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Ukrainians Cross Border, Relatives Left Behind

Ukraine War: Some 73 per centof Poles were engaged in helping Ukrainians.

Velke Slemence/Sighetu Marmatiei:

Svitlana Babatenko and her three children arrived on foot in Slovakia on Friday after trying to escape the fierce fighting unleashed when Russia invaded Ukraine.

Her husband stayed behind to fight while she, their two teenagers and 10-year-old son journeyed west to safety.

“Our town, Malyn, is now being bombed, planes are destroying houses. Our relatives stayed behind,” she told news agency Reuters as they waited for a bus to take their group to Poland.

“Last night, their house was bombed, we do not have any connection with them. We do not know if they ran away.”

After leaving Malyn, the family went to Vinnitsya, southwest of Kyiv. “Then (the fighting) started there too, so we decided to flee the country,” she said.

The UN refugee agency said on Thursday 1 million people had fled Ukraine in the week after Russia invaded the country.


Moscow says the aim of its “special military operation” is to disarm its neighbor and capture leaders it calls neo-Nazis and a threat to its own security.

The Kremlin has dismissed allegations of strikes on civilian targets, and on Thursday Russia and Ukraine agreed on the need for humanitarian corridors to help civilians escape.

However, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Friday it had received no official written communication from Russia or Ukraine for assistance in setting up safe passage for civilians and supplies.

Thousands more Ukrainians have sought refuge in neighboring countries on Friday as the fighting back home intensified, receiving help from a groundswell of grassroots support from Central Europeans eager to help their neighbors.


At the Sighetu Marmatiei crossing on Ukraine’s border with Romania, women and children arrived by car, bicycle and on foot on Friday, clutching plastic bags and roll-on suitcases as the snow fell.

One woman brushed away tears as she hugged a loved one waiting for her.

In Poland, some 800 orphans evacuated from Odessa, Kharkiv and other parts of Ukraine were expected to arrive later on Friday, in addition to 1,000 orphans already rescued, said the head of a Polish non-governmental organization helping to coordinate their evacuation.


“Places where they can be hosted in Poland are dispersed across the country, and the kids from one orphanage should not be separated from one another,” Aleksander Kartasinski, the head of the Happy Kids NGO, told Reuters.

“I do my best to keep them together.”

Polish bus operators have provided 17 vehicles that would ferry them for free, he said, in another sign of the fellow feeling in central Europe, where memories of Russian domination after World War 2 run deep.

Some 73 per cent of Poles were engaged in helping Ukrainians, mostly by donating food and hygiene products, according to a survey by pollster IQS for the Rzeczpospolita daily on Friday. Only 7 per cent of those surveyed said they were not planning to help at all.

In Bulgaria, hotel owners on the Black Sea coast and small guesthouses throughout the country have offered free accommodation to Ukrainian refugees, while the state railway operator BDZ said they could travel in the country for free.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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