Medyka, Ukraine-Poland border – Heat rays of the morning solar take away the final indicators of frost from the vehicles parked in countless 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 evening in parking heaps, ready for his or her family members to reach.
Because the starting of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, greater than 115,000 refugees have crossed into Poland, the Polish Ministry of Inside 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 battle.
Helena, 49, from Drohobych in western Ukraine, is sipping tea and consuming a sandwich she obtained from volunteers. She has household in Poznan, Poland, and she or he is aware of the arduous journey will quickly be over.
Nevertheless it took her 24 hours to cross the border and arrive to security. “It was hell,” she instructed Al Jazeera earlier than she burst into tears.
For Denis, a 30-year-old from Chernivtsi, Ukraine, who works at development websites in Poland, it was a tough evening as effectively. He arrived at Medyka on Thursday to fulfill his spouse and youngsters coming from Ukraine. However after a complete evening of ready, they had been nowhere in sight.
“They’ve been on the border for over 24 hours. In the beginning, they wished to cross on foot nevertheless it was exhausting, in order that they discovered a bus. At the least it’s not as chilly as exterior,” he mentioned.
“However for the previous 5 hours or so, they aren’t letting anybody by means of. It’s unclear why.”
Whereas Denis’s spouse and youngsters are on their solution to reunite with him, his mom determined to cross again into Ukraine. She didn’t need to be away from her husband and two different sons, who may quickly obtain a name for service.
“My father fought in Afghanistan and he is aware of what a battle 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 in opposition to 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 instructed Al Jazeera he may 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, now we have labored to construct the nation that even when a few of us depart, 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 out there 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 without doubt one of the volunteers handing out the objects.
She arrived in Poland nearly a 12 months in the past from Belarus. When she came upon that Russia had launched a full-scale invasion in opposition to Ukraine, she didn’t need to keep idle.
“I wished to affix the battle. The Polish border guard let me by means of, however the Ukrainians didn’t. why? As a result of I’ve a Belarusian passport,” Yelena instructed Al Jazeera.
“All kind of assist is required there: somebody has to prepare 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 in opposition to the battle and joined the Ukrainian and Polish volunteers on the border.
“I really feel ashamed for Belarus. Ukraine has to win this battle,” she mentioned. “Slava Ukraini [Glory to Ukraine].”
She then handed a blanket and a number of 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 gang; 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, after they heard concerning the battle unfolding of their homeland.
“We went to Lithuania for a weekend and we obtained caught in there. Our flight dwelling was cancelled. For the primary few hours, we couldn’t perceive what was happening, we couldn’t consider it,” the 33-year-old everlasting make-up artist instructed 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 implies he’s within the conscription age. He works as a sound director and has by no means held a gun.
But when his expertise aren’t sufficient to assist 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 battle, he says it by no means crossed his thoughts to remain elsewhere in Europe.
“There’s one Ukraine and we will’t lose it. It’s our homeland and it’ll by no means be Russia.”