Click play to listen to this article
PRZEMYŚL, Poland – A week ago, Helena Arykul was a sales manager in the Black Sea city of Odesa. Now she is a refugee in Poland.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine caused her to flee west.
“I just don’t understand what is happening and why it is happening,” she said after arriving in the eastern Polish city of Przemyśl with her 7-year-old daughter after a two-day train trip across Ukraine.
“They started bombing the city and I had to go. My husband and father are there, fighting,” she said.
Arykul is part of a large number of Ukrainians who have fled to the EU to escape the fighting. More than 677,000 won left Since Russia’s invasion last Thursday, about half have gone to Poland, which shares a 500-kilometer border with Ukraine, which has a similar language and culture.
Flight out of the war in Ukraine has the potential to quickly become the EU’s largest-ever humanitarian emergency; The 2015 migration crisis saw about 1.3 million people arrive on the Continent. During that emergency, Poland’s nationalist government refused to accept asylum seekers.
This crisis is developing much faster, and the Polish response is much broader. About 100,000 people arrived in Poland on Monday, according to to Poland’s Border Force, and by 7 a.m. Tuesday, another 24,000 had crossed.
Before the Russian attack, Poland said it could process 1 million refugees, now there talk out of about 5 million arrivals.
Ukraine’s roads leading to the Polish border crossings are congested with thousands of cars; Some desperate people are abandoning their cars and walking. Ukrainian trains are packed with people bringing asylum seekers west to the EU.
The rush of people is sparking a huge wave of sympathy and aid in Poland. People are opening their homes to refugees, large amounts of food and clothing are being donated, and thousands of people are volunteering to help push Ukrainians deeper into the country.
Adam Krasiński, a 22-year-old student from Warsaw, drove a convoy of three with two friends to the border on Sunday.
“That’s what we can do to help,” he said. “We don’t have the money to help but we have a car and we can drive.”
They brought a family of six Ukrainians, four Moroccan students and an Afghan back to Warsaw.
“The number of people fleeing is quite astonishing, and the way Poland has reacted is quite emotional,” he said. “All who can help.”
At the Medyka border crossing, two local women who gave their names only, Stanisława and Małgorzata, were on duty to scoop up hot soup. They have been here every day since Friday.
“I am not interested in politics, these people need help and we are doing it,” said Stanisława.
Most of the people who come to Poland are women and children, because Ukraine forbids men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country.
Poland has launched a comprehensive effort to help refugees, including free train rides, access to healthcare and a proposal to cut the red tape for those looking for work. The government also pledged on Tuesday that it will extend Polish child reward system – 500 złoty (105 euros) per month – for refugee children.
However, reports and videos of African and Asian nationals living or studying in Ukraine being repulsed as they tried to flee have raised alarms. The African Union has issued a declare Second, it states that “everyone has the right to cross international borders during conflict…regardless of their nationality or race.” Polish and Ukrainian officials have emphasize All are allowed to pass.
Upon arrival in Przemyśl, refugees must first go through border control, which can take hours, before they receive food, water and information at the train station’s reception centre. It is one of nine such centers set up by the government.
The people who came were trying to pick up the pieces of life that were suddenly broken.
“I just hope I can continue to practice dancing like I did in Kyiv,” said Mariana, 13, an eighth grader from Kyiv. She fled the Ukrainian capital on Saturday with her mother, grandparents and two babies.
But not much stability is offered. Her mother is considering returning to Kyiv, where Mariana’s father, a soldier defending the territory, remains. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do,” Mariana said when asked if she would return to her mother.
Go to combat
Not everyone is on the run.
Viktor Belynskyi, 44, an employee of a government-run transport company in the Ukrainian capital was on vacation in Barcelona when the war broke out. He hurriedly booked a flight to Kraków and then a bus to Przemyśl.
“At first, I was shocked by the news, but then I realized that it was just a matter of waiting for things to happen. It just couldn’t be otherwise after eight years of conflict in the Donbas,” Belynskyi said, referring to the protracted conflict between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country.
Belynskyi’s train loaded with clothes, diapers, cosmetics, blankets, sleeping bags and other supplies will go to Lviv in western Ukraine, and then to where civilians are suffering from the war. Western Ukraine has so far been relatively quiet.
But that was not the case in the rest of the country, when Russian anti-tank columns hit Ukraine’s biggest cities. That makes any quick return home for the thousands of people seeking shelter in Poland a distant prospect.
“I was shaking with fear because my family was in Odesa. I hope to be back there in a week or two,” said Arykul.
https://www.politico.eu/article/refugees-shaking-in-fear-look-for-shelter-in-poland/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Ukrainian refugees 'trembled' seek shelter in Poland - POLITICO