Inside the Polish mall where 3,000 Ukrainians who fled the war sleep next to empty shops

  • A shopping mall in Poland has been turned into a massive transit center for thousands of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion.
  • Over 12 p.m. Wednesday, there were 3,500 arrivals and 2,200 departures at the refugee center, volunteers told Insider.

KORCZOWA, POLAND – What was once a shopping center has been transformed into a huge transit center for thousands of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion.

Buses are constantly coming and going, bringing new arrivals out of a war zone and sending them to towns in Poland and beyond.

In about 12 hours on Wednesday alone, there were 3,500 arrivals and 2,200 departures at the refugee center, volunteers told Insider.

A child plays at the refugee center in the old shopping center on Wednesday.John Haltiwanger/Insider

The center was filled with cots and offered free food and other services to refugees, but lacked showers and other amenities.

Many of those at the facility showed visible signs of trauma, having just escaped an unprovoked war that saw civilian population centers pounded by Russian airstrikes and artillery.

Viktoria, 36, from Kharviv became emotional when she told Insider she left her parents behind – they didn’t want to go. She said she had to leave Ukraine to protect her daughter and niece.

“I’m better,” Viktoria said when asked how she was feeling. “They are bombing schools… They are bombing everywhere, just everywhere,” she said of the Russian military.

Inside the Polish mall where 3,000 Ukrainians who fled the war sleep next to empty shops
People rest on cots in the crowded refugee center.John Haltiwanger/Insider

More than 2.3 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its war with the Eastern European country just over two weeks ago, according to the United Nations, which says the he exodus has become “the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War”.

Poland alone has hosted more than 1.4 million refugees – mostly women, children and the elderly – according to the UN, while other countries bordering Ukraine such as Hungary, Slovakia and Romania have taken in hundreds of thousands more.

The UN refugee agency said it has border teams in Poland and other neighboring countries to help national authorities provide assistance to fleeing Ukrainians.

“We are trying to find solutions for them,” said Katarzyna Oyrzanowska of UNHCR Poland. “We are trying to find solutions for them. They have been taken from their familiar environment, they miss their father and do not understand the situation. All of this is difficult for adults to deal with. How should it be for children? “

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s military assault on Ukraine in the early morning hours of February 24.

Since then, Russian troops have targeted key towns across the country with military strikes, but have been met with fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces.

The Russian invasion has already killed hundreds of Ukrainian civilians, including children.

The UN human rights office said Thursday that at least 549 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia launched its attack on the country.

However, the UN human rights office said it believed the actual death toll was “significantly higher”.



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Peggy P. Gilmore