Tens of thousands fleeing Ukraine have sought safety in neighboring countries. Russia bombed their capital and other cities with airstrikes on the second day.
After President Volodymyr Zilenskyy banned military-age men from leaving Ukraine on Thursday, most of the people who arrived were women, children, and the elderly.
A woman from Kyiv in Ukraine, a Ukrainian capital, arrived in Przemsyl (Poland) and broke down, describing how men were pulled from trains in Ukraine just before they reached the border.
“Even if he was traveling with his child, he couldn’t cross the border even with a child,” stated the woman who chose to use her first name, Daria.
Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that more than 50,000 Ukrainian refugees fled Ukraine in 48 hours. Many more were still moving towards the borders. According to Grandi, most of them fled to Poland and Moldova.
Vilma Sugar (68) fled her Uzhhorod home in Ukraine in fear and faced the pain of her 47-year old son being arrested.
After reaching Zahony in Hungary, she stated, “I’m shaking. I can’t calm myself down.” “We crossed the border, but they wouldn’t allow him to come with us. We tried to get in touch with him by phone, but the line is too bad.
Erzsebet Kuvacs (50), another woman, arrived by train and said that men weren’t allowed to enter the station.
She said, “We women boarded train but men were told to move to side.”
She said that the Ukrainian authorities were friendly and not rude but they also said that men have a duty of defense.
As authorities in Poland and Slovakia, Hungary and Romania mobilized to help them, they provided shelter, food, and legal assistance. Cars were held up for several kilometres (miles) at border crossings. These countries also relaxed their border procedures, including COVID-19 testing.
Ukrainians crossed into Poland by foot, train or car. Some even brought their pets. They were welcomed by Polish officials and volunteers who offered them hot drinks and food.
Many wanted to be reunited with relatives who had settled in Poland or other EU countries, whose strong economies have attracted many Ukrainian workers for many years.
Many people’s first stop was the train station at Przemysl in southeast Poland. This is a major transit point and has been used by many. As they waited for their next move, the Ukrainians rested on cots or in chairs. They were relieved to be able to flee from the bombardment of Kyiv.
Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s Foreign Minister, stated that the EU will accept all refugees fleeing Ukraine because of the conflict.
She said, “We tried everything to make sure that this day would not come.” “And it happened because the Russian president chose war and against human life, and chose it.”
Baerbock stated, “That’s why they will take in all the people fleeing now.” “We will bring people from Ukraine to safety.”
Italian Premier Mario Draghi spoke to Parliament Friday about the “long lines” of cars leaving Kyiv, Ukraine and heading towards EU borders. He also said that it was possible to envision a large influx of refugees in neighboring European countries.
He said that the images of unarmed civilians who were forced to hide in subways and bunkers were “terrible” and brought back the darkest days European history.
UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, estimates that over 100,000 people have fled their Ukrainian homes. If the situation worsens, up to 4,000,000 people could flee to other countries.
Hungary mobilized its military to assist and announced this week in a decree that all Ukrainian citizens who arrive from Ukraine would be protected, as well as all third-country nationals living there legally.
This is a very different attitude from their previous unwelcoming attitudes towards migrants and refugees from the Middle East or Africa. Hungary constructed a wall to keep them away in 2015, when more than a million refugees from Syria arrived in Europe.
After thousands of migrants from the Middle East tried to cross into Poland, Poland is building its own wall with Belarus. Russia-backed Belarus was accused by the EU of encouraging this migration surge in order to destabilize it. Some of those denied entry to Poland were found dead in forests.
Poles view Ukrainians differently than others, however, because they are predominantly Christian and, for them, are fellow Slavs of similar cultural and linguistic roots.
Transcarpathia is Ukraine’s westmost region, bordering Hungary. It also houses approximately 150,000 ethnic Hungarians. Many of them are also Hungarian citizens. Despite Russia’s invading force not yet reaching that region, which is separated from Ukraine by the Carpathian Mountain, many are not waiting for the situation to worsen.