As Russia began its brutal invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainians sought to flee before the country was again under Russian domination.
An image tweeted by Emilio Morenatti, chief photographer for the Associated Press, pictured a massive traffic jam in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv as those in the city of 2.8 million people who could leave tried to get away.
Traffic jam as people leave Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences you have never seen.” pic.twitter.com/EzUmVIeb8U
— Emilio Morenatti (@EmilioMorenatti) February 24, 2022
The flight of Ukrainian refugees has been expected in Poland, to the west of Ukraine. American troops sent there this month have been establishing centers for refugees to be processed. There are no long-term plans for the Ukrainian refugees, who could number between one and five million, according to The New York Times.
The BBC noted that on Thursday, Kyiv was a city with two different tempos, as some residents hid in shelters from shelling, others fled and others accepted that after 31 years of freedom, the time had come to face its cost.
A reservist the BBC identified only as Mark said he was ready to fight.
“We don’t have another way,” he said. “We must defend our country. And maybe die in this war.”
“It’s only one way – if our military comes to me and says I must die for my country, I will do it,” he said.
Kyiv now. Russians will never be forgiven for this. The last time similar scenes were witnessed in the Ukrainian capital was during the attack of Nazi Germany in WWII pic.twitter.com/g421yinG55
— Olga Tokariuk (@olgatokariuk) February 24, 2022
Alex Svitelskyi, 31, said he is getting family members out of the capital.
“I want her to be far from here,” he said, speaking of his sister.
He said he fears that when Russian troops reach Kyiv, atrocities will once again stalk through Kyiv as they did in the time of the Nazi occupation in World War II. That is why he is trying to get his parents out of the city.
“I want them to leave Kyiv to some village, because there will be shelling soon,” he said.
— ШУРА (@seanisinnocent) February 24, 2022
“I woke up to explosions Thursday morning. I looked out of the window of my building in a suburb of Kyiv, and there was a mushroom-shaped dark cloud. Soon cars started leaving the parking garage, so I grabbed my laptop, watered my plants and left,” she wrote.
“The city looked as alive as ever. I called my mother to make sure she finds a safe spot — but she has experience. She was forced to flee our home in Donetsk for Kyiv in the autumn of 2014, after Russia unleashed war there. She left all she had — her job as a schoolteacher, our apartment. Now the fear of losing everything haunts her once again. My family and I have lived with Russian aggression for years. It has divided us and destroyed our sense of safety, and now it has brought us together in anger and fear,” she wrote.
“After I left my building Thursday morning, I walked for three kilometers along unmoving traffic to meet a colleague — he offered a safe place to stay away from the shelling near my house. It hasn’t been that long since I was on the front line in the Donbas, so the trauma flared up — I couldn’t grasp that Putin was attacking a city that was so calm just a few hours ago,” she wrote.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.