They arrive on foot and crowd towards the customs point where, slowly, they pass the controls and then reach the other side, Poland, and breathe a sigh of relief.
The border between Ukraine and Poland like an hourglass: a multitude of women and children fleeing the bombs (yesterday they even hit for the first time not far from Lviv). They arrive on foot and crowd towards the customs point where, slowly, they pass the controls and then reach the other side, Poland, and breathe a sigh of relief. We are in Medyka, a small town on the line that divides the two countries, one at war the other in peace. As soon as they pass through customs, Alex is waiting for them and gives everyone a SIM to connect to the Polish telephone network and reassure relatives at home. Then in Ukrainian he explains to them that they are now safe, they are in Europe and that they will immediately receive a hot drink, biscuits and sweets for the children.
Some women, full of bags and suitcases, manage to smile and one of them even has the strength to send a quick kiss to Alex who thanks. Waiting for this long line of people on the run are buses, vans and cars that load them and take them a few kilometers away where there are two hubs, a shopping center and a gym, set up with cots and blankets: they can stop for a few day before leaving for Germany, Austria, Italy, Holland and giving way to the new refugees arriving. It is 4 pm and we arrived in Medyka starting from Milan with 500 survival kits to be delivered to the hospital in Lviv. It is one of the humanitarian missions organized by the non-profit organization HOPE at the direct request of the Ukrainian embassy in Rome and the consulate in Milan (HOPE’s plan to create a weekly delivery from Italy).
Gianluca, Fabio, Andrea, Sauro and Mauro are all professionals established: they responded to the appeal and decided to leave their offices to drive vans of the non-profit organization and bring this concrete help up to here. The kits will now be taken over by a hospital employee and delivered to 500 Ukrainian families left homeless. And while the delivery of these boxes is organized, the column of refugees from Ukraine does not stop: hundreds of mothers with one or two children but also many elderly women, many in wheelchairs, helped by the many volunteers who arrived here from all over the continent.
Medyka is the best part of Europe you hear in English among the people who receive a cup of broth to warm themselves (it is really very cold here and the air is chilling). “We are here to guarantee first aid – explains Elena Fazzini, founder of HOPE – but above all to organize the next shipments which will be of medical equipment and medicines. The situation in Ukraine is getting worse by the hour. For this reason with us there is Giacomo Grasselli, head of resuscitation at the Milan Polyclinic. Yes – clarifies the medical director – we are here to understand what they need. The hospital in Lviv, especially the pediatric ward, is understandably in crisis and must be helped. The same happens in Kiev and in other hospitals in the country. Everything is missing, from antibiotics to disinfectant.
Meanwhile, the customs where the transit of cars is allowed it is closed by the Polish guards: From there there is danger – says a policeman – there have been explosions near Lviv. And for three hours, no vehicles, not even those for humanitarian aid, can cross the border. Everything blocked. But not the queue on foot of Ukrainian women who continue to arrive relentlessly: for them the doors of hope on Polish soil remain open. Darkness falls and in Medyka the temperature drops to -6 degrees. Only at this point does the flow of refugees slow down: “From there I left my parents – says Marina 21 years of Dnipro -. Now I will go to the Czech Republic and I hope to find accommodation, even though I don’t know any of them. I study medicine and I would like to go home one day but now I don’t know…. She greets and gets on the vehicle that takes her to the hub. Behind her still women clutching cold children to their chests: the bus is full and leaves. At least tonight they will have a warm place to eat and sleep without feeling the dangers of war.