FILE PHOTO: People wait to board a bus after fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the border checkpoint in Medyka, Poland March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
March 9, 2022
By Marek Strzelecki and Fedja Grulovic
PRZEMYSL, Poland/ISACCEA, Romania (Reuters) – Thousands more Ukrainian refugees fled to central and eastern Europe on Wednesday, many without contacts and with nowhere to go as host countries scramble to take them in.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the number of refugees is likely to have reached 2.1-2.2 million, said UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) chief Filippo Grandi.
Most are women and children, while the men stay at home to fight.
So far, most refugees have gone to relatives, friends or contacts in the Ukrainian diaspora rather than to reception centers set up by authorities, Grandi said.
“This is the best way for them to feel welcome, to feel in a familiar environment and frankly also to have less burden on public services, which is very important for these countries,” he said.
However, that would likely change as more refugees arrive and more need to stay in reception centers, Grandi said, adding, “We have to be realistic and plan for that.”
Some signs of this trend are evident in Przemysl, a town near Poland’s busiest border crossing that has become a transit hub for refugees.
“In the beginning it was about 90-95% people who had a place to go, now many more people are looking for a place to go and where someone takes care of them,” Mayor Wojciech Bakun told reporters the train station where refugees from Ukraine arrive. “They have no friends or relatives.”
Alina Kondrashova, 33, a doctor from Krivoy Rog in Ukraine, who arrived in Przemysl on Wednesday with her three-year-old mother, sister and her sister’s baby, was hoping to continue to Estonia by bus.
“We don’t have family there, but my mother was born there in Soviet times and there is accommodation,” she told Reuters at the station, where the temperature was -1 degrees Celsius (30 degrees Fahrenheit) and snow was falling.
Also arriving at the station was Viktor from Makariv near Kyiv, a 64-year-old school guard who said he didn’t know anyone in Poland. “I would like to stay here in Poland and come back when this is all over,” he said.
In Romania, authorities have opened two centers in Bucharest for Ukrainian children to play and do activities before moving their families elsewhere.
Refugees from Ukraine continued to cross the Siret border crossing on foot and by car, most with backpacks and suitcases. Some carried pets.
You’ll be greeted by volunteers offering hot drinks, food, and smiles. Train travel remains free for Ukrainian refugees.
Further south, dozens of women and children crossed the Danube on a barge from Orlivka in Ukraine to Isaccea in Romania, wrapped in winter coats against the bitter wind.
Romanian firefighters helped them carry children and luggage ashore and into orange tents set up to protect them from the cold.
In Warsaw, Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski met with NGO leaders to find ways to address the biggest humanitarian crisis the city has faced since the end of World War II.
In the central Polish city of Lodz, a regional agency has urged people to stop donating blood for the time being because they have had so many donations in recent days, but to come back later when supplies are less.
Back in Przemysl, signs were put up in emergency shelters in Ukrainian, Russian, Polish and English, urging the refugees to think about safety when taking a ride. “Take a selfie with the driver – if he refuses, don’t go” and “Avoid tired drivers,” some read.
Across Central Europe, memories of Moscow’s post-WWII dominance are ingrained, reinforced by outrage over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow is calling its action a “military special operation” to disarm its neighbor and expel leaders it calls “neo-Nazis.” Kyiv and its western allies dismiss this as an unfounded pretext for an unprovoked war against a democratic country of 44 million people.
UNHCR is planning a cash program for refugees that could help them pay rent in private accommodation. “Hopefully it will start this week in Poland,” said Grandi. “We will try to do this to complement what governments are doing.”
United Nations plans put the number of refugees arriving at four million, but Grandi said the number likely needs to be revised upwards.
More than 1.3 million people have entered Poland since the war began, while nearly 320,000 have entered Romania – more than half via non-EU member Moldova – and 153,000 have entered Slovakia, officials said.
(Additional reporting by Branko Filipovic in Siret, Romania, Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm, Gwladys Fouche in Oslo, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Pawel Florkiewicz in Warsaw, Jason Hovet in Prague and Luiza Ilie in Bucharest; Writing by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Janet Lawrence )
https://www.oann.com/more-ukrainians-flee-across-borders-in-freezing-temperatures-aid-effort-intensifies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=more-ukrainians-flee-across-borders-in-freezing-temperatures-aid-effort-intensifies Host countries step up aid efforts as thousands more Ukrainians flee across borders