Conflicts & War

‘Help our families,’ Ukrainians in Poland plead with Biden

By Lucia Leal

Warsaw, Mar 27 (EFE).- Iryna left everything in Lviv. A displaced family from Kyiv now lives in her house and wears her clothes. She woke up one day and fled to Poland with no plan other than to escape the war, and now she pins her hopes on United States President Joe Biden.

In the country where the most Ukrainian refugees have fled to since the Russian invasion, hundreds of people watched Biden’s speech in Warsaw expectantly on Saturday, eager to hear something new that could help loved ones in Ukraine.

“I want the sky to close, because if the sky closes, my friends and my family, all the people I know, will be safe,” said Iryna, 27, in an interview with Efe at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, where Biden gave a speech before finishing his European tour.

Iryna was referring to the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, an option that could force the US to shoot down Russian planes and which both Biden and NATO have ruled out, fearing it could lead to a world war.

To Iryna and other Ukrainians in the audience, this reasoning from the White House sounds distant and bureaucratic: it is their relatives who are still in Ukraine, and they are the ones who have to write to them every day without knowing if they will respond.

“Close the sky! Arms for Ukraine!” shouted dozens of attendees after Biden finished talking and left the castle.

The president did not announce more aid for Ukraine in his speech, although on Thursday he promised an additional $1 billion for the country and in the last month he has sent thousands of Javelin missiles, anti-tank rocket launchers, drones, grenade launchers, weapons and ammunition.

That aid is still not enough, according to Walentyn, a Ukrainian who has lived in Warsaw for 10 years and who believes that his compatriots urgently need more weapons.

Walentyn, 26, listened to Biden alongside his mother, his aunt and his three young cousins, whom he took into his apartment after they fled to Poland a week after the invasion.

“When the war is over, they want to return,” he said of his relatives, who lived in western Ukraine.

Nearby, Julia Moskovets wrapped herself in a Ukrainian flag and took selfies with her cheeks painted blue and yellow.

“My family is safe, but I don’t know for how much longer,” said the 29-year-old who has been living in Warsaw for five years and whose loved ones are still in her city of Poltova.

“I want more help for Ukraine, ammunition for my country, (I want Biden) to help my people survive,” she stressed.

Hours earlier, Biden had met with some of the more than 2.17 million refugees who have fled to Poland, and whose arrivals have added more than 300,000 residents to the population of the Polish capital in a matter of weeks.

“Each one of those children said something to the effect, ‘Say a prayer for my dad, for my grandfather, for my brother who’s back there fighting,'” Biden told reporters who accompanied him.

The president assured that he knows “what it’s like when you have someone in a war zone,” because his son Beau, who died in 2015 at age 46 from brain cancer, fought in the Iraq war.

“Every morning you get up and you wonder (how they are). You just wonder. You pray you don’t get that phone call,” he said.

Iryna still has her “future husband” in Ukraine, as well as her father and grandfather, who stayed in case it was necessary to fight, while she made the difficult decision, on the fifth day of the war, to go to Warsaw with her mother.

Although she is currently staying with relatives, she doesn’t want to contemplate the possibility of having to stay away from Ukraine in the long term.

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