War in Ukraine, departed by the thousands, “There will be a million refugees”

Grandi’s (UNHCR) appeal to neighbors: keep borders open. The alert in Poland,
the support of Germany and the specter of Syria

“Whoever has the money runs away.” Thursday afternoon, Luzhanka border crossing with Hungary, in western Ukraine, hundreds of cars in a column. Six hours in the queue. Then in at least 1,600 yesterday they managed to pass. A trolley, a few things thrown in the car. The Ukrainians flee. On social media, dozens of photos circulated yesterday showing the snakes of cars heading west and groups of civilians on foot heading towards the southern and western borders. “We have already heard of victims and people who have started fleeing their homes to get safe”, said Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in a heartfelt appeal as UNHCR increases efforts in the field and invites the governments of neighboring countries inviting them “to keep their borders open to those seeking safety and protection”.

The specter is that of the Syrian crisis when a million refugees fleeing Assad’s (and Putin’s) bombs showed up at the gates of Europe. The border crossings open for now are Vysné Nemecké in Slovakia, Záhony in Hungary, Siret in Romania and Palanca in Moldavia. “Over 4,000 have already found refuge in Moldova”Moldovan President Maia Sandu announced on Twitter that she has proclaimed a state of emergency for sixty days. In eastern Poland in a warehouse in the city of Lublin, the Red Cross yesterday began collecting tons of canned food and packages of humanitarian aid. And a train, with medical equipment, was set up to transport injured civilians from the Ukrainian border to Polish hospitals. “We are preparing to receive a million people,” Maciej Wasik, Deputy Interior Minister, said yesterday. Poland is already home to around 2 million Ukrainians, many of whom arrived after the 2014 conflict, taking advantage of a scheme for granting work permits at the time relatively easy. Germany has already secured support for Central and Eastern European countries, in particular Poland, while the German media speak of an expected flow ranging from 200,000 to one million people arriving in Europe. Five million, according to the US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

Meanwhile in Ukraine, on the ground, NGOs continue to work. Between these Doctors Without Borders present in Donetsk and in the Lugansk region where it supports the most vulnerable and HIV patients. Also among the Italians Soleterre, which cares for Ukrainian children with cancer. And from Kiev, locked up in a shelter, the representative Natalia Onipko explains: “These children do not fight for their lives just because they have cancer, but also because a madman from Russia wants their life, and they still remember 2014”. Memories of war, memories of pain. And who can, as always happens when the bombs thunder, have already set out.

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