Rzeszow, Poland – Over 1.45 million people have left Ukraine Russia invaded the country The International Organization for Migration said 10 days ago, on Saturday, what the United Nations agency described as the fastest and largest exodus of people in Europe since World War II.
where Russia invaded Ukraine Last week, large numbers of Ukrainians fledMost of them are heading west and towards the eastern members of the European Union – Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia – which have pledged assistance.
nearly half Refugees cross the border into Poland, whose border control agency said on Saturday that 827,600 people have entered from Ukraine since February 24, when the Russian invasion began. The first seven hours of Saturday saw the arrival of 33,700 people, more than the previous day, according to the agency.
In the short period since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, more asylum seekers have crossed into the European Union than in all of 2015, when some 1.3 million arrived from the Middle East and elsewhere in a wave of migration that tested the bloc’s solidarity and pressured leaders. Including former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
European rail operators are allowing free travel for anyone with Ukrainian identity papers, and the European Union on Thursday agreed to give Ukrainian refugees temporary residence permits, eliminating the need to seek asylum.
Poland has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine’s independence since before the invasion, with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki pledging arms and humanitarian supplies during his visits to Kyiv as Russia masses its forces around Ukraine.
Since then, towns and cities along Poland’s eastern border and in parts of other countries neighboring Ukraine have mobilized resources to help the influx of migrants, bringing blankets and warm clothes to school gymnasiums and opening logistical centers to deal with new arrivals.
In Germany, to accommodate arrivals from Ukraine, the authorities reopened the refugee shelters that were in use in 2015-2016, at the height of the Syrian war.
At the time, countries such as Poland and Hungary angered some European leaders by opposing EU immigrant quotas and erecting fences and other restrictions aimed at keeping people out. These countries are once again on the border of another humanitarian crisis, providing sanctuary to the residents of a neighboring post-Soviet country that has long expressed aspirations to join the European Union.
“When Russia opened fire on Ukraine, Poles open their borders and their hearts to them,” Mr. Morawiecki wrote on Twitter on Friday.
Hundreds of volunteers are working on the Polish border with Ukraine to find shelter and warm clothes for refugees and arrange travel afterward.
At the train station in Przemysl, a town near the border, Ukrainians can get free meals, SIM cards for mobile phones, and help arrange free travel to other Polish cities.
Many of the volunteers working in Przemyl host refugees in their homes while arranging accommodation for them in larger cities such as Krakow and Warsaw.
“This position is very challenging, and it is kind of an exam, and I hope we will all succeed in some way,” said Anna Lesikow, a Polish language teacher at the Ukrainian School in Przemysl. Mrs. Lescio came to the train station daily as a volunteer, and students often joined her.
“One day, 3,000 people left one train, most of them women with children,” said Ms. Lescio. Horrible sight – they were tired crying. My heart didn’t handle that.”
Between one and two million Ukrainians already live in Poland, many of whom have settled in the country since the outbreak of the conflict in eastern Ukraine Between Russia-backed separatists and Kiev in 2014. Many of the new arrivals connect with family or friends already in Poland.
Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, during his meeting with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Saturday, said Warsaw’s priority is “to organize effective aid for hundreds of thousands and soon millions of refugees.”
A few miles from the border, Mr. Blinken visited the Korczowa Refugee Processing Center, a converted shopping center teeming with Ukrainians – mostly women and children – along with coats, piles of food and bottles of water.
One mother said her house in Kharkiv was destroyed by a shell while she and her daughters, ages 6 and 1, were sheltering in a basement. “They’re kids, they don’t understand,” she said.
Yasmine Ahmadi, 16, said she traveled from Kyiv to Poland with her family, six dogs and seven cats. “I was afraid I was going to die,” she said.
In Germany, about 20,000 refugees have been registered since the start of the war, according to the government, a number that is constantly increasing as thousands of arrivals arrive daily at Berlin’s central train station. More than 13,000 people who fled the war arrived by train in Berlin on Friday evening, German railway company Deutsche Bahn said.
“Of course we will receive those who come to Germany,” Interior Minister Nancy Visser said last week.
Germans flock to Berlin Central Station to provide food and lodging for refugees influx of Poland.
“My father and brother stayed to help defend our house,” said a woman who arrived on Tuesday with three children and her elderly mother. “We cry for them, not for us,” she said, waiting for a train to Italy, hoping to join the relatives who live there.
People from all over Europe came to the borders to help the refugees. close Polish-Ukrainian border crossing At Medyka, Dutch, German, and Austrian citizens arrived to help transport the Ukrainians or offer a temporary roof over their heads.
Danny Rinnenberg, a 29-year-old Dutchman who works in an insulation company, traveled this week from his home in the Netherlands to provide transportation and accommodation for any Ukrainian who would like to stay temporarily in his home.
“It is my humanitarian duty,” said Mr. Renenberg, as he stood in the arrival hall of Przemysl train station holding a sign reading “Netherlands”.
This article was contributed by Natalia Ojewska in Przemysl, Poland, and William Moldin in Kortzowa, Poland.
write to Matthew Luxmoore at [email protected] and Bojan Pancevski at [email protected]
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