ERR in Ukraine: Will the winter bring a new wave of refugees?

Astrid Kannel at the Hrebenne border crossing point in Poland.
Astrid Kannel at the Hrebenne border crossing point in Poland. Source: ERR

Heavy artillery and ground battles are raging on the Bakhmut and Severodonetsk line in Donetsk, while Russia continues to hurl drones at Ukraine's civilian infrastructure. ETV foreign affairs show "Välisilm" asked people whether this could lead to a new wave of refugees.

Winter and cold weather have raised concerns of a potential new wave of Ukrainian refugees. But there are no signs of one on the Polish border right now.

The Hrebenne border crossing point was drowning in refugees when the war started but is largely empty now, save for a long line of trucks waiting to cross.

Rather, people have started to return to Ukraine. Also in regions where the conditions are difficult.

"It has been calm in the city lately. People have started to return and the city is coming alive," Kharkiv resident Julia said.

"People are rather returning to Kharkiv, despite it all. They are afraid, but they're still returning," Sergei shared.

And there are those who will not leave on principle. For example, employees of the Lviv Hospital's newborns' ICU.

"Not one person from my unit, not one doctor – all nurses, everyone stayed – has left because people need us even when times are desperate. Our patients need us. Not everyone can escape the country. It is not possible or right," said Zoriana Salabai, head of the special ICU ward.

People are adjusting to hardship and have a goal to strive for.

"The most important thing is to have faith in our soldiers, our armed forces. I will say again that everything will be fine, I know it. I'm helping out and have no complains," Kyiv resident Anya said.

Power is people's first problem as there is not enough of it in all parts of Ukraine. Every oblast has handled rationing in its own way. For example, Kharkiv has been divided into sectors that are given power at fixed times. In Sumy Oblast, people have to be without power for 24 hours before a six-hour window with electricity. Power is not available round the clock even in western Ukraine. In Kyiv, the problem is with taller buildings where utility systems rely on electricity.

ERR correspondent in Ukraine Astrid Kannel told "Välisilm" that the entire city of Kharkiv is dark, while there are many other places without power, adding that people are nevertheless undaunted.

"We have been traveling west to east, and practically all cities in Ukraine are mostly dark. It is a major problem that there is not enough power, light and heat. What is baffling is that I have heard virtually no one criticize the authorities. People have suggested some things could be handled differently on the local level. But it is incredible to see the people retain their courage in this situation," Kannel said.

She added that the government is evacuating people from areas around the front line to Kyiv.

People in Ukraine believe that Russia must be dissolved if Ukraine wants a guarantee of peaceful development. However, tougher scenarios are also mulled.

"The other option is preparing to live with knowledge of tactical medicine, building bomb shelters for schools and generally learning to live in the conditions of war. Like people do in Israel, while Israel has its own peculiar history. The third and worst option people fear is the fate of Afghanistan where the country is not really there anymore. But I don't believe this will happen in Ukraine," Kyiv resident, designer Roman Martsishin remarked.

That said, no one believes the war will come to an end in the near future.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

Source: "Välisilm"

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