Lviv, port of farewells: already 120,000 across the border, even Orbán welcomes them

Mostly women and children are on the run, on the train for days. Putin’s bombs don’t look anyone in the face, when you have children you can’t afford to take risks

FROM OUR REPORTER They leave, but hope to return soon. They are tired, hungry, they get off the train carriages
where they traveled in many cases for over two days. Most of them are women and children. THEThe Ukrainian government tries to block the departures of men capable of using a rifle between the ages of 18 and 60.
The Lviv railway station has become one of the great centers of escape.
Reading the arrival and departure timetables, it is clear that delays can be very long, some convoys are canceled, others carry out extensive detours on smaller lines to avoid the bombing areas. Two days ago a military train loaded with Ukrainian tanks headed for the battle for Kiev was hit by Russian fighters and the railway line at that point is unusable.

We do not know if it will still be possible to travel tomorrow where we passed today. Uncertainty prevails, say Zhanna Shevchenko and Karolina Leita, two women in their thirties who have just arrived in Lviv from the train that saved them from the fighting around their homes in the eastern town of Kharkiv. They passed through Kiev and are now looking for a car to take them to the border with Poland. They know well that there are still long hours of waiting in traffic jammed before safety. They are exhausted, but they don’t feel defeated. Putin accuses the Ukrainians of being Nazis, in truth he is worse than Hitler. And you NATO Europeans should be careful. If you don’t help us defend our country from this cowardly aggression, you will soon be on the front line. Kiev your guarantee, they say defiantly. They have a couple of suitcases with them, a cat cage, they would like to have a coffee and immediately try to continue towards Warsaw.

Like them, there are tens of thousands of others. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, over 120,000 Ukrainian civilians have already reached neighboring countries
with Western Europe in recent days. And the figures are increasing by the hour. It is estimated that well over four million people will soon be leaving. They go to Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary. Here Prime Minister Viktor Orbn went in the last few hours to the border point in Beregsurany to declare the total opening of his country to refugees. A radical change with respect to its policies of total closure towards migrants, especially from Islamic countries and in general from the Middle East and Africa. However, the most chosen destination remains Poland. Here over two million Ukrainians found refuge after the Russian attack on Donbass and Crimea in 2014. And Lviv became the most relevant crossing point.

My husband has been working as an engineer in the Warsaw region for two years. Now I join him with our two daughters, Evelina aged 14 and Anastasia aged 12. We should have spent the Easter holidays together, now we will stay with him, says Tatiana, a forty year old who was frightened by the rain of Russian bombs against a barracks of the Ukrainian army near their home in the village of Kryvyi Rih. At first she wanted to stay. But then the fear that the battle would make the journey impossible pushed her to gather a few things in small light bags and run away.

The same explains Veronika Shelganwho has three children aged 5, 8 and 12 with her. Russian bombs don’t look anyone in the face. They affect military and civilians. When you have children, you can’t afford the luxury of taking riskshe admits.

Sitting on the wooden benches of the waiting room transformed into a giant bivouac, 43-year-old Ihor Sherbyna is leading his wife and 9-year-old son to some distant relatives who live in a remote alpine village in the Carpathians. If things get worse, they could easily escape to Hungary. But I’ll go back to Lviv anyway to sign up as a volunteer. For us it’s time to fight, not to run away, he says he is firm.

Outside the station, groups of young local volunteers distribute food, blankets, clothes and, if necessary, also provide dormitories. QThere are children and pregnant women who are on their third sleepless night – they explain -. This is the moment of solidarity.

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