More than 1.7 million Ukrainians have fled their homes, with the majority heading to Poland. ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry spoke to those grateful for the kindness of strangers, but missing their homes and loved ones
As the snow fell in Przemysl, Poland this morning, the city’s Ukrainian community centre opened its huge wooden doors to give shelter to those in desperate need. I walked into a dimly lit auditorium, where for more than a century people of Ukrainian heritage have come to celebrate their culture. Now, suddenly, it’s been transformed into a sanctuary for those forced out of their beloved homeland. There are camp-beds with people sleeping, children playing hide and seek, some just sit and stare. In this one room I find people with such different lives, now all thrown together, united by their trauma and grief.
Oksana Gutara is crying as she sits next to her 14-year-old daughter Ania Murina. They’re worried for her dad, left behind in Odessa. “I’m a little bit nervous because my father is at home and I’m scared about him. He’s scared too and he cries sometimes when I call him,” Ania said.
Then we meet 14-year-old Bogdan Makarenko as he helps his mother, Ñatalia, who has a brain tumour. They fled central Ukraine with enough medication to last a month-and-a-half. Natalia tells me her son is supporting her, that she has faith in God, but she’s scared. Bogdan tells me he’s worried about finding the drugs that his mother needs - surely this is too much responsibility on his young shoulders.
18-year-old Nadia showcases her talent for dancing - before fleeing from Kyiv she was training to become a professional
In between the camp beds, 18-year-old Nadia Shapovalova dances beautifully. She was training to be a dancer in Kyiv and wants to show us a glimpse of her previous existence. “My life is dance and I want to come back to my lovely dance academy with my favourite friends, who I love. Because my life was very beautiful.”
18-year-old Ruslana Piatushko is, or was, studying law; she tells me her mother, who’s a doctor, stayed behind in Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine. “Everything so bad, I just don’t believe its happening in our cities, in our Ukraine, it’s so bad,” she said.
18-year-old Ruslana: 'I just don't believe its happening'
Then, in an echo of this theatre’s past, Ukrainian music fills the auditorium. Irena is playing the piano, it’s a song about missing home and suddenly she breaks down in tears. “The windows in our house were shattered by a rocket,” she cries. She’s quickly comforted by her daughter, but there is very little solace here.