By Miguel Angel Gayo Macias
Przemysl, Poland, Feb 28 (EFE).- As Russian troops continue to push into Ukraine, authorities in Przemysl have been filling a special train with humanitarian aid and relief supplies to help Ukrainian refugees arriving in the southeastern Polish city that sits close to the Ukraine border.
Those hoping to meet up with family and friends from their homeland, locate their loved one or provide assistance eagerly await the train, which operates between Kyiv and Przemysl through Lviv.
So far, there have been two trips, during which the train was completely packed with people, including women and children. Many of them had to stand for 12 hours because there were no seats available.
At least 422,000 Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries since the beginning of the Russian invasion on Thursday, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates. Some 187,000 of them have ended up in Poland, the Polish government reported Monday.
A Polish soldier told Efe that the flow of people is non-stop, saying it is impossible to predict the times of departure and arrival because “everything depends on when the loading and unloading of people and supplies are completed.”
A group of police officers and volunteers wait in the vicinity of the railway station, which is accessed after passing through a military checkpoint, to load and unload products using shopping carts provided by a supermarket.
People living in residential buildings nearby the station call Ukrainians from their windows to ask them to spend the night in their houses.
Makeshift kitchens offer soup, tea and water, while groups of volunteers make sure everyone has blankets and food.
Maciek Kowalski, a Pole married to a Ukrainian citizen, tells Efe that he planned to wait for the whole night in front of the fence that separates the station from the parking lot to see his daughter, who was studying at the University of Lviv.
Jan, a young man from Poland who has just spoken with his Ukrainian girlfriend, says that, for him, the aid train is like “a portal” from which he hopes to see his girlfriend come out soon.
“It is time to attend to other places. The aid that you want to send will be more necessary in other places,” Przemysl mayor Wojciech Bakun says, referring to the amount of supplies that has arrived in the small town in recent days.
On Friday, the city council of Krakow, some 240 kilometers west of Przemysl, claimed to have accumulated more than 60 tons of food and supplies donated by citizens.
All Ukrainian citizens will be able to use Poland’s state railway network for free for the next four weeks.
In cities across Poland, reception and distribution centers for refugee aid are increasing, and there are many citizens offering to welcome them into their homes. EFE