More than 450,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war have taken refuge in Poland. Some are only in transit through Warsaw, others hope to be able to stay during the fighting. Poles are mobilizing to help them.
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Sylvia and Monica move with a wide smile between the groups of slightly exhausted passengers. They carry portions of very hot soup on a tray. “We made this at six o’clock this morning,” says Sylvia. “One hundred liters of soup, which we come to distribute for free.” They traveled 40km on Tuesday (March 2nd) with her friend to arrive at the Warsaw bus station. “We couldn’t sit at home and do nothing while the war was just ahead of us. Who can say what Poland will be like in a week or two. Maybe we will be the ones who will need soup soon?” dozens of volunteers distribute food to Ukrainian families who have left quickly.
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According to a census by the UN High Commissioner, seven days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 453,982 Ukrainians have taken refuge in Poland, the neighboring country from which they sometimes depart, to other European destinations. Many pass only through Warsaw. The bus station of the Polish capital has become a major transit point for several days. Lesia casually grabs two sandwiches for her young children before running to catch a new bus. “We are so grateful for all this help from the Poles.” The journey was long. First Romania, then Budapest, Hungary. And now in a small town south of Warsaw, where he hopes to stay for a while.
“We will stay during the war. My children were too afraid of the airstrikes in Ukraine. Even today, now that we are in Poland, they tremble at the passing of every civilian plane.”
Lesia, a Ukrainian refugee
Everywhere mountains of suitcases and in a large waiting room, the television broadcasts images of burning cities. Arturo watches from a œhe, he is a Pole, but explains that he intends to go to fight in Ukraine. “I’ll see how it goes”he said, fearing that Russian aggression would cross the border anyway. Upstairs, in the small hotel at the bus station, are mostly women and children. “Our husbands stayed in Ukraine to guard our house and belongings,” assures Julia, who used to live in Kyiv. She leaves for Italy on Thursday with her daughters, who are trying to smile. Someone gave them a puzzle. Their mother bursts into tears, thinking they won’t be home for weeks.