As presidents meet, Ukrainian refugees just want the fighting to end

People flee Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Medyka
FILE PHOTO: People walk after crossing the Polish border, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at the border checkpoint in Medyka, Poland March 19, 2022. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

March 25, 2022

By Anna Kopper

PRZEMYSL, Poland (Reuters) – Ukrainian refugee Viktoria Lysykh had a message to world leaders after crossing the border into Poland on Friday: ‘I want the war to end as soon as possible… To which way exactly? Definitely.”

The 35-year-old arrived at Przemysl train station with her teenage daughter and their two pet cats as US President Joe Biden prepared to visit the same border region to discuss the conflict with his Polish counterpart.

When asked what she hopes to gain from the high-level meeting, Lysykh laughed. The greatest hope is that the conflict will end “in the best possible way for Ukraine”. But most of all she just wanted to go back to her homeland in the Donetsk region.

“Let’s stop (fire) so this is all over. Exactly how this is achieved is irrelevant.”

It had taken Lysykh and her daughter 19 hours to get to the border. She planned to travel to Warsaw and then on to Germany where she hoped to find work – her background is human resources with a sideline as a beautician.

There were no friends or family waiting at the destination to pick them up.

Around them in the station more and more women and children were arriving, laden with bags. Around 32,500 refugees came to Poland on Thursday alone, the border authorities said.


In all, Poland has taken in more than 2.23 million people, more than half of the refugees who have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded, according to the Polish border agency.

Poland’s Deputy Education Minister Marzena Machalek said Friday some 700,000 Ukrainian children are looking for places in local schools.

Biden was scheduled to meet with refugee organizations and meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda in the town of Rzeszów, about 80 kilometers from the train station.

His visit comes a day after he and other Western leaders staged a unity demonstration against what Russia is calling its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

At an unprecedented triple summit in Brussels, NATO announced plans for new combat units in four eastern European countries near Ukraine, while the United States and Britain increased aid and widened sanctions.

Biden announced more plans on Friday, saying the United States would ship more liquefied natural gas to the European Union to help it reduce its reliance on gas supplies from Russia.

Back in Przemysl, a 52-year-old refugee named Alla said there was only one thing that would quickly end the fighting — something Western powers have repeatedly ruled out — a NATO-enforced no-fly zone over Ukrainian territory.

“If they closed the skies, they would stop bombing our cities… and then the war would end quickly,” she said while waiting to board another train deeper into Poland.

(Reporting by Anna Koper in Przemysl, Felix Hoske in Gdansk, Luiza Ilie in Bucharest, Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka in Prague, writing by Krisztina Than; editing by Andrew Heavens) As presidents meet, Ukrainian refugees just want the fighting to end

Bobby Allyn

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