Conflicts & War

Ukrainians line up to return to Russian-controlled hometowns

By Luis Angel Reglero

Zaporizhia, Ukraine, Jun 5 (EFE).- Many displaced Ukrainians in Zaporizhia are waiting to return to their hometowns despite the raging war. They are tired and angry.

Entire families have been living in their cars for days, sleeping and even cooking on an esplanade on the outskirts of the southeastern Ukrainian city.

Every day, they wake up early to go check if their names have made it to the list of those crossing into Russian-controlled areas but it is often in vain.

Some families such as the Kosuhins have turned their old Lada into a tent, with a plastic cover tied to a tree to create shade when the sun is at its highest.

The esplanade used to be a car marketplace, but now it is the provisional home of dozens of families.

Vasyl, 22, arrived in the area earlier this week with his parents, sister Anastasiya, brother Oleksiy and their dog.

They were promised that they would be able to leave in four days, the 22-year-old tells Efe, while surrounded by water bottles, blankets, kitchen utensils, and piles of bags.

The family was among those evacuated when the southern city of ​​Mykolaiv was under intense bombardment from Russian forces. Now, they want to go back but they cannot.

“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Vasyl says.

Other people have signed up to go to Melitopol, Kherson or Mariupol, hoping each day to be among the “lucky ones,” a man tells Efe.

Nearly 140 people have registered to return to their hometowns but only 10 cars manage to leave on specific days under the protection of the Ukrainian army.

Oksana, 40, waits with her husband Roman and her son Kyryl, 3, for a stroke of luck that would take them to Melitopol.

The situation is better there, Oksana points out. Stores have opened and the Ukrainian hryvnia is still alive, while in other occupied areas, the Russians have imposed the ruble and removed the Ukrainian flag “for the Russian one.”

But she says she cannot cross the checkpoints without permission, adding that others had to turn around before entering the Russian-controlled zone.

Local employees say they cannot give details of why the wait is long, while those in line say they do not know who to complain to anymore.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, some eight million have been internally displaced, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).EFE


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