Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.

Hope, horror, as Ukrainian war refugees exceed 6 million

  • 0

CLUJ-NAPOCA, Romania (AP) — Expectant mother Galina Kubiak says she misses her home in Ukraine but has fallen in love with Romania, the neighboring country where she fled with her two small children to escape the war.

“Sometimes we go to the store, and they find out we’re Ukrainians and people give the kids milk or cookies, or sometimes they just give hugs,” the 35-year-old who now lives in Romania’s northern city of Cluj-Napoca said Friday. “I’m so surprised in a good way (by) the kindness of people.”

Since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, more than 6 million people have fled Ukraine, the United Nations refugee agency announced Thursday. Russia's war — which it insists on calling a “special military operation” — has prompted one of the worst humanitarian crises in Europe since World War II.

Poland has absorbed the majority of refugees — more than 3.2 million — while more than 900,000 went to Romania. Many others have fled to other neighboring countries like Hungary, Slovakia, and Moldova.

Like many of the millions of refugees, mostly women and children, who have fled the war, Kubiak’s journey so far has been a mixture of hope and horror. Her family hails from a village just a few kilometers from Bucha outside Kyiv, the now-infamous site of alleged war crimes by Russian forces.

“My brother was helping to bury people,” she told The Associated Press. “People were dead on the streets and people were just taking them and making holes in the ground and burying people — it’s hard to see, it’s very hard to see.”

Vlad Gheorghe, a Romanian member of the European Parliament who runs a Facebook group in Romania called United for Ukraine that pools resources for refugees, says refugees' needs have shifted since the start of the crisis. They now require permanent solutions for employment, schooling, and healthcare.

“We were not prepared for this type of crisis in the EU — and we should have been,” he told the AP in an email Friday. “Also, there is a continuous need for financial support and donations for food, hygiene products (and) clothing.”

“The refugee crisis does not end even if peace comes right now,” he said, adding that many refugees won’t have a home to return to due to the destruction of war, but that he has been impressed with the continued level of support from civic society throughout the crisis.

Others on the frontline of refugee support, however, say the situation is taking a toll.

“We love what we do, but obviously tiredness is creeping in,” said Laura Mihali, who leads the Christian nongovernmental organization Youth For Mission, which provides housing and food for Ukrainian refugees — including Kubiak — in Cluj-Napoca.

“Three weeks ago we found out that one of the families is from Bucha, their son-in-law was killed and is buried in one of the big holes there in the city,” she said. “I think the psychological tiredness is affecting us more than the physical.”

Information technology worker Uliana Kaliuzhna, from Ukraine’s northeast city of Kharkiv, says she feels lucky that she can continue her work online in Cluj-Napoca, and continues to pay tax at home “to support my country.”

Kaliuzhna rents her flat with the salary that she still draws.

“It’s not easy to pay for everything,” she said. “But volunteer centers help a lot with food and clothes — sometimes we visit them and get help.”

The UNHCR also said Thursday that more than 1.6 million refugees have returned to Ukraine, either permanently or temporarily. But it added that cross-border movements might not indicate “sustainable” returns.

Kubiak, who is heavily pregnant, stresses that she wants to return home when the war is over and reunite with her loved ones.

“We all have a dream that we can all come back and live in peace and help rebuild,” she says, her voice quivering with emotion, "and renew our country.”

Gramesc reported from Cluj-Napoca, Romania; McGrath reported from Sighisoara, Romania, and Jamey Keaten from Berlin, Germany.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine:

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


Get Government & Politics updates in your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to use taxpayer money to help pay for abortions for those who can't afford them. California already pays for some abortions through the state's Medicaid program. But some women don't qualify for Medicaid and don't have private health insurance. Clinics will sometimes perform abortions for free when that happens. Newsom on Wednesday proposed giving clinics $40 million in grants to help offset those costs. The money could potentially pay for abortions for women from other states who come to California for care. The U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade this summer.

President Joe Biden is calling his predecessor, Donald Trump, “the great MAGA king” and continuing sharp criticism against Republicans ahead of midterm elections that could be bruising for Democrats. Biden says, “I think it’s important that, as we go forward, you’re gonna hear me talking more about not only what we’ve done, but what they’re trying to do.” The president spoke Wednesday to a Democratic fundraiser crowd of about 40 in Chicago. Biden has in recent days begun decrying “ultra-MAGA” Republicans — a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. He says the Democratic National Committee is devoting more time and money to promoting the contrasts between parties.

Ukrainian and British officials say Russia suffered heavy losses when Ukrainian forces destroyed the pontoon bridge enemy troops were using to try to cross a river. That's another sign of Moscow’s struggle to win decisive victories and salvage a war gone awry. Russia’s campaign in Ukraine’s east is making faltering progress. Ukraine’s airborne forces command has released images of what it said was a damaged Russian pontoon bridge over a river and several destroyed or damaged military vehicles. The command said its troops “drowned the Russian occupiers.” Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia lost “significant armored maneuver elements” of at least one battalion tactical group. Ukrainian authorities  opened the first war crimes trial of the conflict Friday. 

Ukraine says Russian forces are withdrawing from around Ukraine’s second-largest city after bombarding it for weeks. Officials say Moscow’s troops are pulling back from Kharkiv in the northeast while launching mortar, artillery and airstrikes in the eastern province of Donetsk. According to Ukraine's defense minister, the country is “entering a new, long-term phase of the war” after more than 11 weeks of fighting. Kyiv and Moscow are in a grinding battle for Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland. Also Saturday, a U.S. Senate delegation led by Republican leader Mitch McConnell met with Zelenskyy in Ukraine's capital. 

Donald Trump’s choice for Pennsylvania governor has won his primary, and his Senate pick is locked in an exceedingly close contest as the former president works to expand his hold on the Republican Party. Trump’s late endorsement helped put the already surging far-right state senator Doug Mastriano over the top Tuesday in the GOP governor’s primary in one of the nation’s premier battleground states. But Mehmet Oz, the celebrity heart surgeon endorsed by Trump, is locked with former hedge fund manager David McCormick in a race that is too early to call. On the Democratic side, progressive Lt. Gov. John Fetterman easily secured his party's Senate nomination. 

Special state income tax refunds paid out of Georgia’s historic budget surplus will begin this week, but may not all be paid out until early August. Gov. Brian Kemp announced the start of the $1.1 billion refund plan Wednesday. The Republican Kemp persuaded lawmakers to agree to the refund as he runs for reelection. The law will give up to $250 refund to single filers, up to $375 to single adults who head a household with dependents and up to $500 to married couples filing jointly. No one can get more money back than they paid in state taxes.

Signs of Republican resistance are mounting over a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine. It's a reemergence of the Trump-led isolationist wing of the GOP coming at a crucial moment as Ukraine desperately battles the Russian invasion. The Senate voted late Monday to advance the Ukraine aid toward final passage by week’s end. Eleven Republicans opposed. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell led a delegation of GOP senators to the region in a show of support over the weekend. He vowed to push past detractors, finish the aid package and vote this summer on expanding NATO to welcome Sweden and Finland.

In Pennsylvania governor’s race, a candidate who has spread lies about the 2020 vote count won the Republican nomination, putting an election denier within striking distance of running a presidential battleground state in 2024. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump’s support was enough to elevate his Senate candidate to victory in North Carolina on Tuesday. Trump's pick in Pennsylvania remained in a tough fight in that state’s Senate primary. In a key congressional race, a Republican congressman’s bad behavior finally caught up with him. In Idaho, the governor weathered a primary challenge from his far-right lieutenant governor.

The Jan. 6 committee’s remarkable decision to subpoena GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and four other sitting members of Congress over the insurrection at the Capitol is as unprecedented as the deadly riot itself. It opens a new era of acrimony and distrust among lawmakers. McCarthy and the four other Republican lawmakers were served subpoenas Friday. It’s unclear if they will comply. The outcome is certain to reverberate beyond the immediate investigation of Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory. Republicans vow to use the same tools to go after Democrats, if they win House control in the midterm election. 

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News