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'You need to save our children – it's not safe': The families torn apart by Putin's invasion now seeking a new home

As you approach the Medyka crossing, where Poland meets Ukraine, you see the clues – signs that the world has changed.

For a start, there are straggles of people wandering along the road. For another, the sirens of police cars and ambulances sound out regularly.

But it’s as you get nearer that you really notice things.

The border observation point that looms up; the sign that welcome people to the European Union, and that creeping sense that this area is beginning to look like a refugee camp.

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Tanita Boryskvsa felt too unsafe to stay in Ukraine

There are well-meaning volunteers, piles of donations sitting in a pile and, all around us, tired, bewildered people.

And, almost without exception, they are women and children. There are plenty of men at Medyka, but they haven’t come from Ukraine.

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They are charity workers, or taxi drivers, or journalists. Lots of them are family members, who left Ukraine previously to live in Poland and now come back to the border crossing to collect mothers, sisters, grandmothers, and even daughters.

Ola is sitting to the side, weary. She has just walked over the border, accompanied by her sister and by their five children. They had left the Ukrainian city of Lviv and driven together towards the border.

When they found a queue, going back 20km, they abandoned their car and simply walked to Poland instead.

And, like so many of the others making that journey, they crossed the border with little more than the clothes they were wearing.

“It was hard, and we’re not making plans at this point. We fled because it was too scary there,” said Ola.

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According to the border guards, the queues now snake 40km back into Ukraine. They told us that someone joining the back of that line now could end up waiting up to 60 hours to cross the border into Poland.

Imagine that – two and a half days in a queue, while war gets ever closer to you, in order to flee your country.

Like refugee camps around the world, Medyka has that twin personality – at once it feels like a sanctuary, but it’s also a place that nobody wants to be.

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A few miles away, we meet Tanita at the railway station in Przemysl. She had fled Lviv that day with her children, and now sits in a hastily-arranged shelter in the station.

Camp beds are arranged around a converted waiting room and, as we chat, a kindly woman in military uniform comes round, offering soft toys to the children.

“We heard the sirens and I called my mum, but my phone wasn’t working,” she said.

“I was sheltering in the basement, but it felt dangerous. My husband said, ‘you need to save our children because if you stay downstairs, it’s not safe’.”

Sky News met Tanita at a railway station in Przemysl
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Sky News met Tanita at a railway station in Przemysl

“I feel angry,” said Tanita. “I live a life of safety and then one day, they start a big war.

“And politicians need to remember that this isn’t just about Ukraine. It will be going everywhere because of a crazy man who wants to fight everywhere, and everyone.”

Around us, the hubbub goes on. Arrivals are being offered food, lifts, accommodation, and support.

The Poles promised to welcome every Ukrainian and, so far, they are being good to their word. But these people didn’t want to leave Ukraine.

A day or two ago, they were at home; now they are refugees.

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