me dressed in the colors of Ukraine. »
This winter, she walked for a long time on the frozen bay, hand in hand with the children and with her nostalgia. Together, she, the girls and nostalgia, they saw crows, seals, weasels. And red foxes with long, bushy tails. In Ukraine, too, there were red foxes. The children shouted their joy. Snizhana stifled her dismay.
The Levytskyi, Artur, Snizhana and their four children have been here since February. If we add them to the members of the other Ukrainian family who arrived six months earlier, the two households increase the population of Tête-à-la-Baleine by 11 people. Out of a population of 100. That’s a lot!
Two families who left Ukraine because they were going a little crazy. Had to leave. By all means. “My brain had stopped working, remembers Snizhana, I moved forward like an animal. A terrified animal. “We slept fully clothed in case we had to get out quickly. I’m not brave, I confess. Maybe because I’m a mother. Snizhana speaks without stopping, in a hasty flow. “I consulted a shrink to find out how to hide my own anxieties from the children. »
Stories that resemble so many others, of frantic escapes, endless waits, borders to cross, luggage to drag. Walking, walking, exhausted, with the taste of flinching, of collapsing. Hold on, keep some semblance of morale for the younger ones.
An entire village mobilized
Two families who arrived at Tête-à-la-Baleine by the same route, that of a village which mobilized to welcome them. We found each a house, a vehicle, a snowmobile, clothes, food. Residents sent checks for their guests who came from afar. “It was also, and perhaps mainly, an exchange, a kind of contract,” explains Michaël Lambert, who took the initiative to bring Ukrainian families to this distant land, a desert of fish and birds that no road connects to the rest of Quebec and the continent. “We were looking for families to strengthen the vitality of the village, boost its economy and prevent the school from closing. “Give and take, in a way.
Find families who, in return for a peaceful life, far from the war, would agree to spend even a few years there, would agree to learn French, would discover that they appreciate this rudimentary life, far from shopping centers and consumption, in the gray dust of four-wheelers in summer, and the all-white dust of snowmobiles in winter. With a grocery store with starving contents, impossible transport, boats with uncertain schedules or planes at exorbitant prices. Families who would acquiesce to the D system, to tinkering, to tinkering. “We wanted to try this life, try Canada,” continues Snizhana.
Imagine the scene. last February. It is minus 40. Michaël has gone to get the Levytskyi household stored in Kegaska, while the family has already arrived by plane at Tête-à-la-Baleine. A 250-kilometre snowmobile ride on the Route blanche, a marked trail to facilitate winter travel on the Lower North Shore. Blinded by the light and frozen, Michaël rushes into the whiteness, dragging the load behind his vehicle. And then, oh! misfortune!, the snowmobile chokes, broken down. The man almost leaves his skin there. Half frozen, he will be saved by people from the coast who have gone in search of him.
One sings, the other doesn’t
Two families, therefore, from the same Ukraine, stranded in the same exile of sea and wind, but two very different families. Each with their own way of seeing life, with distinct requirements, perhaps, in the face of existence and a quest for happiness that is not alike. So that today, one manages to adapt, the other not. One plans to stay, the other does not. One sings, the other doesn’t.*(1)
“I feel lost in a lost country,” says Snizhana. I want the children to have extracurricular activities, that they know something else for their intellectual and spiritual development. To this is added his torment at disappointing those who, at Tête-à-la-Baleine, struggled to welcome them. “Even if I understand their decision to leave, I’m disappointed, says Michaël, it’s a bit like a broken contract. “I understand their disappointment, retorts Snizhana softly, but it’s about our life and our future. »
The Lizunova family, for their part, plans to buy a house in Tête-à-la-Baleine and to leave the presbytery where they are temporarily housed. The two adults, cousins, Antonina Lizunova and Olga Kulyk, are actively learning French, one with the aim of working at the airport, the other to become a cook at the Auberge de l’Archipel, in the heart of the village. In fact, Olga cooked her first cod yesterday, under the supervision of Marco Marcoux, owner of the place, who gave her instructions using Google Translate. “Cod cooked in our local fashion! launches Marco, with mashed potatoes and a wedge of lemon. »
Encouraging each other and transmitting their moral strength to the three teenagers in their care, the cousins are driven by unbridled optimism. But when asked if they suffer from homesickness, their eyes mist up. Ah! how much they would like to be able to open their hearts to me and make themselves understood at least a little, in French or in English. Well, failing that, speaking neither language, they offer me a little “meat” pancake, an expression they have learned since their arrival at Tête-à-la-Baleine.
Leave as soon as possible
The village went in search of another Ukrainian family. According to the latest news, a mother, a father and their five children were coming soon. “We have already held two fundraising activities,” rejoices Michaël.
Snizhana wants to leave Tête-à-la-Baleine as soon as possible. It’s crazy, she knows it, she wants to leave before the black flies appear. Yes, she is aware of it, it’s crazy, she who survived bombs, explosions, mortar fire, is seized with an obsessive fear of black flies. As if the sky was going to attack her again and swoop down on her. “Exile does not only deprive the individual of his native land, writes Marie Daniès, in the review Memoirs. The exile is lost because what defined him, his relationship to himself, to others, has disappeared. The meaning of his life escapes him. »
In a dream, I see Snizhana at the end of the Tête-à-la-Baleine quay, motionless, offered to the waves and the birds. Dreaming of who knows what. She no longer knows. Snizhana, on the other hand and from nowhere. Snizhana, in exile from all that is herself. Snizhana, the wanderer of the splendors and misfortunes of the earth.
Elsewhere the world is sweet
The air is better everywhere
Flow rivers of gold and music
Elsewhere sleep my tragic heart*(2)
Next Saturday : In the dripping country
*(1) Title of a film by Agnès Varda released in 1977
*(2) Gilles Vigneault, What I say is in passing (1970)