Medyka, Ukraine-Poland border – Heat rays of the morning solar take away the final indicators of frost from the automobiles parked in infinite strains alongside the street.
Medyka – the principle border crossing between Poland and Ukraine – is slowly waking up, and so are dozens of women and men who spent the night time in parking heaps, ready for his or her family members to reach.
For the reason that starting of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, greater than 115,000 refugees have crossed into Poland, the Polish Ministry of Inner Affairs mentioned on Saturday. Anybody from Ukraine is allowed entry, even those that don’t maintain legitimate passports, Polish officers mentioned.
The United Nations Refugee Company says greater than 120,000 Ukrainian refugees have left the nation since Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday.
However for many Ukrainian refugees, it took days to flee the warfare.
Helena, 49, from Drohobych in western Ukraine, is sipping tea and consuming a sandwich she acquired from volunteers. She has household in Poznan, Poland, and he or she is aware of the arduous journey will quickly be over.
But it surely took her 24 hours to cross the border and arrive to security. “It was hell,” she advised Al Jazeera earlier than she burst into tears.
For Denis, a 30-year-old from Chernivtsi, Ukraine, who works at building websites in Poland, it was a troublesome night time as properly. He arrived at Medyka on Thursday to satisfy his spouse and youngsters coming from Ukraine. However after an entire night time of ready, they had been nowhere in sight.
“They’ve been on the border for over 24 hours. In the beginning, they needed to cross on foot but it surely was arduous, in order that they discovered a bus. No less than it’s not as chilly as outdoors,” he mentioned.
“However for the previous 5 hours or so, they don’t seem to be letting anybody by means of. It’s unclear why.”
Whereas Denis’s spouse and youngsters are on their strategy to reunite with him, his mom determined to cross again into Ukraine. She didn’t wish to be away from her husband and two different sons, who would possibly quickly obtain a name for service.
“My father fought in Afghanistan and he is aware of what a warfare is like,” Denis mentioned.
“He was able to sacrifice his life for the Soviet Union. Now he is able to sacrifice his life for Ukraine towards the brand new Russian energy,” he mentioned.
“It’s a paradox. However everybody can see what the Russians are doing. They took Crimea, Donbas, now they need Kharkiv.”
Denis advised Al Jazeera he would possibly be a part of the combat too, however first desires to verify his spouse and youngsters are secure. In per week or two, he mentioned, if the enemy is nearer to his hometown of Chernivtsi, he should take up arms.
“If they arrive nearer to our houses, we should return and combat. For thus a few years, we’ve labored to construct the nation that even when a few of us go away, others should keep. If everybody leaves, who will defend us?” Denis requested.
For the primary half of the day on Friday, extra folks crossed into Ukraine than had been seen leaving the border – a puzzling paradox in a time of mass exodus.
Ukrainian refugees additionally complained about ready hours to obtain the Polish stamp, lack of meals obtainable within the passage between Ukraine and Poland, and extreme chilly within the area.
Amid the border chaos, volunteers handed out water, heat garments and blankets to the conscripts crossing into Ukraine to affix the combat.
The gear will enable girls and youngsters – stranded between Poland and Ukraine and nonetheless ready for an opportunity to get to security – to outlive one other freezing day.
Yelena, a 43-year-old refugee herself, is among the volunteers handing out the gadgets.
She arrived in Poland nearly a 12 months in the past from Belarus. When she discovered that Russia had launched a full-scale invasion towards Ukraine, she didn’t wish to keep idle.
“I needed to affix the warfare. The Polish border guard let me by means of, however the Ukrainians didn’t. You already know why? As a result of I’ve a Belarusian passport,” Yelena advised Al Jazeera.
“All sort of assist is required there: somebody has to cook dinner, somebody has to care for the wounded. I even tried to cross a second time, however to no avail.”
Yelena mentioned she then destroyed her Belarusian passport in protest towards the warfare and joined the Ukrainian and Polish volunteers on the border.
“I really feel ashamed for Belarus. Ukraine has to win this warfare,” she mentioned. “Slava Ukraini [Glory to Ukraine].”
She then handed a blanket and several other bottles of water to a younger man coming into the border crossing in the direction of Ukraine.
Olga is ready in the identical queue. She stands out from the remainder of the group; her lengthy, trendy coat with quirky patterns and impeccable hair attracts consideration.
Olga and her boyfriend Sergey had been ready for a flight again to Ukraine at an airport in Vilnius, Lithuania, once they heard in regards to the warfare unfolding of their homeland.
“We went to Lithuania for a weekend and we acquired caught in there. Our flight dwelling was cancelled. For the primary few hours, we couldn’t perceive what was occurring, we couldn’t imagine it,” the 33-year-old everlasting make-up artist advised Al Jazeera.
She now hopes that after again in Ukraine, she is going to be capable to volunteer in a hospital as a nurse. She mentioned she desires to make herself helpful.
Her boyfriend Sergey is 38, which suggests he’s within the conscription age. He works as a sound director and has by no means held a gun.
But when his abilities aren’t sufficient to help the battle, he can be taught new ones, he says with an air of confidence. “No matter it takes to assist the nation.”
It took the couple two days to get from Vilnius to the border. All buses on the route had been cancelled, and there have been no trains both. Ultimately, “Lithuanian brothers” drove them straight to Medyka.
Whereas Sergey is afraid of warfare, he says it by no means crossed his thoughts to remain elsewhere in Europe.
“There’s one Ukraine and we are able to’t lose it. It’s our homeland and it’ll by no means be Russia.”