Ukraine war: Refugees find a warm welcome in Poland after fleeing Vladimir Putin’s forces | World News

“I want to do right by the parents,” says Victor, an English teacher who – along with his wife – is one of the thousands of people in Poland who have taken in Ukrainian refugees.

Victor, originally from Merseyside, and Edyta Johnson live about 10 kilometres (six miles) from the capital, Warsaw.

“We have a big house,” he explained, saying they wanted to offer solidarity and compassion.

As refugees flooded into Poland, they welcomed Marta Bodnar and her 12-year-old granddaughter also called Marta and grandsons Roman, 10, and Dimitry, 5, within a week of the invasion.

Men have stayed in Ukraine to fight, but the children’s mother is also there because she is a nurse.

Victor, originally from Merseyside, and Edyta Johnson live in Poland and have taken in a family of Ukrainian refugees
Victor and Edyta Johnson have taken in a family of Ukrainian refugees

That left grandmother Marta to make the journey – she said she had never driven a car abroad before but her motivation was the safety of the children.

“I didn’t know where I was going,” she said. “I didn’t know what would be the end of my journey.”

In fact, there was a warm welcome waiting.

“I didn’t speak to Marta before she came,” Victor said. “We met with high fives and hugs.

“We invited them in, made them feel at home.

“And that was the most important thing – that they felt safe and secure.”

It’s an enormous commitment but Victor said he and his wife are in it “for the long run”.

We asked Roman how he is settling in – all things considered. “Ok. Nice,” he said, smiling. “I’m happy and feel welcomed.”

Anna Aleksanian is a Ukrainian refugee in Poland
Anna Aleksanian had to leave her husband behind in Kyiv

This refugee crisis is defined as an exodus of women and children – across the city there are makeshift nurseries to entertain the youngsters, and women distraught they’ve left husbands, brothers and fathers behind in Ukraine.

Anna Aleksanian left her husband in Kyiv – but he is Russian and she also has to contend with a mother-in-law in Russia who refuses to accept her reasons for fleeing to Poland and becoming a refugee.

Anna said her husband called his mother, who didn’t believe him when told about the invasion.

“She said it’s just a little, not a big situation. He said, ‘mom we have no house. The Russians destroyed our house’,” Anna said.

“He sent a video from the first day in Ukraine. She didn’t believe it.”

A refugee reception centre in Poland
A reception centre in Poland, a country which has welcomed many thousands of Ukrainian refugees

Warsaw has taken in hundreds of thousands of people who have fled from Vladimir Putin’s invasion of their country.

And family after family bedding down in a sports hall after making the journey told us of their fear and exhaustion.

In a side room a young girl was on a drip, completely worn out and trying to recover under the watch of medics.

Yulia Kalachemkov and her children Milana and Nikita. they are Ukrainian refugees in Poland
Yulia Kalachemkov and her children Milana and Nikita

Others lay on their camp beds trying to sleep or folded up their blankets trying to keep the tiny bit of personal space they have tidy.

Eleven-year-old Nikita is autistic and his little sister Milana, 6, has epilepsy.

Nikita was born with deformed feet and just before they fled from Kyiv he had an operation to help him walk better.

His mother Yulia Kalachemkov raised her hands when we asked what it was like getting them here.

“What can I say? It was so hard trying to holding my children’s hands in case they fell, and carry the luggage,” she said.

She unstrapped the velcro on her son Nikita’s feet braces before covering him with a blanket and encouraging him to rest.

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