Skating champion in Ukraine, Irina found the ice in Rennes

“You need to position your right leg better!” That’s how it is, that’s good! In a still hesitant French, Irina Babchenko delivers her instructions this Monday afternoon on the ice of the Rennes ice rink. White jacket and black pants, the trainer supervises like every day about fifteen young skaters from the Club des Sports de Glace (CSG). “I had never worked with children and it’s too good, they are too cute,” she smiles.

A year ago, this former ice dancing champion had never heard of Brittany and its capital. But the outbreak of war on February 24, 2022 in his country turned his destiny upside down. As soon as the bombs started falling on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, Irina immediately decided to flee her homeland. For Gleb, his eight-year-old son, above all. “Everyone is free to choose but I am a mother and it was better to leave for him, she assures. Maybe if I didn’t have kids, I’d still be there. »

Six months as a waitress in Morbihan

Before finding refuge in Brittany, the young 31-year-old woman lived several days hidden in the underground passages of the Kharkiv metro. It will finally take nine days to arrive in France with her son, passing through Poland, Austria and then Germany. Helped by the Alliance FCF Solidaire Arc Sud Bretagne association, Irina landed in March in Damgan. In this small seaside resort in Morbihan, the former dance champion swapped her skates for a waitress tray, working for six months at the restaurant Le Café Pêcheur. “It was complicated at first because I didn’t speak the language at all and I didn’t know anything about the job,” says Irina. But I was very well received and I found a second family. »

In the course of the summer, luck will also knock at his door. The Ice Sports Club (CSG) de Rennes is then looking for a new coach following a retirement. Patrick Martin, president of the FCF Solidaire Alliance gets wind of the news and then pushes to submit the CV of his protegee. “We received her like all the candidates and we finally selected her for her skills and her motivation”, indicates Maxime Duchemin, sports educator at CSG Rennes.

Its future is written in France

Since the start of the school year in September, Irina has therefore happily rediscovered the joys of ice cream. “It’s been my passion since childhood,” she says. And despite the language barrier, the current flows with the students. “We can easily understand each other with gestures,” says Pauline. “She also teaches us new working methods, especially on the artistic part”, continues Lou.

Shining again on the ice, Irina, who now lives with her son and his parents in the suburbs of Rennes, does not forget her relatives who have remained in the country. “I call my family every day but it’s really hard to live with as a situation”, recognizes Irina, who now imagines her life in France. “I love my city,” she says. But the war will last a long time and unfortunately there will be nothing left of it if ever I should one day return. »

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