Ukrainian refugees wait in limbo as Putin’s war drags on
In the past year, more than 8 million people have fled Ukraine. To mark the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, Yahoo News spoke with families who were forcibly uprooted from their lives.
OXANA: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
- It's been one year, one year since Russian tanks crossed the border, one year since the air sirens blared across Kyiv.
[AIR RAID SIRENS BLARE]
One year since Fiora found herself on the opposite side of the war from her sister.
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- And one year since Anastasia and her son left their home in Mariupol for the last time.
ANASTASIA KRAVTSOVA: I was incredibly scared. I had no understanding what will come next and where we are going.
- The attacks were brutal. Civilians were targeted. Millions of families were left with no choice but to flee, while others took shelter wherever they could find it.
EROL YAYBOKE: The refugee crisis in and around Ukraine is really unprecedented. The infrastructure, the trains primarily in Ukraine were working. People left really quickly.
- Second day after violence started, took my daughter and moved to Poland.
KELLY CORBIELLA: Just been a nonstop flow of people at this border crossing.
EROL YAYBOKE: I think the other things that make this a really unique situation is really the fluidity of movement. We're seeing this cross-border flow of people, right? So it wasn't just that people were able to go out quickly. Some people have been able to come back.
- They leave Ukraine, move to Poland after they move to Germany. And after Germany, back to Ukraine. And after this, we moved to USA.
- Tonight, a new asylum program directing Ukranian refugees to US airports.
YURIL ZAVIRUKHA: I have my friend living in the USA. He said that there is a program for you. And you need to decide, do you want it or not?
EROL YAYBOKE: Humanitarian parole is a really useful tool that the United States has, especially to get people out of harm's way.
CHRISTINE DIZZA: The program is administered by Customs and Immigration. But they don't have a way for you to match with a Ukrainian or an American. You kind of have to find your own. So there have been all these Facebook groups. One day I had seen Yuril's post, and I just started messaging with him. And we hit it off.
- Since February 24, 2022, over 8 million people have fled Ukraine to European countries. 35 million of those have applied for temporary or national protection in their host countries. But those who have found safety outside of Ukraine are still searching for peace. And as the months drag on, they watch in horror from afar.
ANASTASIA KRAVTSOVA: No matter where we are, even being abroad and safe, we still worry about our country.
- Many expected the war to be over in weeks. But 12 months later, the fighting is far from over. And the war's second year is unlikely to be its last.
EROL YAYBOKE: This war is going to last for quite some time. And that means that people who are caught in the line of fire are going to continue to be displaced for quite some time.
- And for those who left, it's unknown if they'll ever return home permanently.
EROL YAYBOKE: Refugees will almost always say they want to go home. When it's safe, they want to go home. But the reality is, and the evidence suggests that the longer people are in displacement, the longer they are outside of their countries in particular, the harder it becomes, just from a practical perspective, to go home.
YURIL ZAVIRUKHA: So we will see. I don't know. Mostly we think we should stay because I think my kids maybe have a little more opportunities here.
- But for others, the answer is clear.
ANASTASIA KRAVTSOVA: If the city is under control of Ukraine, I will be the first person to come. I will come to rebuild my city. I do not have other plan. I still hope to return.