I came to Ukraine right before May 9 – the day when Russia and some other post-Soviet countries traditionally widely celebrate the “Victory Day over Nazi Germany in the World War II”. The fact is that for decades the Kremlin has been actively intensifying military rhetoric, massively pumping up the population of Russia with unpretentious military propaganda and openly parasitizing on the former merits of the USSR during World War II. And, as a result, today Ukraine is in anticipation of a possible “doomsday” from the Russian Federation.
All European countries actively support Ukraine in its fight against Russian military aggression, but neighboring Poland does its best to help Ukraine, the help it never got when Fascist Germany invaded it over 70 years ago. For example, in Lisbon (Portugal) giant yellow-blue (colors of the Ukrainian flag) banners with the hashtag #nowar are placed on the building of the central city market.
On the building opposite the market, on the scaffolding, a huge poster with the “F**kPutin” sign is fluttering. And such things – throughout all Europe. For more than two months now, Ukraine has been in the global trends. Moreover, Ukrainians today are supported by literally the entire world – from California’s Napa Valley to French Provence. Now every citizen of the free world considers it his duty to fight the Russian monster.
When I was flying from the United States, there, at the Pendleton military base in Southern California, the US military was loading large-caliber howitzers for the Ukrainian army. Another base was sending armored personnel carriers, the third – the next batch of Javelins. Police officers throughout the country are actively donating bulletproof vests for Ukrainian soldiers. American churches and public organizations are sending containers of humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Helping Refugees in the US and Europe
While the US government is welcoming 100,000 Ukrainian refugees to enter the country without hindrance, Europe has already accepted millions of immigrants from Ukraine. They are everywhere – from Lisbon (Portugal) to Krakow (Poland). Remarkably, at every European railway station, even a small provincial one, there is a help desk for refugees, so they can get assistance with information, tickets, logistics, and even some food.
The governments and people of European countries are very generous and open to helping refugees from Ukraine – they are provided with accommodation (often in local churches, schools and other state and public institutions), food and even jobs. In Krakow, which is a few hours drive from Ukrainian Lviv, giant billboards are posted at the bus station offering jobs for the Ukrainians.
Also, at the Krakow railway station, when the volunteers found out that I was going to Ukraine, they kindly helped me with logistics, providing me with a large bag of German cookies and Polish apples for the rest of my journey.
At the same time, the Uber driver, an ethnic Ukrainian, completely refused to speak Russian to me, and he did not speak English. Though, after he got to know that I am also a refugee from neighboring Belarus, and that I fully support the people of Ukraine in their struggle for independence, my companion changed his tone to a friendlier one.
In a large 40-seat bus, in the company of Ukrainian refugees with children returning home, I crossed the border between Poland and Ukraine.
Delays and lines at the border
Today, Polish officers on the border with Ukraine represent an amazing example of generosity, total compassion and (you can’t say otherwise) truly Christian mercy. These people are now working 24/7, trying to let through their borders hundreds and thousands of personal vehicles, trucks and hundreds of refugees, seeking asylum in Europe and often going there on foot.
When crossing the border, there were no problems at all on the Polish side. The Ukrainian customs took several hours to let our bus through the checkpoint. In addition, a young border officer was trying to pick on my American passport, making children and sick women wait on the bus to wait.
Still, we were unspeakably lucky: usually there are kilometer-long lines at the border. People may be waiting for the letting through for days.
Meanwhile, they say that the war situation in the country today is actively used by various kinds of swindlers and scammers. In particular, I saw dozens and even hundreds of trucks with expensive cars, the purchase of which is not affordable for ordinary Europeans (not even mentioning ordinary Ukrainians), and which are being imported from the EU countries into war-torn Ukraine. Well, probably, someone in Kyiv or Zhytomer needs a glossy “Hummer” for a hundred thousand dollars for the victory of Ukraine…
Also they are beginning to actively talk about corruption with humanitarian aid and even military assistance. While the United States is providing over $30 billion and other aid to the Ukrainian government, in the beginning of May suspects were arrested in Lviv for selling bulletproof vests and other tactical equipment intended for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Air attacks and curfews
When we were leaving Lviv, a message about an air attack came from Odessa: 9 Russian missiles hit residential and industrial areas.
Bypassing numerous checkpoints, by May 8 we had arrived safely in one of the cities in the West of Ukraine, which was not affected by hostilities. However, last night we already heard the howling of the air-raid siren, which was lasting for about 30 minutes. It recurred early in the morning.
The day before the main patriotic Russian holiday – May 9 – the air defense of all of Ukraine is in combat readiness. A curfew has been set up in all the regions – the country is nervously waiting for Russian “congratulations” on Victory Day.
Meanwhile, in the savagely destroyed Mariupol (city on the East of Ukraine), the Russian military administration, as rumors say, is preparing a procession of captured Ukrainian soldiers along the destroyed avenues of the city.
According to the local Ukrainian authorities, the Russian military is actively cleaning this badly damaged city from numerous shells and corpses using mobile crematoria. (In the suburbs of Mariupol, mass graves have already been discovered, the scale of which may exceed many times those found in Bucha).
At the same time, provocations and attacks are being expected in all the cities of Ukraine. No one knows what next dirty trick the Kremlin can carry out against the long-suffering Ukrainian people. Traveling through the green spring plains of Volyn, we are trying to predict the sinister tactics of the Russian military machine…
There is an opinion that facing shameful defeats on all fronts Vladimir Putin may call for a general military mobilization in Russia, allowing him to flood his southern neighbor with more cannon fodder out of Russian soldiers. However, analysts can be deeply wrong…
Meanwhile, we are preparing meat for tomorrow’s barbecue under the howl of air raid sirens – war is war, stomach not to ignore…
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