Everyone is kind, but we're not at home, as the Ukraine War says

When Sofiya, 11, first arrived in Poland from Ukraine, she spoke with a school therapist

The railway to Przemysl is a lifeline for Ukrainians who are trying to get away from Russia's invasion of their nation.

Trains carrying families from Ukraine to Poland, from war to safety and peace, have been pulling into Platform 5 nearly every day for almost a year.

Although there are many fewer passengers in the carriages than in the earliest, most anxious days, refugees are still arriving.

Many people claimed this week that they were motivated by a fear that Vladimir Putin would order a new, deadly offensive to mark the first anniversary of his war.

When the war began, Olga and her family were occupied by Russia for one and a half months.

She made the decision to leave northern Ukraine right away because she was unable to endure the constant shelling and fear once more.

They had to cook what little food they could find on open fires in the streets in March because they were confined to their town and were surrounded by fighting.

Olga's teenage children sit with the family dog, Arnold
Fearing a fresh Russian attack, Olga (not pictured), her teenage children, and the family dog Arnold left Ukraine.

"We'll return when it's secure. When a missile won't strike as we sleep, as is currently taking place all over Ukraine," Olga tells me from a nook of a deserted Tesco store.

Arnold the dog is curled up next to her two teenage children who are nearby lying on camp beds and engrossed in their phones.

Several thousand refugees were initially housed in the old shopping mall, fed, and supported by volunteers who rushed to the border region to assist. Up to 300 people may now stay for a maximum of two nights before leaving.

Olga is thus bringing her kids to Germany, where she hopes to work and speaks a little of the local language.

People used to make plans and think about the future, but now they feel lost. When we look into the future, nothing is there. "She talks about the funerals of too many local young men killed on the front lines and the mood back home in Slavutych being like that.

In order to get her younger son out of Ukraine before he turned 18 and became old enough to fight, she had to leave her own eldest son behind.

Red Cross employee Anna Misniak is concerned that after their initial profound shock, people living outside of the war zone have lost interest in what is happening.

"I believe that people have returned to their normal lives after becoming accustomed to the fact that there is a war. Still, these people require assistance. The previous week, I met a woman who had crossed the border in her flip-flops, and her stories are heartbreaking," Anna says.

In the first three months of the war, nearly four million refugees entered Poland. About a million refugees are currently registered in this country, although many have gone back to their homes and others have moved on to other nations.

Even though Przemysl's population has grown by about 10%, aid workers, local leaders, and even Ukrainians agree that the friendly Polish welcome has not diminished.

Wojciech Bakun, the mayor of Przemysl, describes the response of the locals as "incredible," adding that a year later, up to 70% of the recent Ukrainian immigrants have found employment and are renting apartments.

They strive to lead normal lives. That matters a lot to us as well. They integrate well, and I believe that is why Poland has avoided a catastrophe. ".

This border region, where there has historically been strong hostility between Poles and Ukrainians, is particularly notable for its solidarity and support.

"Right now, we are creating our own history. Maybe someone will learn about 2022 and how cordial the times were in 2150, Mr. Bakun speculates.

People on the platform at Przemysl train station in Poland
People waiting in line with free tickets for an evacuation train to Hanover, Germany, at the Przemysl station platform.

Attending her neighborhood Polish school has helped 11-year-old Sofiya acclimate to life as a refugee. She joins in on her classes with enthusiasm a year after moving from Kharkiv, close to the Russian border.

Even though it is gradually eliminating some cash subsidies, the government still provides refugees with access to all state benefits, including free healthcare and education.

In spite of the fact that Sofiya has learned Polish, which she describes as "a mixture of Russian, Ukrainian, and some funny words," she maintains that she "trembled all over" when her city came under heavy Russian fire.

With her dog, cat, and pet squirrel, she and her mother then congregated in the basement.

Sofiya tells me, tugging at her watch strap, "They said it was war, but I didn't understand at all.". "On the streets, there were only 'booms. ".

She claims that she is now concentrating on her academic work.

"I try not to think about Ukraine and how much I want to return there too much because if I do, I'll start crying. I focus on the present and not the future when I think. That relieves some of my anxiety. " .

There are currently 23 Ukrainian students at Sofiya's school, which is about a third of the total enrollment at its peak, but staff members continue to keep a close eye on them.

They receive assistance from the Pro-Fil Foundation, which sends child psychologists to even the most remote locations but claims that more are required, particularly Ukrainian speakers.

Tetiana Boiko, who is now employed by Pro-Fil and was once a refugee herself, says she "helps people to live in the here and now and to accept the situation.". She claims that has also made it easier for her to deal.

Yes, there is a war, and yes, we are in this place. But I advise people to make an effort to accept that and to enjoy some aspects of daily life, such as seeing the sun, the snow, and their kids. that they can live a full life right now rather than being in a basement fearing they might die. " .

Poland is just a stopover for Olga and her kids. With free tickets for an evacuation train to Hanover, they join the crowd at Przemysl station after spending one night in the shopping center shelter.

While volunteers shout instructions that few appear to hear or heed, Arnold the dog whimpers on his leash.

They include a young English woman studying Russian and a Russian man who opposes the war his nation is waging but can't demonstrate at home without getting arrested.

A request to find Murka, a cat owned by a refugee who arrived from Ukraine but got out of her crate during transit, is posted on a wall.

Olga confesses as she gathers the few possessions the family has brought, "I'm a little scared because of the uncertainty over where we'll end up and how it'll be. But what matters most is that we're secure. ".

After that, the volunteers assist the refugees in dragging their luggage across the chilly, dark platform and onto the crowded train for yet another journey into the unknown.

It's still difficult to accept that this is happening. Even though everyone is good and kind, the situation is very stressful. We're not at home, that much is true.

. "

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