This family from the North welcomed the Ukrainians and… their 12 cats!

Frédéric, Olena, Olga, Lucile and Céline with the cats of Lord Inouk’s Cattery. (©AS Hourdeaux/Northern Cross)

Céline and Frédéric live Odomez, near Saint-Amand-les-Eaux and Valenciennesin North ! Within two months, they welcomed Olga and her Ukrainian family as well as their 12 cats! Arriving in France in April 2022, Olga’s family hoped to be welcomed by this cat-breeding couple, before finding a house to rent in Ferrière-la-Grande in June 2022. How did this union go? ? We found them together, because the friendship continues.

Their love for cats brings them together

Céline Blaise and Frédéric Brihaye love animals. They have 4 dogs and about twenty cats. In particular, they rescued some abused Spanish dogs, the Podenco. In addition to their professional activities, they are breeders of Scottish and Highland Fold and Straight (folded and straight ears).

There was no indication that they would be hosting a Ukrainian family they barely knew for months. Their love for cats brought them into contact with Olga, herself a breeder of the same breed of cats.

Here is the Scottish and Highland Fold and Straight near St Amand les Eaux.
Here is the Scottish and Highland Fold and Straight near St Amand les Eaux. (©AS Hourdeaux/Northern Cross)

contact via facebook

Céline Blaise explained: “I got in touch on Facebook with Olga, who knows the Scottish Ukrainian races. In our sector, we know the solidarity with Ukraine, there are departures of trucks with food there, especially thanks to the shop of the Maxime butcher in Bruille-St-Amand ”.

Through facebook, Céline found out that Olga and 4 members of her family, with their cats, made their way to Romania. “They hoped to settle in Italy, but it fell through” (see box).

Kittens love to have fun!
Kittens love to have fun! (©AS Hourdeaux/Northern Cross)

When the owner of the accommodation in Romania told them to leave, Céline and her companion Frédéric did not hesitate: “We told them to go to France, and we will welcome them! Within 48 hours, we had to find beds, rearrange the house to accommodate 5 more people: Olga, her mother, her sister-in-law and her son… and 12 cats!

Olga, Ukrainian: “I didn’t expect so much help!”

Olga drove 3,000 kilometers with her family to escape the bombings in Ukraine. Out of the question to leave without his 12 cats, then, the car was properly loaded! Leaving Kyiv at the beginning of March 2022, he stayed in Romania for several weeks. Olga told us about her situation in English. “I had an offer in Italy for accommodation, but in the end it was cancelled. I didn’t want to go to France at first, it was too far, I had a small car…”
But eventually, in France Olga and her family found a solution.
“Without Céline and Fred, I would have nowhere to go. Few people could do what they did! Especially since we only know each other through Facebook… I didn’t expect much help”
Arriving in Odomez at the beginning of April 2022, 5 Ukrainians stayed for two months in Céline and Fred’s house, before finding independent accommodation. “I sent 100 requests for a house, I got rejected a lot”. Finally, at the beginning of June 2022, near Maubeuge where he lived with all his family.
In Ukraine, Olga worked for an American mobile app and website company, she considers herself lucky, she always continues to work and she pursues this job from France.
The future? “I don’t think my life is today and tomorrow, it’s gone”. Since then, the family has been able to welcome a new member, Olena’s 6-year-old grandson, into their new home.

“You should know that in Ukraine, many animal breeders gave their animals at the border to save them, or died with their animals under bombardments because they did not want to leave their breeding”, indicates of Céline.

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He and his companion opened their house wide to strangers, unconditionally.

Lord Inouk's cattery in Odomez welcomed a Ukrainian family and their cats for 2 months.
Lord Inouk’s cattery in Odomez welcomed a Ukrainian family and their cats for 2 months. (©AS Hourdeaux/Northern Cross)

An incredible welcome

How has this been such an incredible reception? The relationship between the two families immediately became warm. “We have a lot of small Ukrainian dishes. We also go outings together, walks in the countryside, local concerts…” explains Frédéric.

We also had to do a lot of administrative procedures for Olga’s family, who don’t speak French. “We drove everywhere, to the prefecture, to the doctors… We looked for a translator. It is an obstacle when you do not speak French to assert your rights, even to open a bank account,” says Frédéric. He added: “Our friends in Ukraine have shown a lot of stability…”

The couple in the north also found that behind the beautiful speeches of helping the Ukrainians in France, actions are lacking. They didn’t get the support they thought they would. They would like to thank those who prepared: the Maxime butcher’s shop, the Red Cross, the Restos du Coeur in Fresnes-sur-Escaut.

One house, after 100 files!

The search for a house is also in the program, and it is complicated: more than 100 requests with no response or refusal. Céline and Fred even said they were shocked by some of the reactions. “When people found out it was for Ukrainians, they immediately said no, they don’t want to help foreigners… It’s sad,” Céline said. But there were other bursts of harmony that warmed the hearts, especially for food, of humans and cats.

Finally, finding a house near Maubeuge, the couple from Valenciennes took care. We need to find furniture, make a move. “We wouldn’t have a house without Céline, she’s amazing,” says Olga, in perfect English.

“such is life”

Céline and Frédéric know one thing: that this union will not end. “As long as we live, we cannot leave them. We stay in touch, we see each other as often as possible being an hour away by car”.

In June 2023, a photo exhibition of Olga and Céline’s cats is already planned in Roubaix, during the 2nd animal fair! The idea came from Lucile Devlaeminck, who knew Céline and Fred and their animals well, because she intervened there for animal communication. “This unity is rare, it is an achievement,” she points out.

We want to know what Ukrainian cats think of this trip!

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