Conflicts & War

The Ukrainians returning home to be with family, take up arms

By Sara Gómez Armas

Lviv, Ukraine, Mar 25 (EFE).- Olga Hoidosh left Ukraine this month with her two children and siblings to escape the war but, just 20 days later, she has decided to return to home in the western city of Ternopil to be with her husband.

“We were welcomed in Poland but I had to come back,” she tells Efe shortly after arriving in Lviv from Poland, where she left her two school-aged children with a friend.

“Before the war, my husband broke both of his legs in a fall and cannot walk. On top of that, he is of military recruitment age so cannot leave Ukraine,” she adds.

In the space of one month the Russian invasion of Ukraine has forced 3.7 million people to seek refuge abroad. But some of those who crossed the border in the early days of the war are already returning to Ukraine, mainly to regions in the west which are far from the front lines and so far have escaped the worst of the violence.

Olga, 32, says she plans to go “back and forth” between Ukraine and Poland until the war is over, spending some time with her husband as he recovers but also going back to look after her sons, aged four and six, as well as her adolescent brothers, who remain on the other side of the border.

At the Medyka border crossing some 80 kilometers from Lviv, a line of around 200 people wait to cross the border into Poland. Some 50 people are coming in the opposite direction, which was unheard of in the early days of the invasion when the few people entering Ukraine were journalists and volunteers.

“The truth is I’m surprised to see so many people coming back these days, especially women. It seems a lot of people come (to Poland) to stock up before returning to help their husbands or their relatives who stayed in Ukraine,” Basel, 30, one of the independent volunteers helping out at the border, tells Efe.

Ivanka and Natasha have also decided to return to Ukraine but, unlike Olga, they are lugging suitcases packed full of goods for their families.

The friends from Berezhany, to the southwest of Lviv, sought refuge in the Polish city of Tarnow at the beginning of the war, but have decided to return to be close to the “men of the house.”

Like Olga, both took the train to Przemysl, a Polish border city, before taking a bus to Medyka and walking across the frontier. From there, they sorted a ride to Lviv, considered the capital of western Ukraine.

Mikola Fialkovski, 46, took the same journey but for different reasons.

An electrician by trade, he emigrated to Poland six years ago but has decided to return to his home province of Mykolaiv, which has come under heavy Russian bombardment given its strategic location near the Black Sea and Crimea in southern Ukraine.

“When the war broke out, and I saw what was happening in Mykolaiv, the heavy bombing, I felt a lot of pain, for my people and for the kids. For that reason I have decided to come back,” he told Efe in Lviv before heading off to join the fight against Russia.

Since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, more than 435,000 Ukrainians have returned to volunteer in the army, according to president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.EFE


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