More than two million have arrived in Poland where officials in Warsaw estimated that the city’s population of 1.8 million population had increased by 17 per cent due to the numbers of refugees arriving.
Fillipo Grandi, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, said: “Among the responsibilities of those who wage war, everywhere in the world, is the suffering inflicted on civilians who are forced to flee their homes. The war in Ukraine is so devastating that ten million have fled – either displaced inside the country or as refugees abroad.”
The European Union has taken the right decision by allowing visa-free travel for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict. By contrast, as of Sunday, our Home Office said that 8,600 visas have been issued under the UK’s family reunification scheme out of a total of 53,600 started applications, providing more evidence that the Scottish Government was justified in deciding last week to become a “Super Sponsor”, thereby allowing Ukrainians without family members residing in the UK to seek refuge here.
The anguish suffered by those on the move is mirrored by that of those left behind. For whatever reason, the vast majority have remained in the country, many of whom have chosen to do so in order to do what they can to resist the invitation.
There are no simple answers and individual choices take many forms, but many have been forced to make decisions that they once would not have thought necessary in their worst nightmares.
Ukraine conflict: Russian demands to give up the city of Mariupol rejected
Although most men have chosen to stay and fight, others between the ages of 18 to 60 have been prohibited from leaving the country and are being encouraged by the Ukrainian Government to join up. So, hundreds of thousands of families are being torn apart – my wife’s included. Her two brothers de ella have had to say their goodbyes to their wives and children as the latter start to make their way to a neighboring country in search of a safe haven.
The picture accompanying this column is of my wife’s brother Sasha, who serves in the Ukrainian armed forces, saying his farewells to his 14-year-old son, Yura, both of whom hope to see each other back in Ukraine sometime in the future. Ella’s other brother, Genja, has had to do the same with his wife Katya, nine-year-old daughter Emma and his nine-month-old son Tymofiy.
Like so many men in Ukraine, they have had to endure the pain of not knowing when or even if they will ever see their family members again. This is the emotional toll exacted by war, which is rarely seen but is no less tangible.
Posing for photographs, trying to make light of the situation for the children’s sake while all the time suppressing an intense heartache which you know will never subside until you are reunited.
That is the price being paid by families of refugees.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.