Conflicts & War

Russian invasion triggers civilian exodus from Ukraine

Przemysl, Poland/Siret, Romania, Feb 26 (EFE).- Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighbor Ukraine has brought scenes of war and bloodshed to the streets of European cities for the first time in decades, unleashing an exodus of thousands of Ukrainian civilians heading west to the European Union.

The UN believes that the war in Ukraine has already forced the displacement of at least 100,000 people and has predicted that between one and four million Ukrainians could soon suffer the same fate.

Poland’s deputy interior minister Pawel Szefernaker said Saturday that around 100,000 people had already crossed the border into Poland since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Thursday.

On the Polish border with Ukraine, Przemysl train station has become one of the main entry hubs for refugees fleeing the war, the majority women, children and elderly people.

Around 100 people, including police officers, firefighters, and local volunteers, are working around the clock to provide tea and sandwiches to the growing stream of refugees, while others offer lifts to major Polish cities.

Many have to spend the night at the train station, with social workers handing out blankets, thermoses, juice boxes and bowls of goulash and bread rolls to the new arrivals.

Fire brigadier Daniel Dryniak tells Efe that some 1,500 people arrived at the station on Thursday, but that number had visibly grown on Friday night.

Taisia, a woman from the eastern city of Kharkiv that has seen heavy clashes, says her husband is a municipal policeman and could not come with her to Poland; “they forced him to stay and fight, but he would have volunteered.”

Tatiana, a mother of three children, tells Efe that she is traveling with her two brothers. When offered to go to the dormitory set up at the station to rest, she says she prefers to stay with her relatives.

“Whatever happens, from now on we will always be together,” she says.

At dawn, crying babies can be heard again from the makeshift dormitories as a group of volunteers runs down the corridors handing out stuffed cuddly toys.

The Polish government has said it is ready to take in every refugee who comes to the country to escape the war.

Warsaw has set up eight reception points along its border with Ukraine and is accepting anyone holding a Ukrainian-issued ID, passport or work permit. Officials have also waived Covid-19 vaccination certificate requirements to speed up procedures.

Meanwhile in Romania, which borders Ukraine to the southwest, some 20,000 refugees have entered the country since Thursday morning.

The busiest border crossing is the one linking the southwestern Ukrainian oblast of Chernivtsi with the Romanian province of Suceava.

“Eighty percent are women and children,” says Alin Duca, a social worker from the border town of Siret, after spending the night providing water, tea and food to the arriving refugees.

“There is a queue of up to 35 kilometers on the other side of the border; Ukrainian policemen let cars and buses through very slowly and barely allow groups of 5 or 10 people through every half hour,” Duca tells Efe.

Many opt to walk for miles to cross the border on foot rather than sit waiting for hours in the stationary vehicles.

Some of the refugees are members of the Romanian minority in Ukraine and have family or friends in the host country.

“My grandmother lives in Bucharest; she took refuge there during World War II and we have to leave Ukraine for what may be World War III,” Suzanna, 20-year-old economics student from the Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi, says in the limited Romanian she has learned from her mother.

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