Intense conflict triggers mass exodus of Ukrainians seeking refuge
01 Mar 2022

More than 500,000 people (updated figures here), largely women and children, have streamed into neighbouring countries to escape the hostilities brought about by the Russian Federation’s military offensive. The figure is rising exponentially, according to the office of the United Nations, and could reach into the millions in a matter of weeks.

At the Palanca crossing point near the Moldova-Ukraine border, crowds began assembling at 6 a.m. before sunrise. Border Police and volunteers were there to assist the many women and children leaving Ukraine with food and supplies.

 

© UNFPA Moldova/Eduard Bîzgu
A crowd of people are gathered.
Liza, 24, had five minutes to pack before leaving her home and her husband in Odessa. Male citizens between the ages of 18 - 60 cannot leave the country, but the couple hopes to reunite in Israel where Liza has extended family. Their daughter, Veronica, turned four months old the day they left for the Republic of Moldova on 27 February. Though Liza was traveling in her pajamas, she made sure to pack a yellow dress to celebrate Veronica’s birthday. “Even under these circumstances,” she said, “we will find a way to have beautiful memories.”
© UNFPA Moldova/Eduard Bîzgu
More than half a million people have left Ukraine and more than 100,000 have been displaced within the country, according to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR). Besides the Republic of Moldova, where about 40,000 have gone (as of 28 February), they are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries including Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. Lines to cross at some international borders can reach 15 kilometres and can take as long as three days.
© UNFPA Moldova/Eduard Bîzgu
Maria, 25, is a single mother of a 1-year-old son who left her parents and two brothers behind in Odessa. She packed enough diapers and food for one week.
© UNFPA Moldova/Eduard Bîzgu
Elena, 61, and Sergey Zincenco, 65, are a retired couple making their way to France where their daughter is expecting them. They spent 18 hours on the road from their home in Mykolaiv until reaching the border. Ms. Zincenco is devastated by the war especially for young families that must separate even as men are more engaged as husbands and fathers these days.
© UNFPA Moldova/Eduard Bîzgu
A tent camp/triage centre at Palanca near the Moldova-Ukraine crossing point has 300 beds.
© UNFPA Moldova/Eduard Bîzgu
UNFPA has distributed 1,300 dignity kits to Ukrainians in placement centres across the Republic of Moldova, like this one at the football club Zimbru in the capital city of Chișinău. UNFPA is also providing information on reproductive health services and referring pregnant women to medical care units. Of the nearly 100,000 people who have crossed into the Republic of Moldova, about half remain in the country.
© UNFPA Moldova/Adriana Bîzgu
Svetlana, 31, crossed the border with her three children, including six-month-old Artiom. Her husband, Sasha, could not enter with them. She will stay in her mother’s native village in Moldova, where she never thought she would end up. But she is hopeful as people are warm and welcoming and will stay as long as needed to live in safety and peace.
© UNFPA Moldova/Eduard Bîzgu
As of 6 March, 235,000 people from Ukraine have entered the Republic of Moldova, with 123,000 moving on to other destinations. There are more than 70 refugee centres across the country, including this one at the Manej Sport Arena in Chișinău, which was housing more than 650 people when UNFPA visited.
© UNFPA Moldova/Eduard Bîzgu
Nagir and her two-month-old granddaughter, also named Nagir, at the Manej Sport Arena refugee centre. Her family of 10 planned to make their way to their country of origin, Azerbaijan.
© UNFPA Moldova/Eduard Bîzgu