Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Romania prepares for influx as war intensifies

More than 4.7 million refugees have fled the warzone in Ukraine. And a significant proportion have ended up in Romania, a country of some 20 million.

Romania accepts Ukrainian refugees without unnecessary formalities under a simplified procedure. Six refugee centers have been set up in the country, located in Timisoara, Maramures, Suceava, Giurgiu, Tulcea and Bucharest. Furthermore the Romanian government accommodates mothers with children from Ukraine free of charge.

More than 650,000 refugees have crossed the border into Romania with a significant number arriving at the Gare du Nord in Bucharest.

It is here that 'Dodo', a paramedic, has helped set up facilities to make their arrival more comfortable, much without government help.

Dodo, his real name Teodor, has almost single handedly taken over several rooms in the station and set up food kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms and facilities for desperate refugees, many of which are women with young children.

Dodo proudly showed us around the store rooms packed with donations ranging from nappies to food and water.

And of course there was the army of volunteers, some of them refugees themselves such as Lena from Odessa.

It is Odessa that many have come from in recent weeks as Russia pushes it's way along the coast of the Black Sea.

One crossing poin is Isaccea in southern Romania that borders with Ukraine, split by the River Danube.

On Tuesday this week, around two months after the war began, hundreds of civilians were still crossing by ferry, greeted by volunteers, firefighters, paramedics and police officers.

Mostly women and children, some with their pets, and clutching what few possessions they could carry, entered Romania, happy to have escaped but equally sad to have fled their homeland.

Unfortunately, with Russia pushing further east and bombardments beginning in Lviv for the first time earlier this week, the numbers fleeing into Romania are likely to increase.

Being eyewitness to this influx of humanity is desperately sad, and something that both pictures and television reports cannot fully convey.

tvnewswatch, Bucharest, Romania

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Refugees give up on UK & return to warzone

Refugees are reportedly giving up on the UK's  Homes for Ukraine visa scheme and returning to the war zone in Ukraine after running out of money and patience as they wait for their visa applications to be approved [BBC/Telegraph/iNews/Sky News].

Of the few that have managed to fight through the minefield of red tape, some are finding themselves homeless due to relationship breakdowns with their sponsors and problems accessing accommodation. A total of 144 Ukrainian households have approached 57 councils after becoming homeless after arriving in the UK under both schemes, the Local Government Association (LGA) has revealed [Metro].

Britain has arguably provided strong military support to Ukraine and has stood alongside President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with resolute support in his battle against Russian aggression. While Boris Johnson's recent visit to Kyiv might be dismissed as a publicity stunt, it was well received in Ukraine itself.

But Britain has failed abysmally in processing and welcoming refugees. More than 4.7 million mostly women and children have left the country since hostilities began. And while only a few thousand have sought to get to Britain, red tape and bureaucracy has thwarted their efforts.

Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, has himself faced a backlash after having told the Commons "we have done our bit" on immigration from Eastern Europe. 

He said migration from the region had already led to "extreme pressure in terms of housing and jobs". 

His own constituents were not impressed however. "As a Lincolnshire resident, he absolutely does not speak for me. No-one has 'done their bit' until each of the most basic of human needs - food, warmth and shelter are met for everyone, regardless of race or nationality," one Lincolnshire resident told the BBC.

Unfortunately, few Britain's have been able to 'do their bit' as refugees have faced an uphill struggle to get into the country.

tvnewswatch, London, UK.

Monday, April 04, 2022

Lives torn apart by a senseless war

Dmitry Shevchenko lives in Sumy, in North East Ukraine, or at least he did. You are unlikely to have heard of Dmitry. But Shurap had some 945,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel where he would display his blacksmith skills, forging beautiful knives from discarded scraps of metal, ball bearings and even empty armour piercing rounds.

But Shurap has not posted a video in little over a month, specifically 19th February - just five days before Russian tanks rolled into the country.

Hopefully Dmitry is fine and providing useful support to the Ukrainian military with his metallurgical skills.

But it does not look good for those living in Sumy which has been all but levelled by Russian bombardment [Channel 4 News].

Dmitry Shevchenko's plight is just one of many. People lost in the fog of war. Detached by failed telecommunications services and Internet connectivity.

In South East Ukraine is another sad story, that of Lyudmila Semernya, the head of a primary school in Mariupol. She became a victim of this senseless war, killed by shrapnel on the 4th March.

Anyone who has young children will know how they bond with their teachers. Many of the children from school No.5 on the outskirts of Mariupol will hopefully have fled the devastated city. But imagine how they will feel to learn about the death of one of their favourite teachers. They may already have learned that Lyudmila has died, not from a sudden illness or tragic accident, but as a direct result of Putin's bloody war. Children, already reeling from having to flee their homes, and fathers left to fight Russia's invading army, will have to suffer a further psychological blow [Twitter / Channel 4 News].

These are just two individuals living hundreds of kilometres apart affected by this war.

But there are countless others, the names of which may never be known.

Such as those in Bucha, a town to the north west of Kyiv where hundreds of civilians were found dead on the streets as Ukrainian troops moved in over the weekend.

Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk told the AFP news agency that following Ukrainian forces retaking the commuter town, the streets were found littered with bodies.

"In Bucha, we have already buried 280 people in mass graves," Fedoruk said, "All these people were shot, killed, in the back of the head."

He said the victims were men and women, and that he had also seen a 14-year-old boy among the dead.

Graphic video and photos of the victims circulated online. One showed a man's body with his hands tied behind his back, an open Ukrainian passport lay on the ground beside him. Another had a gaping head wound. Some reports say that some had also been beheaded or shown signs of torture prior to being sumarily executed [CBS / Al Jazeera / France24 / NYPost / BBC / Daily Mail

On the face of it war crimes clearly took place in Bucha, though evidence will have to be gathered for any subsequent trial.

And as for the names, many will sadly be forgotten. Indeed without the mass graves being excavated and each victim identified it will be virtually impossible to know either the numbers or names of those killed in Bucha.

Two that perhaps won't be forgotten are Ksjena and Maksim Iowenko, shot by Russian forces as they tried to flee the war zone. Maksim was killed as he stood with his hands raised in surrender. His wife was killed in the car. Also in the car were their six-year-old son and the elderly mother of one of Maksim's friends. Both of them survived and were eventually released by the Russian soldiers.

These are just a few of the heart-rending stories of this war, a conflict that in only 40 days has killed thousands, displaced millions and torn untold lives apart [BBC].

This is just one of many reports of Russian deliberately targeting civilians. On Thursday 3rd of March while attempting to deliver food to an animal sanctuary Anastasiia Yalanskaya, 26, was shot and killed, along with two colleagues, by Russians near the town of Bucha [Daily Mail]. 

For many people in Ukraine, life before the war was far from affluent. But most people had hopes and dreams. Hopes amongst the young that they might pursue a career as a doctor or scientist. Hopes amongst their parents of watching them grow up and get married.

Now many of the young, along with their mothers, have been scattered far and wide across Europe and beyond. Their futures are far from certain. Their hopes and dreams have been all but shattered. Most have reached a place of relative safety - should they have managed to avoid people traffickers or worse. But all will be torn, ripped apart from a once familiar life, torn from their fathers, their friends and their country.  

tvnewswatch, London, UK