Refugees surprised by Russian invasion of Ukraine

(NewsNation Now) — Some of those now fleeing Ukraine didn’t anticipate that Russia would follow through with its threat to invade, several refugees in Poland told NewsNation.

More than 500,000 people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded the country last week, according to the U.N. As the conflict continues, refugees in Poland said that they didn’t believe an invasion was imminent. They’re now struggling to understand why it happened to begin with as hundreds of thousands of Ukraine citizens are now fleeing the place they call home.

“I will use all opportunities to stay in Poland,” refugee Tatyana Kalita said. “There is an option to go to Warsaw. I have friends there who will provide shelter, and I hope to see my husband once again and I hope that we will stay here.”

The surge of volunteers providing aid to Ukrainian refugees has been a rare source of inspiration during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, said Lukasz Szaruga, head of the Red Cross Rescue Team in Przemysl, Poland.

“On one hand, we can see there is tremendous tragedy on the other side of the border,” Szaruga said. “There is a war in Ukraine but on the other hand, we can see great solidarity and mobilization. It is very sad but it’s also very uplifting.”

Szaruga’s team has established five reception areas for refugees, many of whom arrive in states of exhaustion, he said. What the non-profit needs most is money to purchase supplies for Ukrainian people in need, Szaruga said.

“They’re coming in waves. Sometimes there’s a lot of people and then we have a lot of work. Most often those people are exhausted after the journey,” Szaruga said. “They’re staying in lines for hours, often in snow like today in the morning, sometimes in the rain.”

Kalita said she cried for three days, unsure when she might see her husband again.

“Stop the war,” she said. “Stop the bloodshed. Do you see what you are doing? You are destroying families.”

Refugee Bohdana Pylypchuk similarly hopes to see peace returned to the native country so she may return home and be reunited with her family, she said.

“My father is not here. He stayed there to protect Ukraine from the enemies,” Pylypchuk said. “I feel my family is not complete.”

The U.N. has estimated the conflict could produce as many as 4 million refugees with “devastating humanitarian consequences.”

As Ukrainian citizens fled their country, many left all their belongings behind.

“We took a couple of additional clothes for our children. For the adults, the only clothes we have are on our backs,” Pylypchuk said. “We took our documents. We have no clothes.”

So far, the Polish Red Cross has received widespread support from other European nations including Germany, Chechnya and Italy.

“In a situation like this we cannot allow dictators to take power ever again,” Szaruga said. We have to show our solidarity and stop the war as soon as possible.”

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