Liubov still does not understand how he could feel, from the bunker of his building, the vibration of the Russian bombing against a military base in the Ukrainian town of Yavoriv, just 25 kilometers from Poland, which has caused at least 35 deaths this Sunday. He was then four meters underground in Solonka, a southern suburb of the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine. Two hours later, she and her three children, aged 10, 14 and 19, had already packed their bags and had coordinated with a neighbor to flee to the nearest border, the Polish one, less than two hours away by car. . At 2:00 p.m. Polish time (one less than in Ukraine), they crossed the Budomierz-Hruszow border crossing to join the 1.65 million Ukrainian refugees in Poland and rest in an emergency tent with mattresses, heating and a light bulb. The noise not only shocked the affected Ukrainian town; on the other side of the border, in Polish territory, the explosions were strongly felt. “We felt that everything was shaking, that it would surely be bombs. The sky was all red and we told ourselves ‘it’s too close, it’s not possible’, says the French Sreemati, who was five kilometers from the Polish side of the pass. The noise also woke up the German Mona Gehring in a camper van near Budomierz, on the Polish side of the border: “I could feel the explosion. The truth is that it was very scary.”
“At first I didn’t know what was going on. He asked the others ‘have you felt it?’ When we went up, the colleagues told us that they had seen fire. Two days before, one of our colleagues had gone there to bring medical help,” says Gehring, a follower – like Sreemati – of Mata Amritanandamayi, an Indian guru known for her hugs and generally called Amma (mother), a word that is printed on her coat. .
In Ukraine, the attack woke Liubov up at around 6am. “I was really scared. I covered my head and instinctively squatted down”, assures this 38-year-old woman, who prefers not to give her last name for “fear of Vladimir Putin”.
The area in which they reside has been one of the calmest for a country at war and displaced people from the hardest hit Kiev or Kharkov have taken refuge there. Last Friday, Russian forces already bombed two western cities, Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, for the first time. The two are between 100 and 150 kilometers from the house where Liubov wants to “go back and sleep in peace”. “We didn’t leave until today because we hoped everything would be fine and Putin would come to his senses. We love Odessa and Kiev [por la resistencia a la ofensiva] but we see it as it is there”, he assures. “Behind us, in the queue [del paso fronterizo] there were many babies of two or three months. You can’t imagine how they are pressuring us to leave our beloved Ukraine.”
Poland, the EU and NATO member country that has received more than 60% of the 2.7 million refugees in neighboring countries, is one of the standard-bearers of the hard line against Russia. Its president, Andrzej Duda, has warned that “it would change the situation” if Moscow used chemical weapons in Ukraine, in an interview with the BBC broadcast this Sunday.
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Three brothers cross the border together. With them travels the son of the eldest, six years old. Nadiya is 27 years old and lives in Lviv. Her two younger brothers, 15 and 13, at her parents’ house in Novoiavorivsk, a town just fifteen kilometers from the town that houses the bombed military base. The first, Sasha, was woken up by the noise. “We heard an explosion and the house vibrated. It vibrated a lot. We live on the sixth and my neighbor on the fifth had a broken window”, he explains while holding the suitcase. Gone are her parents. “We have four cats and someone will have to feed them,” she says with a sneer before explaining that, in reality, they have simply wanted their children to be safe and to join later if things get even more complicated. “The explosion has clearly been the turning point. We thought of leaving, but it is that there [Novoiavorivsk]the situation was calm”, he adds.
Stas Sagala, his mother and his two younger brothers escape from the same place and for the same reason. With one difference: he is not a father worried about his children, but a teenager who wants to fight, but he still has two years to go before he turns 18. “We are afraid, he is very dangerous. I didn’t want to leave, but my mother wanted us to be safe. I wanted to protect my country,” he says. They had just returned home after two weeks in a country house that seemed safer to them.
Followers of Mata Amritanandamayi set up a tent every day where they offer coffee or tea to those who cross and help them with their bags. At night they pick her up and take her to a hostel about five kilometers further into Poland. There Sreemati was awakened by the explosion: “At five in the morning [una hora más en Ucrania] we have heard deflagrations and looked out the window. We had a hard time believing it. We felt that he was trembling, that surely they were bombs. The sky was all red and we told ourselves ‘it’s too close, it’s not possible”. Once awake, she and her companions showered and prepared to set up the tent: “We thought: ‘Today we are going to need to comfort people’. Only later did they learn that the target was a military camp in the Ukraine. “In France we don’t know what something like that is. I have never heard bombs. We know there is war, but we thought it was much further away. In any case, we felt that it was not something normal.”
The Budomierz pass is small. There are no big tents here, no rows of cars stuck on the Ukrainian side, no succession of buses and vans unloading refugees. Just a trickle of people crossing on foot and walking a few hundred meters, an isolated bus and a few vehicles, especially from the Red Cross, Animal Rescue or with diplomatic license plates. It is mostly used by Ukrainians with relatives waiting for them on the Polish side. Every few minutes, a new family gets as close as possible to the security gate while excitedly talking on the phone with those who are about to cross.
This is the case of Natalia Svatovka, a 42-year-old Ukrainian woman who left Berlin on Saturday night (a nine-hour drive) to make sure that she would be present when her 60-year-old parents and 87-year-old grandmother arrived. from Kiev, but three days ago they moved to a village near Ivano-Frankivsk thinking they would be safe. “The first trip was already difficult for them at that age, especially for my grandmother, who is in a wheelchair. They didn’t want to leave. It is very difficult for them to leave behind not only everything they have been buying little by little, such as the house or the car, but also what they have inherited from their ancestors, ”she explains together with a Polish border policeman who watches over the access. She is accompanied by a friend whom she asked for a favor a few hours before leaving her. They return this same Sunday because they work the next day in the German capital. The five of them get into the car and head for Svatovka’s house in Berlin. Her parents and her grandmother will live there “as long as it takes,” she clarifies.
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