Ukrainian refugees Nearly 4 million. Will Exodus’ slowdown last? | Chicago News
Video: Anna Cirilli, principal of St. Nicholas Cathedral School in the Ukrainian village of Chicago, which has already hosted 20 students fleeing war, and Matthew Soerens, US director of church, mobilization and advocacy for World Relief, a non-profit organization providing services to refugees, joins “Chicago Tonight” to discuss the refugee crisis. (Produced by Paul Caine)
MEDYKA, Poland (AP) — A permanent downturn or a temporary lull during the storm of war?
While the number of refugees who have left Ukraine is approaching 4 million, fewer people have crossed the border in recent days. Border guards, aid agencies and refugees themselves say Russia’s unpredictable war on Ukraine offers few signs, whether it’s a mere pause or permanent abandonment .
Some Ukrainians are holding on to fight or help defend their country. Others have left their homes but remain elsewhere in Ukraine to wait and see how the winds of war will blow. Still others are elderly or ill and need extra help getting around. And some stay, as one refugee put it, because “homeland is homeland”.
In the first two weeks after Russia invaded on February 24, about 2.5 million of Ukraine’s pre-war population of 44 million left the country to avoid bombs and bloodshed. Over the next two weeks, the number of refugees fell by about half.
The total exodus now stands at 3.87 million, according to the latest count announced Monday by UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. But in the past 24 hours, only 45,000 people have crossed Ukraine’s borders to seek safety, the slowest one-day tally yet, and for four of the past five days the number has not has not exceeded 50,000 per day. On the other hand, on March 6 and 7, more than 200,000 people a day left Ukraine.
“People who were determined to leave when the war broke out fled in the first days,” said Anna Michalska, spokeswoman for the Polish border guards.
Even if the exodus is attenuated, its extent cannot be underestimated.
According to the UNHCR, the war has triggered the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, and the speed and scale of refugees fleeing to countries such as Poland, Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia – as well as Russia – are unprecedented in recent times. Poland alone has taken in 2.3 million refugees and Romania nearly 600,000. The United States has pledged to take in 100,000.
Even the devastating 11-year war in Syria, the source of the world’s largest refugee crisis, has not expelled so many people so quickly.
“We hope that the trend of new arrivals will decrease. But I don’t think there’s any guarantee of that until there’s a political solution” to the war, said Alex Mundt, UNHCR’s senior emergency coordinator in Poland.
The International Organization for Migration has also estimated that more than 6.5 million people in Ukraine have been driven from their homes by the Russian invasion but remain internally displaced, suggesting that large numbers of potential refugees is still waiting. The IOM said another 12 million people would be trapped in places where fighting has been intense or unwilling to leave.
“Unfortunately, there are many people who cannot leave, either because the transport routes have been cut off or because they simply do not have the means to arrive safely in neighboring countries” , IOM spokesman Jorge Galindo told The Associated Press. in Medyka, a Polish border town.
Jewish groups have begun an effort to get frail Holocaust survivors out of Ukraine, but each person needs a rescue team to extract these refugees.
“Now I’m too old to run to the bunker. So I just stayed inside my apartment and prayed the bombs wouldn’t kill me,” said Tatyana Zhuravliova, an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor, a retired doctor who was transferred to a retirement home in Germany last week.
Michalska, the spokeswoman for the Polish border guards, suggested that many Ukrainians who have already fled have left the areas most affected by the fighting, and that future battles could determine whether civilians from other areas decide to leave. .
“We cannot rule out that there will be more waves of refugees in the future,” Michalska said by phone.
Aid agencies are working hard, helping those who have already left Ukraine and preparing for new waves of refugees arriving.
At the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, shopping carts full of luggage descend a further narrow path leading from passport control, through a village of aid tents to buses waiting to transport Ukrainian refugees to a nearby town.
“Maybe people are waiting, to see if their city will be attacked or not,” said Alina Beskrovna, 31, who fled the devastated and besieged southeastern city of Mariupol. She and her mother left the city five days ago but even to get to the border, they had to cross 18 checkpoints: 16 Russians and two Ukrainians.
She hinted at further Russian airstrikes over the weekend near the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, which has been a key haven for Ukrainians fleeing after the President-ordered invasion. Russian Vladimir Putin.
“Putin is very unpredictable. And judging by what happened in Lviv two days ago, I think it won’t stop in my region, it won’t stop in Ukraine,” she said. . “It will go further, so the world should prepare for more waves to come.”
Oksana Mironova, a 35-year-old refugee from Kyiv, said: “It’s not getting better, definitely not. We would like to believe that it will improve, but unfortunately we have to escape.
Yet even in the face of Russian airstrikes wiping out apartment buildings, malls and schools, the appeal of home remains strong.
Olena Vorontsova, 50, fled the capital kyiv.
“A lot of people just don’t want to leave their homes, because the homeland is the homeland,” she said.