The Medika border crossing between Poland and Ukraine has two directions. In one, the thousands of refugees leave – around 80,000 people have already done so, mostly women and children – fleeing the war. They arrive exhausted after days of travel and board buses that take them to the distribution center in Przemysl.
In the other direction trucks with humanitarian aid and also a trickle of young Ukrainians go to Ukraine. Dima is 26 years old and is a truck driver. “I cannot continue driving through Europe while my country is at war. I am going to Ukraine because my family and friends are there, and because this is my country, my president and I have to do something,” he says a few meters from the border control.
Dima is aware that even though he will volunteer he may not be able to fight. “A lot of people are coming back to the country, but we don’t have enough weapons for everyone.” Despite everything, he thanks the European countries for the help they are sending.
Andriy is also 26 years old and arrives accompanied by a friend. He carries three bags. He explains that he is from a town 190 kilometers from Kiev. His speech is also loaded with patriotic sentiment. “I’m coming back because it’s my homeland and I have to defend my family. My ancestors defended it and now it’s my turn to defend it”
Maksim Viktorovich walks alone. He is a captain in the Ukrainian army and was in Poland with his family. He makes the last meters while the cameras record him. “I want the whole world to see me.”
According to UNHCR, one million people have already left Ukraine. 550,000 have crossed the Polish border at places like Medika, one of the eight crossings between Ukraine and the EU.
Buses await them here, first, and then an unarmed army of volunteers who feed them, who process documents for free and offer them transportation to different parts of Europe.
In Przemyśl, where the buses from the border disembark, there is a constant presence of people with signs. Sometimes they only have a flag printed on them. That of the country where they come from and where they offer accommodation.
Mikhail comes from Norway. He carries a sign with the flag of his country. “I have come to bring people from the Ukraine to Norway,” he explains. “We have come 10 cars and we have 45 free places”. They are first put up in a nearby hotel. Then a journey of hundreds of kilometers to his new refuge.