RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE

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

Top Stories

Russia invades Ukraine

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - OCTOBER 13: Defence ministers and delegates are seen at the start of the North ...
STEPHEN McGRATH, LORNE COOK and ELLEN KNICKMEYER, Associated Press

NATO renews membership vow to Ukraine, pledges arms and aid

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says war-torn Ukraine will one day become a member of the world’s largest security alliance
4 days ago
US russia arms control...
MATTHEW LEE AP Diplomatic Writer

US says Russia abruptly postpones arms control talks

The Biden administration said Monday that Russia has abruptly and without explanation postponed the scheduled resumption of arms control talks this week.
5 days ago
KHERSON, UKRAINE - NOVEMBER 24: A man looks at smoke rising from a Russian strike in the Kherson sh...
SAM MEDNICK and JAMEY KEATEN, Associated Press

Civilians escape Kherson after Russian strikes on freed city

Fleeing shelling, civilians have streamed out of the southern Ukrainian city whose recapture they had celebrated just weeks earlier.
6 days ago
Russia President Vladimir Putin (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota - Pool/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Putin decries media ‘lies’ at meeting with soldiers’ mothers

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday hit out at what he said were skewed media portrayals of Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine as he met with mothers of Russian soldiers fighting there.
7 days ago
Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg speaks with personnel after observing Ukrainian troops b...
LORNE COOK, Associated Press

NATO vows to aid Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the military organization stands ready to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia “for as long as it takes.”
8 days ago
CONSTANTA, ROMANIA - JUNE 21: An oil platform is seen in the Black Sean from on board of Romanian N...
DAVID McHUGH, AP Business Writer

EXPLAINER: What’s the effect of Russian oil price cap, ban?

The deadline is looming for Western allies to agree on a price cap on Russia oil
9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Ukraine refugees near 4 million. Will exodus slowdown last?