Ukraine war: Polish capital Warsaw is about to be overwhelmed as 300,000 refugees arrive and mayor asks UK to ‘do more’ | world news
The Polish capital Warsaw is about to be overwhelmed by the number of refugees arriving from Ukraine.
And authorities are calling on the rest of Europe and the UK to “invite” those arriving in Poland after fleeing war.
Monika Beuth-Lutyk, spokeswoman for the mayor of Warsaw, told Sky News: “I think we should all be doing more. The real problem is in front of us.”
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Ask if Britain should do moreshe said: “I’m afraid this is just the beginning – so I think you might today consider your offer for them if you could provide them with something that would be truly welcome.”
About one and a half million refugees crossed the Polish border – and about 300,000 arrived in Warsaw. This represents about 15% of the current population.
At the city’s central station there were thousands – either arriving on trains from Ukraine; receive help; sleeping rough or trying to figure out what to do next.
No one knows how many people intend to stay in Poland or move to other countries.
This is the time to regroup and receive basic gifts like a toothbrush, medicine, food and water.
But when asking one woman where she planned to go next, she simply replied, “I have no idea.”
It’s still a terrible shock that they’re even here. Gregory fled the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine with his 87-year-old mother Lillie. He told us that she was ashamed to be in this position and that she was still – although she had reached Poland – afraid of the Russians.
He said, “We don’t have a house, we don’t have cars, we don’t have anything. Only these three pieces of luggage. That’s all.”
Ykaterina Zakharchenko, her mother and her daughter lived near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
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She told us they wanted to get as far away from the nuclear power plant as possible – ideally to the UK, but as they have no relatives there they are not eligible for the visa scheme.
They emphasize how nice they think Poles are to fleeing refugees.
But given the pressure the authorities in Warsaw are under, they don’t intend to stay here.
“We don’t want to disturb the Poles”
Ms Zakharchenko, a lighting designer at a circus, says: “We are going to Germany because there are too many of our fellow citizens in Poland and we don’t want to disturb the Poles.”
His mother Irina Zakharchenko told us: “They all try to help, feed, sleep and take care of our children.
Polish volunteer, Anna Blachowska, helps distribute coffee and food.
She said: “There are a lot of people here and it’s not planned or organised. We try to do it ourselves, but it’s not that easy.
“I don’t know how long it will last, but probably for a long time. It’s not just a moment, we have to be prepared, it’s going to take a few months.”
There are lines of people sleeping rough – waiting for overcrowded trains to take them.
And volunteers are doing what they can to entertain the huge number of evacuated children with their mothers. We see a young boy’s face light up as he is given chocolate. Not old enough to really understand why foreigners are so nice.
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A 17-year-old teenager we meet is old enough to know what’s going on – but not old enough to fight. He says he only plans to stay until his 18th birthday, when he can return to his homeland and join the war effort.
Standing with a friend, they count freshly acquired money from a currency exchange.
A volunteer zooms past after helping a woman who doesn’t speak Polish change her money. She is in a hurry because the woman she is helping wants to take a train.
There is tremendous goodwill everywhere. But he is under immense pressure and it has only been two weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine with few signs of peace in sight.