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RICHARD PENDLEBURY on Polish border sees fleeing mothers and children torn from fathers in Ukraine


Exodus of the women: RICHARD PENDLEBURY on the Polish border sees fleeing mothers and children torn from fathers forced to fight in Ukraine… as thousands of families head west to seek safety from Putin’s planes and tanks

  • Mothers and children gathered at Korczowa border crossing with Poland Friday
  • Poland fears there may be an influx of over one million civilians from Ukraine
  • Reception stations are being set up at key points on the over 300-mile border
  • Thousands have been heading west to seek safety from Putin’s planes and tanks 


One could describe it as ‘the flight of the women’.

Certainly, the refugees came from all backgrounds and walks of life. 

Rich and poor alike were escaping the catastrophe that was enfolding their nation, carried in all kinds of transport, from brand new Porches to battered hatchbacks.

But one detail was striking and uniform: There was not a man of fighting age to be seen among them.

This was the exodus of Ukraine’s mothers and children at the bleak Korczowa border crossing with Poland yesterday afternoon.

Poland fears there may be an influx of over a million civilians from neighbouring Ukraine amid the Russian invasion. Pictured: People at the Ukrainian side of the Polish border near Mosciska

They were in the vanguard of what Poland fears may be an influx of more than a million civilians from neighbouring Ukraine, driven from their homes by the Russian invasion.

The two countries share a border of more than 300 miles and reception stations are being established at key crossing points to register the incomers and provide them with food and water.

Thousands of families have been heading west to seek safety from Putin’s planes and tanks.

Many we met there had endured more than 24 hours of waiting on the Ukrainian side only to suffer the new heartbreak of having their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers prevented from crossing into Poland with them.

The Ukrainian authorities have decreed that no males between the ages of 18 and 60 can leave. They are expected to stay and fight as part of a general military mobilisation.

And so families were being broken up with safety in sight. Irya, 31, had driven to the Polish border with her husband Oleg and their 11-year-old daughter from the town of Ternopil. 

Ukrainian women and children are seen at the Slovak-Ukrainian border crossing at Vysne Nemeck following Russia's invasion of the Ukraine

Ukrainian women and children are seen at the Slovak-Ukrainian border crossing at Vysne Nemeck following Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine

‘Then after 25 hours waiting to cross I had to say goodbye to Oleg,’ she said.

‘The situation is terrible. I do not know what to do now. I am alone.’ 

Two families from Kiev had also seen their menfolk taken away from them on the border after waiting 20 hours to cross. 

They had not met before their ordeal and planned to travel on to Italy and the Czech Republic respectively, where they had relations.

But they had thrown in their lot together once their men were forced to leave them, and travelled in the same car to cross the frontier – solidarity among strangers born of mutual suffering.

Among them was eight-year-old schoolgirl Malchyk who was carrying her pet white mouse Pschuk in a plastic travelling box.

The mouse was allowed through, her father was not.

Some of the female drivers had particular reason to feel desolate. 

Thousands of families have been heading west to seek safety from Putin's planes. Pictured: Civilians arrive in the Medyka region of Poland, on the border with Ukraine, on February 25

Thousands of families have been heading west to seek safety from Putin’s planes. Pictured: Civilians arrive in the Medyka region of Poland, on the border with Ukraine, on February 25

Gena, 22, was born in the Russian town of Rostov and married a Ukrainian. He too was barred from crossing.

She made it to the Polish side at the wheel of her Toyota, with her two children and plans, she said, to drive to the capital Warsaw, although she knows no one there.

She was pale and drawn, anxious for what and whom she had left behind. ‘I have many friends and relations in Russia,’ she told the Daily Mail. 

‘Now I have to escape because of that country – Russia – that I had always thought of as a friend.’

In the evening, we made it into Ukraine at the pedestrian crossing near Mosciska.

It was an extraordinary scene. Thousands of women and children were waiting on foot in the cold as darkness fell, to escape the Russians – and cross into Poland. 

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