Leader Reporter Takes in Desperate Ukraine Refugees


by Chris O’Neill

(Leader reporter Chris O’Neill together with his wife Teresa have taken into their home in Warsaw, Poland, two refugees who escaped from the horrors of the War in Ukraine: Ludmilla and her 17 year-old son Jaroslav. This is his report:)

According the UN, since Feb. 24th over three million people have fled Ukraine. Of those, 2.1 million have come to Poland – with most of them finding refuge in the private homes of ordinary Polish families. Up to ten million Ukrainians are now internally displaced.

All Ukrainian refugees in Poland have free country-wide transport and free access to medical care and schools. They are in the process of receiving Polish identity numbers and have the right to work.

Ludmilla and Jaroslav fled from the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, shortly after the Russian invasion. They fled by car and gradually made the way west. A beginning driver, Ludmilla had to be guided by her husband, Ruslan, who was driving in a second car. The road signs had all been removed by the Ukrainian military to confuse the invading Russians.

When they got to the Polish border, Ruslan stayed behind. All Ukrainian men between 18 and 60 are subject to possible mobilization and cannot leave Ukraine.

Ludmilla is a bookkeeper and Ruslan is a driver – both working for the city government. They have a one-room apartment in Kiev.

For the past ten years they have been slowly building a home, to retire to, in Bucza, a small town northeast of Kiev. The invading Russian Army took Bucza last week. Then the Ukrainian Army drove them out. The town has changed hands several times. Ludmilla has now heard that their home has been totally destroyed.

The situation in the little village where Ludmilla’s elderly mother lives, also north of Kiev, has became more and more desperate. First the front was 10 miles away and then, by this past Sunday, only 3 miles away.

No one could contact her mother. All phone contact was down. The power was cut. The family was stricken with fear. Would the Russians just kill her – as they have done to thousands of Ukrainian civilians – men, women, elderly and children.

There was no contact for some time. Then, yesterday, Ludmilla’s mom was safely brought out - and into Kiev by Ruslan. Two days earlier he brought his own parents to Kiev, also from a front-line village. They are all now together in their small apartment in Kiev.

But now the Russians are closing in on Kiev. Bombing apartments to kill and panic people. Nowhere is safe.

Ruslan has been moving people out of Kiev to safer places since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

Once, a car right in front of him was shot-up by Russian soldiers, with three innocent people killed and one horribly injured.

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, frustrated by the lack of expected success on the battlefield, has taken to attacking and bombing civilians to demoralize and just kill people.

Ludmilla is not sure what to do, or where she is going to go. She has a sister in Canada. The family has been offered refuge in Guyana in South America. But her husband is still in Ukraine.

Jaroslav, a talented beginning computer programmer likes Poland a lot, and would like to stay. Both are shocked by the destruction of their home and their lives – and pray for Putin to be defeated and to be able to go home again.