The invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24th 2022, caused the largest forced migration of people fleeing conflict in history. In just three months over 14 million people, or 32% of the population fled to another country (refugees), or to another location within Ukraine (Internally Displaced Persons or IDPs). To put this into perspective, the second largest conflict migration was 13 million Syrians displaced over an eight-year civil war.
The fact that people being displaced from their homes due to war is still a ‘thing’ in the 21st century is crazy enough, but this is hardly the first time Ukrainians have been forced to endure such cruelty.
Resistance is Existence
The 14 million displaced by Putin’s “special operation” are, in fact, the fourth major displacement of Ukrainians in the past 100 years. Incredibly, all four have been caused by Russians.
Existential threats like the current invasion define the Ukrainian people and unites then in a common cause. Unfortunately, it’s also made them experts at fleeing the country to survive.
With a history like this, who has a future?
With history like this it’s easy to understand why Ukrainians, especially those with children or those living in the occupied territories have fled. Kyiv is relatively calm now aside from the odd missile or drone strike. In the early days of the war when missile attacks were numerous and the Russian goal was to ‘liberate’ Kyiv, many fled from the capital and surrounding region. Today almost every Ukrainian I know has a visa to expedite emigration or is applying for one.
Indeed, many are still leaving Ukraine. One of my friends moved to Abu Dhabi in December to get away from the cold winter often without heat or electricity. Another tells stories of her aunt who moved to Greece to escape the war only to spend her days agitated and nervous. Why? Because of the absence of air raid sirens. To her, the fact that sirens sound is a warning of bad things incoming. With no siren, there’s no warning of impending doom.
Standing room only
Each day there are five trains from Kyiv to Przemysl in Poland and back and surprisingly, they’re all full. For every person leaving Ukraine there is another entering. Some are journalists and humanitarians but many are Ukrainians who spent the weekend shopping in Warsaw. My friend who went to Abu Dhabi to escape the winter returned three weeks later in the middle of January. Another friend who left in April with his wife and young son, returned to Kyiv in September. Why? It’s simple – they all dearly miss their country, culture and people.
Don’t need to be one to miss one
I’m not a Ukrainian citizen and I’ve been in Kyiv for only six months, entirely during wartime. I’ve no reason to stay and I can leave anytime which I briefly have. However, even I’mhomesick for my friends and ‘family’ in Kyiv after a few days. I feel like I’m missing something special not sharing the day-to-day resolve and joie de vivre of the Ukrainian people during this war. Imagine how all the Ukrainians who fled their country nearly a year ago must feel!