31 May 2022
Escaping the border
The border between Ukraine and Poland looked desolate at the end of April. The masses of people fleeing the war in Ukraine and pouring into Poland had reduced to a trickle. Abandoned pushchairs and luggage litter the roadside where people dumped possessions deemed unnecessary or burdensome for their journey ahead.
Oksana was one of those who helped people travel across this border from Ukraine, gathering the refugees at her church in Lviv and accompanying them to safety. Many of those she escorted found sanctuary in the churches and offices of the United Methodist Church in Poland.
"Back then there was confusion and maybe thousands of people on the border here, not like you see today. Often people would wait for 11 hours to pass . We would take them to the border and take them to a refugee centre, 10-15km inside Poland and then go back for more.
“I heard terrible stories of conditions that some of the refugees endured back then. A friend of mine lived in Kyiv with her children. One morning they heard bombs destroying their city. Their car was terribly broken by the shots and bombs. They left Kyiv without windows in their car and with all their tyres shot, just metal discs. They went 100km in that car, with no windows or tyres, terrified all the way for their children’s safety. I saw a woman standing, holding both her children in her arms, one a tiny baby, just standing and not knowing where she could go, or what she was supposed to do. She had nothing, no possessions, only her children and her despair.
“Many children were afraid to leave their parents’ hands. They just stood close to their parents holding their hands firmly because they are afraid.
“Everybody who is leaving hopes it won’t be for a long time. We are all desperate to get back to our lives, homes, families and normality, as soon as possible.
“I want to come to England to experience the process of application for myself. The thought of leaving Ukraine, and wondering when, if ever, I’ll be able to return, makes me want to cry. Of course, I would like to come back to my home as soon as possible. But also, I would like to come back and help the people who are staying here, tell them how the system works, and what they should expect when they come to England.
“Many people are reluctant to go to the UK because it’s so far away, and alien to them. They don’t know what to expect. Poland is a little bit closer, a neighbouring country, so they are less afraid to be a refugee there. If they journey all the way to England they’re worried they won’t be able to come back home as soon as they would choose.”.
“Pray for us. We so appreciate the spiritual support you give us, as well as the countries and families who are welcoming us. It’s a precious gift to feel supported and welcomed during these awful days.”
Update: Oksana and her family are now safely in the UK having been supported by Harpenden Methodist Church.
The Methodist Church in Britain and All We Can are running a joint appeal supporting organisations working alongside those impacted by the war in Ukraine and the surrounding countries. For more details and to donate visit the All We Can website.