This is the story of a family embarking on the greatest expedition of their lives. Brice, resident of Allauch is married to Krystyna, of Ukrainian origin. With his son and volunteers, they go to look for refugees. A convoy of hope to live in immersion.
When conflict breaks out in his wife’s country and his entire in-laws find themselves in the middle of a war zone, this forty-something feels, for the first time in his life, the need to be useful. He then decides to launch an appeal for donations on the page facebook “I live in Allauch”.
Everything is linked quickly, people respond massively. The town hall relays and mobilizes its network: crèches, schools, pharmacies, doctors. Volunteers from the Lions Club and the NGO Actions Humanitaires join the initiative.
The goal? Send first aid products to help Ukrainian hospitals. The convoy leaves to reach Medyka, in Poland, the city closest to the Ukrainian border, where many humanitarian aid stops.
Starting from scratch, Brice Lacreusette managed to find three trucks and two mini-buses and mobilize 12 drivers, including his 19-year-old son, Mathias. As a work-study student, he didn’t hesitate for a second to set off on an adventure with his father and stepmother.
A journey of 4,000 kilometers awaits them, they who have no experience of “road”. They agreed to take us on board with them. Laura Cadeau, Valérie Smadja and Pauline Guigou are journalists at France 3 Provence-Alpes.
It is on the route of the refugees from Ukraine that we are going to tell you this human story for almost a week: 2 days out, 2 days there and 2 days back. They plan to return to France with 14 Ukrainian women and children and find families to house them.
4:30 this Thursday morning. “We find the team of volunteers in a parking lot in Allauch”. For the beginning of this story, it is Laura Cadeau who tells us.
Brice Lacreusette, all smiles, is a real electric battery. A basketball in one foot, a fang in the other with a bandage: “I sprained my thumb, a little morphine and it’s ok!”
AT his sides, white hair, imposing glasses and dandy hat on his head, Jean-Michel Temmos, the president of the NGO Humanitarian Actions made the trip to see them before departure.
If this convoy can leave, it is thanks to a collection of the whole region, from all the inhabitants of Allauch or even Cabriès, pharmacies, shops, individuals.
“We have been used to helping Ukraine for many years, in particular to transport equipment to hospitals in the Carpathians. In addition to this convoy, we are sending a 100 m3 semi-trailer on Sunday which will leave from Garéoult “specifies Jean-Michel Temmos.
AT the initiative of this great humanitarian project: Brice Lacreusette, an Allaudian in his forties, former manager of a karting. “It stings a little but it’s good we are all reinvigorated, we have the 12 drivers who are there, all fully motivated!”he said, rubbing his hands to warm himself.
His Ukrainian wife Krystyna, dressed in a bright green jogging suit, accompanies him on this journey. His 19-year-old son Mathias also. A certain complicity emerges with his mother-in-law.
Seeing her bare ankles, he does not hesitate to tease her: “but you’re going to be cold with little socks like that!”.
And when asked why he did not hesitate to embark on the adventure, he answers instantly: “Compared to my mother-in-law who is Ukrainian, and to help my father. He needed drivers and here I am offered! It’s for the cause, the fact that all Allaudians meet to collect, that it leave a small village like that, it’s beautiful!”
All wear the same white T-shirt with the image of the NGO Humanitarian Actions before having a last coffee.
On the front of his truck, Brice displayed the drawing of Alex, a little boy who had come to support him a few days earlier.
I take the road with Grégory, 45 years old beekeeper, and Christophe, 60 years old, restaurateur. They both come from La Ciotat and wanted to be useful in their own way. While looking for initiatives, they came across that of Allauch.
Grégory is already used to the associative environment. A practicing Christian, he puts beehives on churches and helps single-parent families, for example. “It’s true that in the last few years of Covid, we felt like we were passive. There we want to take action to take over and feel alive. It’s in times like these that we feels like you exist because you’re doing something beautiful and good!”
At the wheel, with 48 hours of road ahead, we discuss. One is afraid of a world war, the other does not want to imagine it “even if this conflict demonstrated how dependent France was. 30 million euros loss for the Shipyard in La Ciotat with the cancellation of Russian yachts, for example”comments Christophe. “The Europeans will have to pull themselves together”he blurts out.
An hour later, first stop at the entrance to Avignon, at the Plan d’Orgon motorway rest area. The sun is just beginning to rise. It is here that the appointment was given to the second part of the convoy. Three minibuses loaded with goods, but which will mainly be used to bring back Ukrainian refugees for the return.
Stéphane, blue and yellow cap in the colors of Ukraine on his head, is the leader. It’s also time to take a breakfast break, before continuing to Germany.
(Re)read episode 2 the Convoy of Hope in Poland to recover refugees
(Re)read episode 3 the convoy of hope arrives at the Medyka refugee camp
“In a spirit of solidarity, I realize that everything starts each time from a personal effort, in this case that of Brice who struggled for this convoy”, launches Gregory, who takes the wheel, in the direction from Lyon and then from Strasbourg.
A few hours later, around 12 noon, it’s lunch break on an area. None are experienced drivers, so they prefer to stop regularly to avoid unnecessary risks.
The picnic is done on the ground, between two trucks. Allauch crisps accompany the sandwiches. It’s time for Brice and Stéphane to discuss the remaining places for refugees.
“We can’t be sure of anything. I made you an Excel table by hand, it’s the same except that there the lines are twisted”jokes Stéphane, who tends to let himself be carried away by events. AT the opposite of Brice, who strives to be well organized from the start.
This is also how his friend for more than 25 years, Laurent, describes him. A biker look, shaved head and tattooed arms: “He has a brain that goes 100 an hour. By the time I get to his reflection, a week has already passed! So when he asked me to join him in this adventure, I knew it was a good idea, that it was going to be well organized, and done safely!”
These two are inseparable. As soon as one approaches the other, a hug or teasing inevitably follows. They met during their first job, selling textiles by the meter. “But he trades, it wasn’t his thing!”remembers Laurent.
At 50, he now has a dual job: mechanic at the port of Marseille-Fos and masseur. “I fix cars and I fix people”he said, smiling.
AT barely an hour after lunch, another break is in order. Road atmosphere when we arrived at the Porte d’Alsace rest area. Laundry is stretched out under the hoods of the trucks, a makeshift kitchen installed in their hold.
The volunteers of the convoy begin to feel the fatigue. They try to conceal the smell of urine, present on the floor, with that of coffee. Only a few more hours before the end of the day.
“I’m ready to sleep”jokes Ronan, behind his cycling mirror glasses. “Helping people is what motivated me to join the humanitarian convoy, perhaps also my volunteer firefighter side”says this software developer for the IT department of the autonomous port of Marseille.
Same reason for Cyril, policeman in Marseille and resident of Plan-de-Cuques:
“This war in Ukraine hurt me a lot, I identified with these families, it’s right next to us!”
The brush hair, this forty-year-old OM fan and Ultra supporter, took several days off to participate in the convoy.
On the road, the names on the signs suddenly change. We have just crossed the German border. Last stop of the day for the convoy: Nuremberg.