The people across Europe opening their homes to Ukrainian refugees

Ukrainians fleeing war are receiving help from strangers who have been flocking to collect them from the Polish border. Credit: ITV News/AP

People from across Europe are opening their homes up to displaced Ukrainian refugees desperate to escape the deadly Russian invasion, ITV News has learned.

Volunteers have been travelling from the far corners of the continent, driving for hours to Ukraine's border in order to collect refugees and bring them home, a Ukrainian helping asylum seekers has told an ITV News team in Poland.

Sacha, a volunteer coordinating the response on the Polish border on an ad-hoc basis, is using his skill of speaking seven languages to link refugees up with families willing to accept them.

"People are driving straight for 1,500 km just because they are willing to help," he told ITV News, and they are arriving "all of the time".

"People come from Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Spain, from the furthest points of Europe, people are coming, willing to accept refugees to give them room and board and to help them as much as they can," he said.

ITV News journalist Romilly Weeks spoke of the "extraordinary" scenes on the Polish border, with a "long line of cars" all waiting to collect refugees near the town of Hrebenne.

"This is just families arriving in their cars with an offer of a room, willing to take refugees back to their homes and offer them shelter," she said.

The operation on Poland's border with Ukraine is not to work of any government or charity, Romilly said, "it is self organisation but on a really impressive scale".

It was made possible for Europeans to put a roof over Ukrainian heads after the EU waived visa requirements for Ukrainians, saying it would accept an unlimited amount refugees.

It means Ukrainians will be able to seek sanctuary in the EU without applying for asylum first, allowing them to remain for up to three years.

It is estimated around one million Ukrainians have been displaced by the Russian invasion, and EU nations have been told to prepare to accept millions of refugees.

British people however would be unable to collect Ukrainians and bring them to the UK, unless they are an immediate family member, because Home Secretary Priti Patel has refused to waive visa requirements.

Boris Johnson has said 200,000 Ukrainians will be able to enter the UK under immigration schemes but Ms Patel said the visa rules must remain as Russians could infiltrate the system and launch attacks in Britain.

ITV News spoke to two Ukrainians, 15-year-old Alexa Stefaniuk, her mum Larisa and her cat, who had been given refuge by a Polish stranger.

ITV News Correspondent Lucy Watson reports on the Polish people opening their homes to those fleeing Ukrainian

Alexa’s 20-year-old brother stayed in Ukraine to fight off the Russian invaders after signing up to the local militia a week ago.

Her father, Eugene, who is helping other refugees get out of Ukrainian city Lviv, told Alexa "everything will be okay and not to worry about him".

"I am proud of him," she said, "he is doing what he can to help people. I gave him a big hug at the crossing but it was harder for Mama when we left him".

Marysia Starzewska, who opened her home to Alexa and her mum, told ITV News: "It’s very strange to know what’s happening in Ukraine. I still can’t believe what’s going on there.

"It’s very emotional for us. They’re our closest neighbour. On one hand the circumstances are so grave but once we met, we have a good time, we laugh.”