At the Polish Border, Tens of Thousands of Ukrainian Refugees

On the Polish Border, Tens of Hundreds of Ukrainian Refugees

MEDYKA, Poland — Cradling her 3-year-old son, who was gravely sick with most cancers, the 25-year-old Ukrainian mom staggered into Poland on Friday.

She was now secure from the bombs and rockets unleashed by President Vladimir V. Putin however despondent at being separated from her husband by a Ukrainian order that every one able-bodied males keep behind to withstand the Russians.

“He isn’t just my husband however my life and my help,” mentioned Olha Zapotochna, one of many tens of 1000’s of Ukrainians, practically all ladies and kids, who’ve poured into Poland, Hungary and different neighboring nations since Monday. “I perceive that our nation wants males to combat, however I would like him extra,” she added, patting the top of her moaning sick youngster, Arthur.

The exodus from Ukraine gathered tempo on Friday as worry unfold that the Kremlin intends to impose its will far past simply the east of the nation, the scene of what Mr. Putin claims, with no proof, is a “genocide” of ethnic Russians.

Greater than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled the nation to date, the United Nations Excessive Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, mentioned on Friday, and the company believes as many as 100,000 have been displaced.

Poland’s border service mentioned that 29,000 individuals had arrived from Ukraine on Thursday, and plenty of extra on Friday, resulting in waits of greater than 12 hours at some crossing factors. Greater than 26,000 have fled Ukraine into Moldova, and an extra 10,000 into Romania.

Amongst these fleeing into Poland Friday by a border crossing at Medyka have been ethnic Russians like Oxana Aleksova, who have been as appalled by the Kremlin’s lies, unprovoked violence and crude propaganda as have been their Ukrainian compatriots.

Ms. Aleksova, 49, whose ethnic Ukrainian husband, a retired police officer, stayed behind, escaped into Poland together with her 11-year-old daughter after ready all night time in a line of pedestrians and autos looking for entry to Poland — a line she mentioned stretched for miles.

Her hometown of Khmelnytskyi, in western Ukraine, had not been hit immediately, she mentioned, however Russian bombs had fallen on a navy airfield in a close-by city.

Russia’s navy, she predicted, “will after all win finally” as a result of it has so many extra troopers and higher gear than Ukraine. However Mr. Putin’s purpose, she added, “isn’t just to beat Ukraine however to make the entire world afraid of him.”

Whether or not he succeeds on that rating remains to be an open query. However his implicit threats to make use of nuclear weapons towards any overseas nations that intervene on Ukraine’s behalf have strengthened an already strong consensus amongst NATO members — even its most hawkish, anti-Russian members, just like the Baltics states and Poland — to maintain their troops out of Ukraine.

As Ukrainians flowed throughout the border into Poland, nonetheless, the federal government in Warsaw introduced on Friday {that a} “convoy with ammunition” had flowed within the opposition path into Ukraine. “We help Ukrainians and we firmly oppose Russian aggression,” Poland’s minister of protection, Mariusz Błaszczak, mentioned.

Additionally passing into Ukraine have been small teams of males who mentioned they have been returning house to combat. “We’ll beat Russia,” shouted a middle-aged returnee as he walked previous the Polish border guards towards Ukrainian territory carrying a black duffle bag.

Simply behind them was Viktor Dick, a German on his strategy to Kyiv to attempt to rescue his pregnant Ukrainian spouse and their three youngsters. He seemed terrified however mentioned he needed to threat the perilous journey to the besieged capital to avoid wasting his household.

As many as 5 million Ukrainians may flee into neighboring nations if the battle drags on, confronting the European Union — which practically buckled underneath a migration disaster in 2015 involving 1.5 million individuals — with one other and probably far bigger inflow of foreigners.

However in distinction to the sooner inflow and a disaster final yr involving would-be refugees touring by Belarus into Poland and Lithuania, Europe’s most migrant-hostile governments in Poland and Hungary have typically welcomed Ukrainians.

When migrants from the Middle East and Afghanistan, tried to sneak throughout the border from Belarus final yr, Polish safety forces beat them again with batons. At least a dozen died in the forests that straddle the border.

Refugees arriving from Ukraine, nonetheless, have been greeted with welcoming smiles, scorching drinks and transport to the closest railway station. Law enforcement officials handed out fruit, doughnuts and sandwiches to Ukrainians camped out within the ready room.

In contrast to the migrants crushed again from the border by Polish guards final yr, Ukrainians, who’re largely Christian and white, have a authorized proper to enter Poland and different European Union nations with out visas. Almost 1,000,000 Ukrainians already reside in Poland.

And Ukrainian struggling by the hands of Russia has stirred sympathy within the previously communist lands of East and Central Europe, the place individuals have bitter recollections of residing underneath Moscow’s yoke.

Poland’s populist right-wing authorities, headed by the Legislation and Justice get together, was within the vanguard of a drive to withstand the European Union’s liberal migration insurance policies in 2015, as was the Hungarian prime minister, Victor Orban, however it’s now organizing reception facilities and short-term housing for Ukrainians.

“We’ll settle for as many refugees as shall be wanted,” the deputy minister of protection, Marcin Ociepa, mentioned on Monday.

Ludmyla Viytovych, who arrived Friday together with her two youngsters from Lviv, a metropolis close to the Polish border, mentioned she was pleasantly stunned to seek out Poles so welcoming, although her hometown has to date been spared the Kremlin’s wrath.

“It’s largely calm now,” she mentioned, including “however no person is aware of what Russia’s subsequent goal shall be.”

Lviv, Ukraine, lengthy a bastion of Ukrainian patriotic fervor, has grow to be a significant staging put up for individuals fleeing the capital, Kyiv, and heading additional West into the European Union.

But, whereas Kyiv residents have been pouring westward, younger males within the west have flowed in the wrong way, their bravado and patriotic pleasure typically blended with deep nervousness about what awaits them if and after they attain the entrance line.

Framed by the Artwork Nouveau splendor of Lviv’s central prepare station, nervous troopers smoked and girls kissed their males goodbye on the platform, as if enjoying out film scenes from what, till Monday, had appeared a bygone period.

Simply throughout the border from Lviv, on the railway station within the Polish city of Przemysl, what may effectively be the final prepare from Kyiv arrived seven hours late, disgorging round 500 individuals, largely ladies and kids, onto a dimly lit platform. Although wanting smooth and fashionable, the prepare took practically 24 hours to cowl simply 350 miles from the Ukrainian capital to the jap fringe of Poland.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has not solely plunged Europe into its largest land battle because the finish of World Conflict II in 1945 however left European politicians and plenty of bizarre all of a sudden individuals feeling surprisingly misplaced and out of time.

Ms. Zapotochna, the mom with the sick youngster, mentioned she and her husband had determined that she ought to take their son to security after Russian missiles destroyed an airport close to their house within the city of Ivano-Frankovsk in southwest Ukraine on Monday morning. Her automotive journey to the Polish border took 28 hours.

“I hope we are able to return. I would like to return. This isn’t my nation,” she mentioned, as her weeping mother-in-law, a resident of Poland who greeted her on the border, tried to consolation the sick child.

“We’re nonetheless residing within the twenty first century, I hope,” Ms. Zapotochna mentioned.

Reporting contributed by Marc Santora in Lviv, Ukraine, and Antaol Magdziarz in Warsaw.

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