Mothers and young children queue to return to Ukraine at Polish train station

Numbers of people wishing to board trains to Ukraine from Przemysl station are understood to have been increasing in recent days.

30 March 2022

Women and children in Poland are queuing up to board trains back to Ukraine so they can return to their homes and support their relatives who have stayed.

Mothers with children as young as three were queuing for hours in the dark at Przemysl station in south eastern Poland over several evenings this week, hoping to board a train to take them across the border.

Volunteers at the station told the PA news agency a tipping point was reached several days ago, when more people started boarding trains to Ukraine than were arriving at the station from the country.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Ukrainian refugees are planning to go home to help efforts to protect their country (Victoria Jones/PA)

Numbers of people wishing to return are understood to have been increasing, with people missing loved ones and wanting to return home, including to some areas they consider relatively safe.

It is understood those taking trains in recent days have been hoping to reach cities such as Odesa, Lviv and Kyiv.

One volunteer said she had encountered a woman with six young children, who said she was returning to Ukraine to look for a seventh child she had become separated from when they were fleeing the country.

Kate, who fled Kyiv a month ago for Poland, was waiting in the dark along with more than a hundred other refugees hoping to board a train back into Ukraine late on Tuesday evening.

The 28-year-old, who was working in hospitality before she left Ukraine, said people are heading back because “everybody wants to be there for the country, and there is no better place than home”.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
A young girl from Ukraine sits on a suitcase outside Przemysl Glowny train station in east Poland (Victoria Jones/PA)

Kate and her mother are returning to support their family and loved ones who have stayed behind, who she said are feeling “really tired now and lonely”.

They are planning to return for a few days, and if it is not too dangerous they want to come back for good.

She told PA: “Every single friend of mine who I know, every single person wants to go back home.

“It doesn’t matter where there are – people are extremely, extremely kind, but home is home.

“At this point I’m talking to my friends, everyone is like: ‘I don’t care what it’s like, I just want to be home’.”

For the past few weeks Kate has been renting accommodation with three relatives in Krakow.

She continued: “We’re just visiting, doing touristic things, but our thoughts are always at home, always.

“And I wish nobody ever has this sort of feeling, I hope nobody will ever experience what Ukrainians had to experience.

“But honestly, without the help of Poland, Lithuania, the UK, other countries, it would have been much more difficult to be strong.”

Appolinariya Bobrovnuk said she is returning to see her boyfriend and family, including grandparents, who have stayed behind in their homes which are close to Kyiv.

Appolinariya Bobrovnuk, 19, stands in a queue for a train to Kiev as Ukrainian refugees wait in line to return to Ukraine
Appolinariya Bobrovnuk, 19, stands in a queue for a train to Kiev as Ukrainian refugees wait in line to return to Ukraine (Victoria Jones/PA)

The 19-year-old has been studying fashion in Poland for four years, and had been planning to look for work in Ukraine when the war broke out.

She said: “Firstly, I think I will give some support for my relatives and my boyfriend, and then maybe I will be a volunteer, and help people who are not in a good situation.”

She said people miss their homes and families, adding: “They love their cities, love their homes, and my grandma says it doesn’t matter for her what happens, she just wants to stay in her home and that’s it.”

Vera, also queuing for the train, said she was trying to get to Lviv, in western Ukraine, as she believes it is relatively safe.

The 21-year-old has spent the last month in Romania with a friend, where “everyone was very kind”, but wants to go back because she wants to work and is missing her family.

She said she is afraid to return, but added: “It’s close to Poland so if anything gets worse I can always come back. So we will see how it goes.”

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