AP

Ukraine refugees near 4 million. Will exodus slowdown last?

Mar 28, 2022, 3:54 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:37 pm

People, mainly women and children, arrive at Przemysl on a train from Odesa in war-torn Ukraine on ...

People, mainly women and children, arrive at Przemysl on a train from Odesa in war-torn Ukraine on March 28, 2022 in Przemysl, Poland. The Polish government has said it may spend €24 billion this year hosting refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, and is seeking more support from the European Union. With more than 2.2 million Ukrainian refugees, Poland is now the country with the second-largest foreign refugee population after Turkey. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

MEDYKA, Poland (AP) — A slowdown for good or a temporary lull during the storm of war?

While the number of refugees who have flooded out of Ukraine nears 4 million, fewer people have crossed the border in recent days. Border guards, aid agencies and refugees themselves say Russia’s unpredictable war on Ukraine offers few signs whether it’s just a pause or a permanent drop-off.

Some Ukrainians are sticking it out to fight or help defend their country. Others have left their homes but are staying elsewhere in Ukraine to wait and see how the winds of war will blow. Still others are elderly or ill and need extra help moving anywhere. And some remain, as one refugee put it, because “homeland is homeland.”

In the first two weeks after Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, about 2.5 million people in Ukraine’s pre-war population of 44 million left the country to avoid the bombs and bloodshed. In the second two weeks, the number of refugees was roughly half that.

The total exodus now stands at 3.87 million, according to the latest tally announced Monday from UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency. But in the previous 24 hours, only 45,000 people crossed Ukraine’s borders to seek safety, the slowest one-day count yet, and for four of the last five days the numbers have not surpassed 50,000 a day. In contrast, on March 6 and March 7, over 200,000 people a day left Ukraine.

“People who were determined to leave when war breaks out fled in the first days,” explained Anna Michalska, a spokeswoman for the Polish border guards.

Even if the exodus is easing, there’s no understating the scope of it.

UNHCR says the war has triggered Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, and the speed and breadth of refugees fleeing to countries including Poland, Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia — as well as Russia — is unprecedented in recent times. Poland alone has taken in 2.3 million refugees and Romania nearly 600,000. The United States has vowed to take in 100,000.

Even the devastating 11-year war in Syria, source of the world’s biggest refugee crisis, didn’t force out so many people so fast.

“We hope that hopefully the trend of new arrivals will decrease. But I don’t think there’s any guarantee of that until there’s a political solution” to the war, said Alex Mundt, UNHCR’s senior emergency coordinator in Poland.

The International Organization for Migration has also estimated that more 6.5 million people in Ukraine have been driven from their homes by the Russian invasion but remain displaced inside the country, suggesting that a large pool of potential refugees still awaits. IOM said another 12 million people are believed to be trapped in places where fighting has been intense, or don’t want to leave.

“Sadly, there are a lot of people who are not able to leave, either because transportation routes have been cut off or they just don’t have the means arrive to safety in the neighboring countries,” IOM spokesman Jorge Galindo told The Associated Press in Medyka, a Polish border town.

Jewish groups have begun an effort to bring frail Holocaust survivors out of Ukraine, but each person requires a team of rescue workers to extract such refugees.

“Now I’m too old to run to the bunker. So I just stayed inside my apartment and prayed that the bombs would not kill me,” said 83-year-old Holocaust survivor Tatyana Zhuravliova, a retired doctor who was relocated to a nursing home in Germany last week.

Michalska, the Polish border guard spokeswoman, suggested that many Ukrainians who have already fled have left the areas most affected by the fighting, and future battles could determine whether civilians in other areas decide to leave.

“We cannot exclude that there will be more waves of refugees in the future,” Michalska said by phone.

Aid agencies are not letting up in their efforts, helping those who have already gotten out of Ukraine and preparing in case new surges of refugees arrive.

At the border post in Medyka, Poland, shopping trolleys filled with luggage still rattle down a small path leading from passport control, through a village of aid tents to buses waiting to carry Ukrainian refugees to a nearby town.

“Maybe people are waiting it out, to see if their city will get attacked or not,” said Alina Beskrovna, 31, who fled the devastated, besieged southeastern city of Mariupol. She and her mother left the city five days ago but even to get to the border they had to cross 18 checkpoints: 16 Russian and two Ukrainian.

She alluded to new Russian airstrikes over the weekend near Ukraine’s western city of Lviv, which has been a key refuge for Ukrainians fleeing after the invasion ordered by Russian President Vladmir Putin.

“Putin is very unpredictable. And judging from what happened in Lviv two days ago, I think it will not stop in my region, it will not stop at Ukraine,” she said. “It will go further, so the world should prepare for more waves to come.”

Oksana Mironova, a 35-year-old refugee from Kyiv, said: “It is not getting any better — definitely not. We would like to believe it will improve, but unfortunately we need to escape.”

Yet even in the face of Russian airstrikes that obliterate apartment buildings, shopping malls and schools, the pull of home remains strong.

Olena Vorontsova, 50, fled the capital of Kyiv.

“Many people just do not want to leave their homes, because homeland is homeland,” she said.

___

Keaten reported from Geneva. Bassam Hatoum in Medyka, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, and Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this report.

___

Follow all AP stories on the Russia war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.

KSL 5 TV Live

AP

NORTH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 10: Ballots are processed by an election worker at the Clark Cou...

Gabe Stern, Associated Press/Report for America

Nevada county election official in charge of controversial 2022 hand-count plan resigns

A Nye County spokesperson says top elections official Mark Kampf is resigning.

4 hours ago

FILE: Vivint Doorbell Camera (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)...

Haleluya Hadero, AP Business Writer

Some doorbell cameras sold on Amazon and other online sites have major security flaws, report says

Consumer Reports says some doorbell cameras sold by Amazon and other online retailers have security flaws that could allow bad actors to view footage from the devices or control them completely.

9 hours ago

Charred vehicles sit at an auto body shop after the property was burned by the Smokehouse Creek Fir...

SEAN MURPHY and JIM VERTUNO Associated Press

A wildfire scorching the Texas Panhandle has grown to the largest in state history

A wildfire spreading across the Texas Panhandle became the largest in state history Thursday.

14 hours ago

FILE - A vehicle charges at a Tesla Supercharger station in Detroit, Nov. 16, 2022. Owners of Ford ...

Associated Press

Ford electric vehicle owners can now charge on Tesla’s network, but they’ll need an adapter first

Owners of Ford electric vehicles can now use much of Tesla’s charging network in the U.S. and Canada, but there’s a hitch.

18 hours ago

FILE - Comirnaty, a new Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination booster for COVID-19, is displayed at a pharmac...

Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press

Older US adults should get another COVID-19 shot, health officials recommend

Older U.S. adults should roll up their sleeves for another COVID-19 shot, even if they got a booster in the fall, U.S. health officials said Wednesday.

1 day ago

FILE - An unsold 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee sports-utilty vehicle stands for inspection outside a Cos...

Associated Press

Chrysler recalling more than 330,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees due to steering wheel issue

Chrysler is recalling more than 330,00 Jeep Grand Cherokees because of a steering wheel issue that may cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Ukraine refugees near 4 million. Will exodus slowdown last?