Manteigas (Portugal) (EFE) trees, which in addition to restoring the calcined land can contribute to the integration of migrants in the community.
This was explained to EFE by the clinical psychologist Sandra Tavares, in a reforestation activity organized within the framework of the European Life Terra project, in which several dozen volunteers from a migrant center planted pines and oaks in Serra da Estrela, in the northern Portugal.
This mountainous system, at whose feet the town of Manteigas rests, was in the summer of 2017 one of the areas most affected by the forest fires that left 64 fatalities, more than 250 people injured and so many others with anxiety symptoms that in some cases persisted for months, argues Tavares, who specializes in post-traumatic stress.
“This landscape reminds me of Crimea,” says Valentina Dieieva, who almost a year ago arrived in Portugal from her city, Dnipro, where she left some of her relatives -her parents and brothers- to flee the war, as she descends the mountain.
This editor, who worked in a media outlet in her native Ukraine, moved to the city of Bakhchisaray, in Crimea, in love with that place with her husband, where their son was born and lived for two years.
Although her idea was to buy the house in Crimea and stay for life, in 2014 Russia invaded the region and Dieieva and her family were forced to return to Dnipro.
When at the beginning of 2022 the conflict with Russia hardened and the attacks began, Dieieva once again took her belongings and went to Poland, where she got on a bus that would take her to the Portuguese city of Fundao, where she now lives with her family. closest.
A nature lover, he decided to participate in the tree planting that the European Life Terra project organized one Sunday in January, where he was able to meet the rest of the volunteers, who communicated in Ukrainian, Portuguese or English while helping to repopulate the Sierra de native trees, including a species of pine that, coincidentally, is also very common in Ukraine, at the other end of Europe.
The Serra da Estrela scorched again in the long heat wave that, as in Spain, the inhabitants of Portugal suffered last July.
“This last fire had a very serious consequence on people’s lives, either in business terms or in social terms,” laments the executive secretary of the Serra da Estrela association of municipalities, António Miraldes.
Miraldes explains, for example, the economic and social impact of canceling reservations in tourist accommodation, since “people stopped coming because they were afraid to return to the mountains once the fires broke out.”
This, in a town that in its day lived on butter (the product to which it owes its name) and other dairy products but where tourism is increasingly important, was an economic setback.
The idea that the migrants would participate in the plantation was to restore the ecosystem and, at the same time, favor “a better integration of the refugees from the war in Ukraine and of some immigrant community that we also have in our territory,” says Miraldes, and show these people “what our territory can offer in this harmony”.
For Sandra Tavares, actions such as reforestation are very positive for people who have suffered traumatic episodes, because “this connection with nature is a connection with life,” she argues.
The psychologist, who coordinates a social intervention project in the Gouveia City Council, details that many of the people who participated in the plantation took care of farms, gardens or other natural spaces in their places of origin and, therefore, take care of nature now it returns them to that state of calm that, like Dieieva, they enjoy so much.
“Taking care of nature is taking care of ourselves a bit,” he alleges, noting that the plantation is also an opportunity for migrants to give back to the community that welcomes them what they have received, and also “to generate a certain social identity ” and being part of that group, something key “to feel good where they are now”.
“This specific area is important because it burned down last summer, people are very worried and they felt it as a tragedy; and, at the same time, there is a large community of migrants here,” argues Carlos Carvalho, a forester and coordinator in Portugal of the Life Terra project, who also believes that the strength of this plantation lies in the “hope” it represents recover life in a devastated area.