Women, children and elderly people make up the vast majority of those heading abroad, as men between 18 and 60 years of age are barred from leaving Ukraine.
Women, children and elderly people make up the vast majority of those heading abroad, as men between 18 and 60 years of age are barred from leaving Ukraine. © Oleksandr Solonenko
Olena Guzyova with her three children aged 12, eight and one year. She fled Shchastya, a town of 12,000 people near the contact line in Luhansk region shortly before the town came under heavy shelling. They are headed to Italy where Olena’s sister lives.
Olena Guzyova with her three children aged 12, eight and one year. She fled Shchastya, a town of 12,000 people near the contact line in Luhansk region shortly before the town came under heavy shelling. They are headed to Italy where Olena’s sister lives. © Oleksandr Solonenko
Entire lives are packed into a few suitcases as people flee their homes.
Entire lives are packed into a few suitcases as people flee their homes. © Oleksandr Solonenko
Sport centres, warehouses, shops and theatres have been transformed into shelters to accommodate Ukrainians fleeing across the country. Aid organisations and city authorities coordinate accommodation, medical assistance, warm meals and aid items.
Sport centres, warehouses, shops and theatres have been transformed into shelters to accommodate Ukrainians fleeing across the country. Aid organisations and city authorities coordinate accommodation, medical assistance, warm meals and aid items. © Oleksandr Solonenko
Ludwig Silven Tumnoue hugs his son Daniel in the Lviv shelter where they arrived after a 23-hour journey from eastern Ukraine. The 48-year-old moved from Cameroon to Ukraine 22 years ago as a university student.
Ludwig Silven Tumnoue hugs his son Daniel in the Lviv shelter where they arrived after a 23-hour journey from eastern Ukraine. The 48-year-old moved from Cameroon to Ukraine 22 years ago as a university student. © Oleksandr Solonenko
Ludwig Silven Tumnoue with his wife Natalya and 12-year-old son Daniel. The family is heading to Poland and once there will decide where to go. Cameroon, Tumnoue’s native country, is not an option due to boy’s special needs which require medical assistance not available there.
Ludwig Silven Tumnoue with his wife Natalya and 12-year-old son Daniel. The family is heading to Poland and once there will decide where to go. Cameroon, Tumnoue’s native country, is not an option due to boy’s special needs which require medical assistance not available there. © Oleksandr Solonenko
Nurlan with his wife Yulia and their daughter Nikita. The family has lived in Odesa for a decade after leaving their native Kazakstan due to the persecution the 67-year-old faced due to his work as a journalist.
Nurlan with his wife Yulia and their daughter Nikita. The family has lived in Odesa for a decade after leaving their native Kazakstan due to the persecution the 67-year-old faced due to his work as a journalist. © Oleksandr Solonenko
Kateryna Sergeyeva and her son Maxim left Kyiv after the TV tower was bombed in early March, claiming the lives of five people. The 45-year-old former athlete turned fitness coach will stay in Poland at a friend’s house.
Kateryna Sergeyeva and her son Maxim left Kyiv after the TV tower was bombed in early March, claiming the lives of five people. The 45-year-old former athlete turned fitness coach will stay in Poland at a friend’s house. © Oleksandr Solonenko
Inna Dmytrenko fled with her seven-year-old daughter Veronika and 17-year-old son Ilya from Brovary, a suburb of Kyiv which was heavily shelled by the Russian forces. The 43-year-old left behind an older son who has joined the territorial defence units in the capital.
Inna Dmytrenko fled with her seven-year-old daughter Veronika and 17-year-old son Ilya from Brovary, a suburb of Kyiv which was heavily shelled by the Russian forces. The 43-year-old left behind an older son who has joined the territorial defence units in the capital. © Oleksandr Solonenko
Anna Kamenkova has been working in Italy for several years but returned to Kyiv for medical treatment and was in hospital when the invasion began. She moved to the basement of a friend’s house and then managed to reach Lviv. The 37-year-old chef is heading back to Italy with 22-year-old Anastasia Gotsulyak.
Anna Kamenkova has been working in Italy for several years but returned to Kyiv for medical treatment and was in hospital when the invasion began. She moved to the basement of a friend’s house and then managed to reach Lviv. The 37-year-old chef is heading back to Italy with 22-year-old Anastasia Gotsulyak. © Oleksandr Solonenko
A journalist student in Kyiv, 22-year-old Anastasiya Gotsulyak is originally from Mykolayiv, a strategic port city in southern Ukraine. Her parents are close friends of Anna Kamenkova’s and she has joined her in her journey back to Italy.
A journalist student in Kyiv, 22-year-old Anastasiya Gotsulyak is originally from Mykolayiv, a strategic port city in southern Ukraine. Her parents are close friends of Anna Kamenkova’s and she has joined her in her journey back to Italy. © Oleksandr Solonenko
A kitten peeks from a bundle of blankets and backpacks. Many Ukrainians have endured long journeys with their pets.
A kitten peeks from a bundle of blankets and backpacks. Many Ukrainians have endured long journeys with their pets. © Oleksandr Solonenko
Two children stare out of the window as the evacuation train leaves Lviv and heads to the Polish border.
Two children stare out of the window as the evacuation train leaves Lviv and heads to the Polish border. © Oleksandr Solonenko
A train leaves for Przemysl, the Polish town on the border with Ukraine most refugees have been passing through as they flee Russia’s invasion.
A train leaves for Przemysl, the Polish town on the border with Ukraine most refugees have been passing through as they flee Russia’s invasion. © Oleksandr Solonenko
Volunteers with yellow ribbons and vests help people to board the evacuation train, making sure that families are not separated. Upon their arrival at the border, refugees can go to an emergency shelter or continue to other destinations across Poland and beyond.
Volunteers with yellow ribbons and vests help people to board the evacuation train, making sure that families are not separated. Upon their arrival at the border, refugees can go to an emergency shelter or continue to other destinations across Poland and beyond. © Oleksandr Solonenko
The staircase leading up to the platforms forms a chokepoint due to the sheer volume of people and their luggage.
The staircase leading up to the platforms forms a chokepoint due to the sheer volume of people and their luggage. © Oleksandr Solonenko
Volunteers distribute baby food on the platform where hundreds await the train heading to Poland.
Volunteers distribute baby food on the platform where hundreds await the train heading to Poland. © Oleksandr Solonenko
A child cries as her family is about to board the train, leaving the father behind.
A child cries as her family is about to board the train, leaving the father behind. © Oleksandr Solonenko
A man waves to his family from the platform. Men between 18 and 60 years of age are banned from leaving the country.
A man waves to his family from the platform. Men between 18 and 60 years of age are banned from leaving the country. © Oleksandr Solonenko

Lviv, a City at the Crossroads of Ukraine’s Refugee Crisis

Hundreds of thousands arrive every day as they flee Russia’s invasion.

Monday, 28 March, 2022

All photos © Oleksandr Solonenko

Ludwig Silven Tumnoue hugs his 12-year-old son, whispering words of comfort. The shelter where they are resting after their 23-hour journey to escape the shelling in Kharkhiv is not like home, but it is warm, welcoming and safe. 

The 48-year-old, originally from Cameroon, has called Kharkhiv home for 22 years, since he moved there as a university student and then built a family with his Ukrainian wife Nataliya.

His family is one of hundreds of thousands arriving every day in Lviv, a city of 800,000 in western Ukraine that has found itself at the crossroads of the country’s refugee exodus. These include thousands of foreigners who have been studying and working in Ukraine for years, like Tumnoue. Others had found a safe haven in Ukraine, like 67-year-old Nurlan, who settled in Odesa a decade ago after fleeing persecution in his native Kazakstan due to his work as a journalist. 

Families gather at the grandiose Art Nouveau train station, trying to board one of the evacuation trains heading to neighbouring Poland. Across the city, scores of buildings have been transformed into shelters: sports arenas, warehouses, shops, even theatres have been filled with beds, field kitchens and toilets. 

In the station’s car park, volunteers from local aid organisations wearing yellow ribbons distribute warm meals, medicines, clothes and toiletries, and direct travellers to the free bus rides to Poland. Those leaving are all women and children as men between 18 and 60 years of age cannot leave the country.
In the parking lot, Olena Guzyova fills a car trunk with suitcases, ready to leave for the Polish border. Guzyova says that she packed her life up in 20 minutes. She noticed increased military movements in Shchastya, a town of 12,000 people near the contact line in Luhansk region and felt something was happening. She grabbed a few suitcases, put her children aged 12, eight and one year in the car, and as they left missiles started raining on the town. Twelve hours later they arrived in Kryvyi Rih, in central Ukraine, and from there they proceeded by train to Lviv. The family is heading to Italy where Olena’s sister lives.

The UN refugee agency stated that almost ten million people have been forced to flee their homes, making this conflict the most rapid driver of displacement since WWII.

This publication was prepared under the "Amplify, Verify, Engage (AVE) Project" implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.

This publication was prepared under the “Ukraine Voices Project" implemented with the financial support of the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO).

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