Evacuees stand under a destroyed bridge as they flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, 7 March Evacuees stand under a destroyed bridge as they flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, 7 March  (AFP or licensors)

Ukraine: Millions are fleeing the horrors of war

Families in Ukraine are being torn apart as they leave their homes, belongings and even loved ones behind, knowing that neither their journey nor their future is safe.

By Francesca Merlo

2 million people have fled Ukraine in only 12 days according to the United Nations.

Flight of refugees

The Russian invasion which began on 24 February has seen people dying under Russian bombs and fleeing as the homes they grew up in and buildings they work and studied in crumble around them. Th UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees has called it the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two. 

The majority of refugees come from the Eastern part of the country, closest to Russia. The two areas worst hit so far are the capital city, Kyiv, and Mariupol, which borders Donbass, an area held by Russian-backed separatists.

Most refugees have left for neighboring countries, such as Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova and Poland. Polish Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told reporters on Monday that more than 100,000 people per day are arriving in Poland, less than two weeks after Russia’s lethal invasion began.

Fears of refugees

But as they travel, the refugees themselves don’t know where they are going, nor what to expect. At the Moldovan border town of Palanca, our correspondent Jean-Charles Putzolu spoke to 44 year-old Vladenia who has fled Odessa with her mother. She speaks of their fears: having no plan, having to contacts or friends in other European countries, leaving everything behind, not knowing where they will be in three days, whether they will find a way to obtain the medication they need, who will accept them and who will reject them.

Listen to Vladenia

Vladenia is only one of around 2 million people who have left everything behind.. including their families. A law forbids men between the ages of 18 and 60 to leave the country, and they do so willingly, to protect their country, and hopefully, the families they leave.

Humanitarian corridors

To make matters worse, wherever humanitarian corridors are established to allow people to flee to safety, the ceasefire is broken and the area targeted by Russian bombs.

New efforts to bring people to safety are being made, and European countries are welcoming the refugees who are fleeing, mainly mothers with their children and elderly parents, but sometimes, children alone, too.

08 March 2022, 16:16