Philanthropy – A Swiss millionaire transports 90 Ukrainian refugees

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Solothurn Guido Fluri even chartered a plane for the second time from Krakow. On board, dozens of Ukrainian families were relieved to be able to flee their country in war.

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Ukrainian Alona Chevchenko is breastfeeding her baby after boarding a plane chartered by Swiss millionaire Guido Fluri to Zurich on March 22, 2022.

AFP

Swiss millionaire Guido Fluri distributes chocolate on the plane he himself chartered to fly about 90 Ukrainians to Switzerland on March 22, 2022.

Swiss millionaire Guido Fluri distributes chocolate on the plane he himself chartered to fly about 90 Ukrainians to Switzerland on March 22, 2022.

AFP

Swiss millionaire Guido Fluri on the right is playing with a little Ukrainian girl at Krakow airport while waiting to board the plane he himself has chartered.

Swiss millionaire Guido Fluri on the right is playing with a little Ukrainian girl at Krakow airport while waiting to board the plane he himself has chartered.

AFP

Alona Chevchenko hugs her baby closer to her bosom, her eyes running in water of tears as the plane takes off from Krakow. Direction Switzerland, security and uncertainty. “I’m all alone,” the 29-year-old woman says. “I finally have the feeling that we are safe, but I do not know what awaits us.”

She is one of a group of 90 refugees from Ukraine – mainly women and children – who were able to board a plane chartered by Guido Fluri, a Swiss millionaire. “If I can help, I will help,” he told AFP aboard the A320 en route to Krakow to pick up his somewhat unusual passengers.

Responsible for people suffering

Guido Fluri is inspired by his own difficult childhood. “When you have luck and means later in life, you have to learn to take responsibility for people who suffer. For me, it is an obligation, ”he said.

It is the second flight he has organized since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, forcing more than 3.6 million Ukrainians to flee their country. Since March 8, he has brought about 320 people to the affluent alpine country. He expects to reach at least 400 thanks to the help of Catholic associations and in close cooperation with the Swiss, Polish and Ukrainian authorities. “We want to help as long as possible. Money is not the biggest concern,” the 55-year-old man explained, looking relaxed.

In Krakow, accompanied by his wife Tania, his 20-year-old son Samuel and his 14-year-old daughter Luisa, he mingles with the crowd of future passengers, all of whom have tired faces. The Fluri family greets everyone, hands out stuffed birds in the color of Ukraine to the children and inquires about the names of the many dogs and cats that are on the trip.

“I have three children”

“I’m impatient and a little scared,” Olga Titkova told AFP. As a 35-year-old, she taught English, and leaving the country was not an easy decision. His mother and grandmother remained in Prylouky, a town east of Kiev that had hitherto been spared but only a few kilometers from the bombings. “It’s dangerous to stay … I have three children and I have to save their lives,” she says, looking at those who cling to their father, one of the three men on the trip. Olga Titkova’s dark circles of fatigue are even more marked by the blonde’s hair and a flesh-colored mask.

The return? If the Russians go. “I do not want to live in the shadow of the Russian flag. I want to live in a free country. I want my children to be free, she said. On board, an interpreter describes the stages of the journey to them, and “Slava Ukraini”, “Glory to Ukraine” erupts, followed by loud applause as the plane takes off.

Children in care

Olena, 45, who prefers not to disclose her last name, hopes “that Switzerland can provide a comfortable life” like the one she left behind in Chernihiv, near the border with Belarus. She shows pictures on her phone of a bomb planted on a playground near her 15-year-old son’s school, which did not explode. The school was destroyed. The teenager confides that he would like to read computer science, but now he has “no more plans”.

Upon arrival in Zurich, the journey is not quite over. You still have to go to different reception points. Two dozen refugees go to a former orphanage in Mumliswil-Ramiswil in the canton of Solothurn, where Guido Fluri spent part of his childhood.

Since then, the philanthropist has bought the home and turned it into a memorial in honor of the foster children. When he himself served soup and bread, he was struck by “relief” in people’s faces. It is a very powerful experience to be able to “help bring people to safety who had to flee, who feared death, and who were shot at,” he says.

But fear was also part of the trip. Alona Chevchenko was a police officer in Kiev. “Today I’m scared. I’m crying a lot,” she admits. Her husband stayed behind to defend the capital. His parents, his brother and the dog stayed too.

These refugees join the 13,000 Ukrainians listed in Switzerland on Wednesday.

(AFP)

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