Refugees flooding into Romania finds remorse in rush: NPR


Ukrainian refugees gathered on Friday at checkpoints set up on the border in Izakia, Romania. This is where refugees wait to check their documents.

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Sasha and Eugenia flew from Ukraine to Romania, carrying their 2-year-old son and heavy duffel bags through the boat checkpoint.

Father Sasha says they decided to leave their home country a week ago. It has been more than a month since the start of the Russian invasion, and the family has reached a breaking point.

“Our baby, he needs special care,” he says through a translator. “Then, all of a sudden, we realized we had no medicine; it was no longer available. That was the moment we were triggered. We decided we had to leave.”

More than 4.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the outbreak of war in late February. For the most part, about 2.6 million people have traveled to Poland. Romania has seen a second major arrival.


Eugenia and Sasha, along with their 2-year-old son, crossed the Danube by boat to Isania, Romania on Friday. They are from Odessa and live in a village near the border.

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For many of the more than 690,000 Ukrainians who passed through Romania, the final stop on the arduous voyage was the port city of Issacia. For others like Sasha, Eugenia and their young son, this is a one-way station, seeking a long, unpredictable protection between many.

The couple, who refused to give their family names, came from a village near the boat departure point in the southern Ukrainian village of Orlivka. Eventually they hope to reach California, where they have family.

After a 20-minute boat ride across the Danube, they arrived in Romania with hundreds. A crowd of new visitors wheeled large suitcases, pushed strollers, and loaded pets into a bumpy metal arch. Auxiliary staff greeted them as they helped to get through the maze of relief tents and trucks loaded with supplies.


Daniel Petrov is the Chief Investigator of the Tulsia County Emergency Situation Analyst. He has been coordinating the response of emergency services in the cross-border region of Isaacia, Romania.

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Daniel Petrov, the local first responder, is in charge of the extensive operation in ICC – including border officers, volunteers and doctors from three different agencies.

In the first weeks of the war, the boat carried 800 people on a single voyage for a few days, Petrov says. In those early days, he says, “it shocked the Ukrainians and us – the authorities – on this side.”

The reason is, “I will only use one word: empathy.”


A boat ride carrying Ukrainian refugees takes about 20 minutes to cross the Danube into Romania.

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The crisis is changing Romania’s attitude towards outsiders

Rod Ambrose, a professor of anthropology at the National School of Political Studies and Public Administration in Bucharest, says he was shocked by his country’s loving response to refugees from Ukraine.

“The image of us is that we are not generous in general, especially to foreigners,” he says. “We have the idea that only developed and rich countries are helping. But in this case, even a small and disadvantaged country like Romania has given a lot of support to these neighbors.”

During the last major humanitarian crisis in Europe, millions of migrants and refugees from across the Middle East and Africa sought refuge on the continent, including Romania.

“We had refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and it was a common experience that they were not welcomed,” he says.


Ukrainian refugees disembarked by boat across the Danube in Isacia on Friday into Romania.

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Ukrainian refugees disembarked by boat across the Danube in Isacia on Friday into Romania.

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“To be honest on this point, it is clear that the empathy felt by the Romans towards the Ukrainian refugees came from a certain amount of shared cultural heritage,” he says. “The Ukrainians are very similar to the Romans in many ways. Of course, we share some post-communist history.” [which] Makes them very familiar. “

Ambres says the crisis has brought back echoes of Romania’s own troubled history with Russia – deep personal and deeply painful memories for many.

“Many have personal histories in which their ancestors were somehow wounded by Russian power, this kind of dictatorial state. So it helps to sympathize with them again.”

Of the more than 600,000 refugees who fled to Romania, about 80,000 have chosen to stay. What is unclear is how large that number will be when the war lasts a long time.

“As the Romanian economy has improved over the past few years, many Ukrainians are likely to stay in Romania longer,” says Ambrose. “Looking to the future, I think there is a good chance that Ukrainian immigrants will live in Romania for some time.”


Zomi Frankcom, operational manager of the World Central Kitchen and head of state for Romania, stacks food with colleagues and volunteers at the Cara de Nord train station in Bucharest on Wednesday.

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Refugees wonder what will happen next

About 200 miles southwest of Ichasia, Romania’s largest railway station in the capital Bucharest, it has become another hub for Ukrainians fleeing the war.

Used to help refugees in almost every corner of the Gara de Nord station. There are separate waiting areas for women and children, men and families, Refugees can rest, eat and breastfeed. Volunteers wearing yellow hats stand ready to raise questions. On the faade of an abandoned store are now food refrigerators made by World Central Kitchen – one of the 42 distribution sites of US-based NGOs serving hot meals to refugees in Romania.

Faisal Hawat, an EMT, treats 60 to 70 patients a day at a medical camp set up by the local fire department. Many of these, he says, struggle with insomnia and anxiety.


Faisal Hawat, a medical tent set up at the Cara de Nord train station in Bucharest, Romania, has infrastructural facilities to welcome and assist refugees from Ukraine.

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Dana, 5, who was traveling with her parents in a shelter for women and children, was in Sri Lanka when Russia invaded Ukraine. But his teenage sister is trapped in Kharkiv, one of Ukraine’s most affected cities.

Dana’s father, Dimitro Ishzuk, says he could not find a way to get her out of the city.

“They are hiding underground, waiting for the right moment,” he speaks through a translator. But he will never see such a moment in the future.

Sofia Kodliarova, an 11-year-old singer and actor from Kiev, is at the station with her mother and grandmother after her family volunteered for more than a month in the Ukrainian capital. But after their neighborhood was bombed, Sofia’s mother, Ira, says they decided it was time to leave.


Ukrainian refugees Sofia Kodliarova, 11, from Kiev, and her grandmother, Lydia Melnik, sit in a waiting room at the Cara de Nord train station. After arriving in Romania, they befriended another refugee family, Dmytro Ishchuk and his 5-year-old daughter Dana, Kharkiv.

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It is the separation of Ira’s father, brother and husband who are still in Ukraine. Under Ukrainian martial law, men between the ages of 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave the country if they have to fight.

Kotliarova’s family has friends in Israel who are willing to take them there if they can. They are not Jews and have no family in Israel, so they hope Sofia’s reputation will help their chances of entry. But they were already disappointed.


Sofia Kodliarova holds a microphone as she prepares to sing the Ukrainian national anthem in a waiting room at the Cara de Nord train station. He came to Romania with his mother, Ira, grandmother, Lydia Melnik and family dog ​​Fenia.

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The 11-year-old reflects on how quickly her family’s life has changed. He says his close friends who were in Russia after the invasion are now ignoring his calls.

“We always thought Russia was our friend,” Sofia says. “We will never forgive them.”

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