by Ashton Basak ’23
Published Apr. 8th, 2022
In the early hours of February 22, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced to a waiting and apprehensive international audience that he has given permission to his military to carry out a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Since then, the once vibrant and growing nation of Ukraine has been torn apart by the devastation of war: consistent bombings, shellings, and unjustified missile attacks continue to this day. Despite the passionate and courageous efforts of the Ukrainian people, along with the relentless spirit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a humanitarian crisis has erupted in face of this war, as millions of Ukrainian people attempt to flee their country for survival.
In fact, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that as of March 25, 2022, over 6.5 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced, while 3.7 million refugees, consisting of 9.1% of Ukraine’s population, have fled war-torn Ukraine, with neighboring European countries willingly accepting these displaced peoples. Poland, which shares a western border with Ukraine, has welcomed over 2 million refugees, while other Western-allied nations including Romania, Moldova, Hungary, and Slovakia have embraced populations seeking a new home. The United States has also recognized its responsibility to assist Europe in Ukraine’s refugee crisis, with the Biden Administration recently pledging to accept 100,000 Ukrainians who have been displaced by the war.
In order to get to these European countries, mass migrations have taken place from eastern parts of Ukraine to western parts, such as to the city of Lviv, which receives tens of thousands of Ukrainians looking to leave the country per day. In fact, the surging number of people is flooding Lviv’s train stations and causing chaos as Ukainians rush to leave the country. On a more optimistic note, people have been able to move themselves away from the war’s frontlines through the use of rail systems and the help of the President of Ukrainian Railways, Oleksandr Kamyshin. Kamyshin and his employees are believed to have helped 2.5 million Ukrainian people by moving them to the western side of the country. And let it be reiterated that this is no easy task: Ukrainian railways and trains are under constant threat of Russian airstrikes and bombings. Furthermore, some citizens who are unable to access transportation through train walk to the Ukrainian border, ditching their cars and other valuables to achieve safety.
The incredible amount of people isn’t the only problem being faced at the Ukrainian border: racism by board guards is also prominent. African students pursuing their collegiate educations in Ukraine have reported mistreatment by border guards giving Ukrainian citizens opportunities to cross the border before them. The African students have also mentioned their inaccessibility to adequate resources, including food, water, and warm clothes in the presence of frigid temperatures. In fact, one student from Zimbabwe felt like he and his fellow students were being treated like “animals.”
The Ukrainian refugee crisis is undoubtedly concerning and complex: the humanitarian issues it poses have captivated the attention of the United Nations and other international organizations. Fortunately, countries around Europe and the world are taking the responsibility to help these displaced people, backing their words of solidarity with concrete action.