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Refugees flee across EU borders as Ukrainian fighting intensifies

Refugees flee across EU borders as Ukrainian fighting intensifies

People arrive at the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Medyka, Poland, Feb 25, 2022. (Photo: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

MEDYKA, Poland: Refugees fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine continued to pour across its western borders on Saturday (Feb 26), with around 100,000 reaching Poland in two days, finding temporary sanctuary in sports halls and train stations.

As Russian forces launched coordinated cruise missile and artillery strikes on several cities, including the capital Kyiv, fearful families thronged European Union borders hoping to enter Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary.

At the Hungarian border town of Beregsurany, 69-year-old Ilona Varga crossed into the European Union on foot, leaving behind her home, shop and hopes she might soon return.

"My kids are telling me to move over to Hungary for good, and they are right," Varga said. "But it is so hard to leave everything behind, I was born here, I grew up here, I have my work here, everything ties me here."

People fleeing from Ukraine arrive in Hungary, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, at a border crossing in Beregsurany, Hungary, Feb 26, 2022. (Photo: REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo)

In Poland, which has the region's largest Ukrainian community of about 1 million people, a further 9,000 people had crossed the border since 7am on Saturday, Deputy Interior Minister Pawel Szefernaker told a news conference.

At Medyka in southern Poland, about 85km from Lviv in western Ukraine, thousands of Ukrainians waited for officials to process them as refugees.

"I arrived today at 3am and I am waiting for my wife," Taras, 25, told Reuters on the Polish side of the crossing. "She called me from the Ukrainian side and there is a 30km queue of cars and people. She said she does not know when she will cross."

Czech railways sent special trains that arrived early on Saturday at the Polish border carrying Ukrainians living in the Czech Republic to meet family members who had escaped the war.

In the Slovak border town Ubla, officials put refugees in a local gymnasium where foldout beds and air mattresses filled a basketball court. Volunteers handed out sandwiches while young children giggled and played with donated stuffed animals.

"We came to the border by taxi and we are going to Prague to meet my husband, to safety," Miroslava Krackovska said at the reception centre.

A woman gasped and wiped away tears as she saw news on her mobile phone, passing the phone quickly to the woman next to her.

People fleeing from Ukraine arrive in Slovakia, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Ubla, Slovakia, Feb 26, 2022. (Photo: REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa)

Two buses carrying ethnic Bulgarians from Odessa arrived early on Saturday in Bulgaria and a third one was on its way. Bulgaria has sent another four buses to Kyiv to evacuate people from its 250,000 minority in Ukraine.

A Ukrainian woman married to a Bulgarian described the shelling in her town and another recounted her struggle to flee.

"For two days we sat on our luggage, hiding in the bathrooms," Tanya Mitova, an ethic Bulgarian, told national BNT channel just after she arrived in the north-eastern village of Durankulak, close to the border with Romania.

"There was shelling, airplanes were flying over, it was very scary."

Source: Reuters/dv
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