Ukrainian refugees 'want help not pity' as more than 360,000 flee to neighbouring countries

A refugee fleeing Ukraine arrives in Przemysl, Poland. Credit: AP

Ukrainian families arriving in Poland to flee invading Russian troops say they just want to know how they will keep their children fed and warm.

In just three days since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, at least 368,000 people have fled into neighbouring countries according to the UN's refugee agency.

Just under half of those have crossed the border into Poland.

Przemysl, in the east of Poland and the nearest foreign city to the train station in Lviv in Ukraine, has seen a bulk of the refugees already – with many more expected.

ITV News Correspondent Lucy Watson reported live from a train station in the city, where families have given her “harrowing” details of their escape and the lives they left behind.

Parents described their struggle to explain to their young children why their lives had been turned upside down overnight.

'They don’t really care about politics right now, they care about basics'

“They don’t want my pity they want help, so whether the west is doing enough right now what they want is just the basics,” Lucy Watson reported, in what she described as one of the most difficult moments of her career.

“They’ve left family members behind, they have husbands who have stayed behind, they have children who they need to feed.

“Those things are more important than telling me what my government should be doing.

“It is a stark situation to be in when you’re asking questions as a journalist that you think you should ask or you’re preparing things you should say, when actually there is so much to say.

“I don’t think In my career I’ve quite been in a situation like this before when I’m not already planning what I’m about to tell you.”

A refugee boy who fled conflict from neighbouring Ukraine cries at the railway station after arriving to Zahony, Hungary. Credit: AP

Children are only used to hearing rockets at “joyous occasions”, she added, and she witnessed a father trying to explain these rockets are “trying to hurt us.”

European Union interior ministers are gathering Sunday for emergency talks on how to cope with the influx of refugees as tens of thousands of people flee to Poland, Hungary, Romania and elsewhere.

The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, estimates up to four million refugees could flee if the fighting spreads.

Heading in the opposite direction, however, are some determined to return to their embattled homeland from Poland to reunite with family and even to fight.

At a border crossing in Medyka, a 20-minute drive west of Przemysl, a group of truck drivers were among those crossing into Ukraine.

They said they wanted to defend their homeland, with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy promising to arm foreign volunteers who join the battle against Vladimir Putin’s forces.

Ukrainian national Yuri said: “I'm going to war, I'm going to war. My brother will stay with my mother, my grandmother and I will go to war with my father.”

Denis, speaking in Polish, said: “I have my family there, I have everything there. I'm on my own here in Poland. Why should I be here? So I go, for the homeland.”