War in Ukraine: heartbreak and despair among refugees scattered across Europe | world news

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Katarina made the sign of the cross towards a bus. His mother and father were on board, about to leave Warsaw and return to their home country of Ukraine.

“It’s the most horrible thing,” Katarina told us through her tears. “This could be the last time I see my parents.”

The family had just experienced the most bittersweet reunion. Katarina and her sister Alina fled Kyiv a few days ago.

Ukraine war: Putin ‘not yet ready’ to end invasion – live updates

Their parents were on vacation in Cuba when the war broke out and had just arrived in Warsaw.

They had therefore arranged to see each other, briefly, at the bus station – as Katarina’s parents boarded a coach to return to Ukraine.

It’s something to turn your back on the sanctuary and go back to hell.

Picture:
People wait to board buses as they try to find a safer place to live

Through tears, Katarina’s mother said resolutely, “I don’t want to stay in the safety of Poland. I want to go home.”

It was such an emotional sight, but it was all over in about a minute. Not even time to find out the names of Katarina’s parents. Then they were all gone.

Others were directed to transport to take them to other Polish cities and across Europe. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war is scattering people near and far.

There were so many buses with signs in the windows announcing country after country ready to welcome people.

A coach arrived from central Ukraine – its passengers got off and waited to board a second bus for Spain. None of them seemed to have any connection with Spain.

A young boy who was waiting sought his mother’s love and they cuddled during the waiting time.

When he’s older, he’ll surely remember this – who made them flee across Europe, who made their lives hell.

But Marta, 15, was already angry.

“I feel tired. I feel very tired,” she said. “I know Spain is a safe country. But I’m Ukrainian. I want to be home with my cat, my dog ​​and my family.”

Thousands of people left Ukraine after the outbreak of war two weeks ago
Picture:
Millions of people left Ukraine after the outbreak of war two weeks ago

Waiting to be called aboard a bus to Estonia, Kira stood with her mother and her stuffed pig. They both looked so tired and her mother looked broken.

She said, “I just want the war to end.”

We spotted a bus with Bournemouth on the front. But unlike mainland Europe, the UK does not offer open passage.

Only those with visas boarded the Bournemouth bus and only Ukrainian refugees with family in the UK were granted visas.

Among the passengers we met Marta Watzyk and her children Kristina and Matrij who were going to stay with friends in France.

Areas under Russian control and advanced from March 11
Picture:
Areas under Russian control and advanced to March 12

Read more: Russia can only take Kiev if it ‘razes it’, says President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

They struggled over broken bridges under gunfire to escape from Irpin near Kiev. She said: “It was very difficult to escape from Irpin. We were running under the bullets.”

Marta said her husband was so afraid for his family that he forced them to leave.

She said, “He pushed us to go. Because we were all in danger. And he told us what we needed to get the kids out. It was no longer a place to live.

She smiles the way people do when they’re a little resigned to something they know they can’t change.

As Marta spoke, her answers to our questions were accompanied by music played around the coach.

She said: “I don’t know exactly what the name of the song is. But I know it’s the kind of thing they play in coaches or restaurants as background music.

Marta said her husband was so afraid for his family that he forced them to leave
Picture:
Marta Watzyk said her husband was so afraid for his family that he forced them to leave

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“It’s upbeat and the kind of thing you would hear on a bus on vacation.”

It’s so bizarrely incongruous as a backdrop to Marta’s story of running for her life with her children.

As the refugees disembarked from the buses from Ukraine, we asked where they were from and one by one they revealed the names of towns and cities that had become familiar for carrying Russia’s bombs.

Natasia fled Sumy where there was no food, water or electricity. She was met by friends. I asked her what she did for a living and she blinked, trying to explain that she was a beautician.

It was a lighthearted moment in a conversation of sarcasm and anger towards the architect of all these people’s pain.

“Putin is in his bunker,” she said sarcastically. “He is fine and he is smiling. But the whole nation will rise up against him.”

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