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War in Ukraine: Escaping the bombs in Mykolaiv and heading west

14 Mar 22 | 25 Mar 22

War in Ukraine: Escaping the bombs in Mykolaiv and heading west

At the Palanca border crossing in Moldova, thousands of Ukrainians are arriving every day to escape the fighting in the south of Ukraine.

Since the war began, more than 230,000 refugees (as of 8 March) have arrived in this small country of 2.6 million people. Less than half of them have stayed in the country. 

Those arriving in Palanca are mainly from Mykolaiv, a blockaded town 130 kilometres east of Odesa, and a target of intense bombing. Entire families - mainly women, children and the elderly - often wait several hours in sub-zero temperatures and wind before being allowed to cross the border. Volunteers welcome them with tea and food, and some tents to shelter them from the wind. 

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Sergei, 32 years old, is from Mykolayiv.  After several days of bombing, he took his pregnant wife and six-year-old son to safety in Poland, before returning to Ukraine.

Today, he leaves Ukraine through Moldova to join his family. He is one of the few men allowed to leave the country: treated for hepatitis C in Mykolaiv by MSF, he was discharged by the military. 

Dozens of people a day, people living with chronic diseases - hypertension in particular - have been treated at the medical post located at the Moldovan border. MSF has set up a medical centre in Palanca to support the Moldovan teams already on site, and offers psychological first aid.

Once the border is crossed, the majority of Ukrainian refugees leave the country, heading for Romania, Poland and other destinations in Europe. 

Ukraine war and refugee crisis

The war in Ukraine has killed or injured thousands of people, while more than 2.8 million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries.

Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams are working to deliver emergency medical aid to people still in Ukraine, as well as those now seeking safety in neighbouring countries.