By FLORENT BAJRAMI and ALEXANDER TURNBULL
MEDYKA, Poland (AP) – Walking the last 14 miles to the Ukrainian border and safe, Ludmila Sokol was moved by piles of clothes and other personal belongings that many people discarded as they fled the fight in front of her.
“You should see things scattered across the road,” the Zaporizhzhia gym teacher said. “Because the farther you take things, the harder it gets.”
Like over a million more, he is struggling with the pain of leaving everything behind.
Sokol found a home in Paris with her former gym coach, a “second mother” she met when she was a child. “I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but all I know is that everything will be fine because Victoria Andreevna is close.”
His host tied a homemade Ukrainian flag to a fishing rod to wave in a small gesture of defiance at the Russian invasion.
The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine has now reached 1.2 million, the International Organization for Migration reported on Friday. This could become the “biggest refugee crisis of this century,” the UN said, predicting up to 4 million people could flee. The European Union decided on Thursday to grant people fleeing Ukraine temporary protection and residence permits.
The influx is “huge, huge,” UN refugee chief Filipo Grandi told The Associated Press during a visit to a border crossing in Moldova.
He called for more international support for host countries. “You see behind me, there are 20 kilometers (12 miles) of cars waiting to arrive.”
A newly arrived refugee in Romania, Anton Kostyuchyk, struggled to hold back tears as he described that he left everything, even his parents, in Kiev and slept in churches with his wife and three children during his trip.
“I am leaving my home, my country. I was born there and lived there, and now what? he said.
In the midst of loss, gestures of generosity abound. At a refugee camp in Siret, Romania, volunteers and emergency workers stopped to celebrate a birthday party for a 7-year-old girl from Ukraine, complete with cake, balloons and song.
The UN Children’s Agency said half a million children in Ukraine had to flee their homes in the first week of Russia’s invasion, but did not say how many left the country.
In the small village of Uszka in Hungary, Pastor Edgar Kovacs opened the only room in his church to refugees. He was soon filled with 29 members of a gypsy family from Didova, Ukraine. “I have a big family, so when we heard from the news what happened next, our hearts started beating faster. And my whole family and I tried to help,” the pastor said.
Some Ukrainians had nothing but pain.
“My colleague was shot by Russian soldiers when he was trying to get out of Kiev to Zhytomyr. Russia to find refuge. He said the murdered woman was a pediatrician. He is now looking to move to Germany or the Czech Republic, part of a rising wave to the west.
“A lot of people also go to Bratislava, Prague, Germany,” said Mihail Aleksa, a Slovak Red Cross volunteer. “The very important thing is that if you have passports, you know, they can reach almost any part of Europe now for free.”
In the Netherlands, 50 refugees arrived in Waddinxveen on Friday, where Mayor Evert Jan Nieuwenhuis told local chain Omroep West that he was glad the city could help “even if it’s just a drop in the ocean.”
But many are finding new homes far from Europe. After a 23-hour flight, more than 80 people, including Ukrainian relatives, arrived in Mexico City in the early hours of Friday.
“It’s a feeling of security, of relief, but at the same time, we have mixed feelings. And we even feel a little guilty about being okay when we know our family is in a bunker right now, “said one evacuee, Alba Becerra.” My son’s father is in a cellar, my daughter-in-law’s parents are in a bunker too. all in Ukraine. “
Some who have left choose to return. At the Medyka border post with Poland, Katarzyna Gordyczuk, 65, boarded a bus preparing to cross again. She had come with her grandchildren but was going to join the rest of her family.
“I left my farm, my husband, my children who are still in Ukraine,” she said. “I’m worried. I’m worried.”
Her bus home was almost empty.
Turnbull reported from Paris.
Follow AP coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
As Ukrainians flee, ‘we even feel a bit guilty we are OK’ – Press Telegram Source link As Ukrainians flee, ‘we even feel a bit guilty we are OK’ – Press Telegram