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Lives In A Suitcase: The Refugees Fleeing The Russia-Ukraine War (Pictures) 

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At the Romanian border, mothers with young children and teenagers travelling alone carry their lives in their luggage.
Naijafinix Daily News Update

Tears fill 31-year-old Yulia’s eyes as she phones her husband. He drove Yulia and their son, Misha, age five, to the border with Romania before returning to their home 500km (311 miles) away in Bila Tserkva, Kyiv Oblast. There, he plans to help the Ukrainian military, while Yulia and Misha will 

The queue on the Ukrainian side of the border stretches for kilometres. Teenagers, mothers with small babies, grandparents accompanying their grandchildren – they all line up, pushing or carrying what little they managed to bring with them.

Most of them travel light – either because they left in haste or because they cannot carry more on their long journey. Their lives now are crammed into a single suitcase.

Alona, 37, and her four-year-old son Max were “lucky enough to leave Kyiv right after the first explosion”. A lot of people who left later got stuck in huge traffic jams. They originally headed to Chernivtsi, a city close to the border with Romania, where they have family. They planned to wait there for a while to see what would happen. But as the conflict escalated, they decided to try to make their way to France, where Alona has a friend. “A building on my street in Kyiv was hit. I don’t even know if I’ll have a home to return to,” Alona says with sadness in her voice. “I can’t believe this is happening, bombing such a big city in Europe.” [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

Marta Pohorila watches her five-year-old daughter Nica, short for Dominica, as she explains that they are from Kherson, a city in the south of Ukraine, 789km (490 miles) from Siret. They are going to Calarasi, a southeastern Romanian town, to live with a Romanian friend. Marta says she’s not afraid for herself, but for her family. “My parents are in Odesa [a city in southern Ukraine]. I don’t know if they will survive. And my brother is a Ukrainian soldier, fighting in the east. I fear for them,” she says, adding that she plans to return to Ukraine if the war ends. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

It took a lot for 16-year-old Leonid’s parents to convince him to leave Ukraine. His mother Inna is a doctor and crossed the border with him into Romania, where they are waiting to meet some friends. These friends will take Leonid to the airport, where he will get on a flight to Spain. There, he will stay with a Ukrainian family. But Inna will not go with him. Her husband is waiting on the Ukrainian side of the border and together they will return to their home in Dnipro, a city in central Ukraine. “I am not going, I have to take care of my parents, of our animals back in Dnipro and make resistance,” Inna says. Leonid wishes he could return with her, but knows it is too dangerous. “I am so angry. This situation is bad; it continued for eight years. We have to stop it. The world has to stop it,” he says. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

Thirteen-year-old Jana left Chernivtsi with her family and two dogs. They travelled with some family friends who have relatives in Italy, where they are hoping to stay. “In Ukraine, children stay hidden, afraid their homes might collapse at any moment,” says Jana as she strokes her dog. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

Tears fill 31-year-old Yulia’s eyes as she phones her husband. He drove Yulia and their son, Misha, age five, to the border with Romania before returning to their home 500km (311 miles) away in Bila Tserkva, Kyiv Oblast. There, he plans to help the Ukrainian military, while Yulia and Misha will continue their journey to Serbia. “I hope the war is going to be over soon,” she says, barely managing to hold back her tears. “Of course, I plan to go back, I have everything there,” she adds. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera

Veronica and her two daughters walked for three hours from their home in Chernivtsi to reach the border with Romania. They are hoping to make it to Germany, where Veronica has good friends. But the 32-year-old had to leave her parents and older brother behind in Ukraine. “It’s such a pity that we have to leave our homes, our country, but I had to save the lives of my children,” she says as she holds her daughters close. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

Natalia, 40, and her son Maxim, 10, left Kyiv the day after the invasion began. “We hesitated a bit, but it was the right decision,” she says. “The boy was scared there. We woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of bombing.” Her husband, a doctor, stayed behind, to take care of people and deliver food and medicine. Natalia and Maxim first tried to cross into Poland, but the border crossing was too crowded. So they went back to Lviv, then to Chernivtsi, where they abandoned their car outside of town and continued on foot to the border with Romania. From here, they will try to reach Livorno, in Italy, where Natalia has a close friend. “I hope the war finishes soon and Ukraine shows its strength,” she says. “I hope we go back and rebuild our Kyiv.” [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

Thirty-one-year-old Katya, and her son Svyatoslav, seven, are from Chernivtsi. They left their home on the morning of February 28 and reached the border by bus. In the past couple of days, the situation at the border has become less chaotic and better organised, and people are managing to cross more quickly. Katya plans to get a flight to Italy, where her mother lives. “There are simply no words to express how I feel,” she says. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

Vlada is 18 years old and was living on her own in Chernivtsi. Her mother and grandmother are living in Italy, so that is where she is heading now. But her father and three of her grandparents are still in Ukraine. Vlada says her plan is to stay in Italy for two weeks and then return to Ukraine. “I don’t want to stay in Italy, I want to go back and help my country. I hope the war won’t last long,” she says. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

On February 25, 35-year-old Victoria, her husband and their nine-year-old son Yaroslav left their home in Kherson, a city in the south of Ukraine. Her husband went to Chernivtsi, where he has family, while Victoria and Yaroslav crossed the border into Romania. They are unsure where they are heading but may try to make their way to Spain, where they have friends. “It all started from our region. The next day after we fled, people were not allowed to leave anymore. The city was surrounded,” Victoria explains. She often calls people back home and checks Telegram channels on her phone. “All kids there are terrified to death. I want so much to go home. I’ve never wanted it so much in my entire life,” she says. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

Six months ago, 13-year-old Lera moved to Germany with her mother. But they were visiting her father in Ukraine when the war began. Now they are trying to make their way back to Germany. “It’s not OK, because people die,” Lera says. She recalls the death of a neighbour, some seven or eight years ago, after he joined the Ukrainian army fighting separatists in eastern Ukraine. “The Russians killed this boy,” she says. “He went to fight as a soldier and the car he was in did boom-boom – I don’t know how to say.” [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

Angela, 27, and her six-year-old daughter, Alisa, left their hometown in Novoselytsia, Chernivtsi Oblast, on Monday morning and crossed the border into Romania. They are waiting for Angela’s parents, who are travelling from France, to meet them and take them there. Her husband is working in Italy. “I did not want to go. But I don’t want my child to see the war, to hear the war. In our town nobody wants to leave; most people volunteered to fight,” she says, proudly. Her sister, who refused to leave Ukraine, stayed behind with her husband and child. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]


Twenty-eight-year-old Ina sits in one of the tents that have been installed near the border with her three-year-old daughter, Veronica. They left their home in Vinnytsia, a town in west-central Ukraine, and are heading to Italy, where Ina’s mother has been working for the past 10 years. She had to leave her husband behind but says she will go back if the war ends. “I want peace in the whole world, not only in Ukraine. In war, everything is ruined, children are crying. I don’t want for people to die anymore,” she says as she and her daughter try to get warm. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

 

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