Desperate Ukrainian mums cling to kids inside abandoned shopping centre as they flee Putin’s bloody onslaught

Desperate Ukrainian mums cling to kids inside abandoned shopping centre as they flee Putin’s bloody onslaught

February 28, 2022

TERRIFIED Ukrainian refugees fleeing Vladimir Putin's onslaught have been forced to shelter in an shopping centre on the Polish border.

More than 500,000 refugees – mostly women and children – have so farfled Ukraine to neighbouring countries to the west.

Around half of those are in Poland after enduring 50-hour queues to get over the border.

Humanitarian agencies fear up to five million people will be made homeless in the biggest movement of people in Europe since the Second World War.

In less than a week, this thriving shopping mall in the Polish village of Korczowa, just a mile from the Ukraine border, has been turned into a makeshift refugee camp for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.

Glass-fronted units which once sold building supplies, baths, tools, and clothes, have been emptied to make room for thousands of beds.

The white tiled floors of the once pristine aisles are littered with the human cost of war.

Inside the cacophonous shopping centre, the former shops ring with the sound of screaming babies, tannoy announcements and desperate phone calls for help.

Despite the noise, exhausted families lay under brown checked blankets to get some much-need sleep.

Stores have been piled high with all kinds of supplies, including cardboard boxes of dried food, crisps, biscuits, jars of baby food, and toiletries.

Polish soldiers have been handing out emergency rations of nappies, toilet rolls, and bottled water, most of it donated by ordinary Poles.

The makeshift camp has no showers to offer respite to the refugees, many of whom travelled at least 24 hours to the border before walking the last 20 miles through the freezing cold.

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One woman was pictured on a camp bed clutching a packet of three toothbrushes, a tube of toothpaste, and even shampoo – despite the lack of showers.

A tiny girl, no more than two years old, was seen stuffing her teddy bears into a black bin liner before emptying them. She repeats the process over and over again.

Nearby, a soldier was seen showing a mum a pair of tiny red boots for her toddler.

Nadia Yanchuk, 51, fled the war with her son Max, 15, daughter-in-law Olga, 25, and two-year-old grandson, Oleksandr.

They left their home in the mining city of Chervonohrad near Lviv in western Ukraine, some 60 miles northeast of Korczowa.

I'm afraid for the future of Ukraine and for our people

Relieved to be at the camp, Nadia says she is wracked with guilt for those they were forced to leave behind, including Olga's husband and her son, 26, who stayed in Ukraine to fight.

Last week, Ukraine introduced male conscription, banning all men aged between 18 and 60 from leaving the country.

Nadia told The Sun: "We are exhausted mentally but physically we have rested and we're ready to move again.

"I'm relieved because we're together. But it is difficult to think of those we have left behind.

"We don't know what will happen but we are strong and we'll get through this."

Another mum, 37-year-old Zoryana, escaped with her two children, aged 12 and 14.

Speaking from a cafe in the shopping centre serving hot drinks and food to refugees, she said: "I'm afraid for the future of Ukraine and for our people.

"I want everything to be alright, I still have hope, but this is escalating every day that passes. No one knows what Putin will do next."

The temporary camp in Korczowa only opened two days ago but is already completely rammed.

Vladyslav, a volunteer, said: "Everone here is disorientated. They have left everything behind. They're shell-shocked."

🔵 Read our Russia – Ukraine live blog for the very latest updates

At the weekend, heartbreaking scenes from a railway station showed brave Ukrainian fighters heading east to join the war, while their terrified families headed the other way towards Poland.

In chaotic scenes at Lviv train station in the west of Ukraine, 43 miles from the Polish border, crying families said their goodbyes as they were split up by conflict.

Across the border in the Polish city of Przemysl, hundreds of Ukrainian men in combat gear were seen heading back towards the war zone.

Many of them had ensured their loved ones were brought to safety in Poland before going to the frontline.

One fighter, 42-year-old Sergei Motorov, said: "I left my daughter with my parents to protect her from what is happening but now I'm going straight back to Ukraine to join the resistance.

"I cannot stand by and let this happen to my country."

Latest in Ukraine…

  • Ukraine faces a "crucial 24 hours" as officials from Kyiv and Moscow sit down for high level peace talks
  • Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is reportedly assisting in the peace process
  • UK defence sec Ben Wallace warned Vladimir Putin's forces could unleash an "indiscriminate and ruthless" bombing campaign
  • Russia fears a bank run and civil unrest after crushing Western sanctions were imposed over the weekend
  • Heartbreaking scenes show thousands of Ukrainian kids separated from their dads at the border
  • And a little girl, 6, wearing unicorn pyjamas was killed in a Russian airstrike as doctors told reporters 'show this to Putin'
  • Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is being hailed as a hero after he went from being a comedian to a war time leader
  • Putin has been accused of taking muscle-boosting steroids that may be giving him roid rage

It comes as fears grow Vladimir Putin is stepping up his indiscriminate bombing of Ukraine, after his efforts to quickly overwhelm the country's defences were frustrated.

Today, dozens are believed to have been killed in a carpet-bombing raid in Kharkiv, including a barrage of Grad rockets and Smerch missiles.

The horrifying massacre, which took place at around midday local time, came as dozens of desperate residents queued for food outside supermarkets in Ukraine's second city.

Ukraine and Russia have met for peace talks by the river Pripyat on the border with Belarus after Putin's troops have been stalled.

According to Ukraine's parliament, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Russian troops.

But in a possible sign of Russia's dismissive attitude to the talks, their delegation was led by the relatively minor figure of Putin's adviser on culture.

As the two sides met talks, Putin's tanks continued to rumble through Ukraine, seizing the port city of Berdyansk, home to 100,000, and strategically located on the Azov Sea coast.

The city's acting mayor, Oleksandr Svidlo, confirmed on Facebook that troops moved in on Sunday, taking control of the city close to the disputed territory of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014.

As the war enters its fifth day, further shelling was heard in Ukraine's two biggest cities Kyiv and Kharkiv.

Belarus' president Alexander Lukashenko – a close ally of Putin – has accused the West of "pushing Russia into World War Three" ahead of pivotal talks in his country.

He insisted the sanctions being slapped on Russia by countries including the UK and US are propelling Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

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