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“Round Trip”

There is no safe place in Ukraine. The situation on the border of eastern Ukraine and the escalation of hostilities has triggered a migration flow of Ukrainian refugees seeking safety from the conflict. What is happening in Ukraine could become Europe’s biggest humanitarian emergency since the post-war era. At least 7.5 million children are in serious danger of physical harm, severe emotional distress and displacement. Families that have been forced to flee will be in urgent need of shelter, food and clean water. Moreover, when children are forced to flee their homes, there is a high risk that they will be separated from their families. However, the international emergency has mobilised volunteers and associations all over Europe. On the 3rd of March, seven Ukrainian taxi drivers, who usually take tourists and locals around the streets of Milan, set off on a voluntary humanitarian mission. They organized a trip to deliver medicines, medical supplies, food, clothes and blankets, to Nowa Grobla, a small village on the border between Poland and Ukraine.

With five vans full of supplies, they went on a gruelling journey for more than 1,300 kilometres from Milan to the polish border. But they did not only bring supplies. As reported by Aims, the Association of Sustainable Mobility Entrepreneurs, the drivers took 15 people (8 women and 7 children) and a cat named Maria with them on their way back.  Many of the refugees were taken to Milan, where the Lombardy region’s task force has already prepared some beds and where a network of families is preparing to welcome them, while others will find hospitality from friends and relatives in Naples.

According to the UN, since the 24th of February, the exodus of people from Ukraine to neighbouring countries has reached 1.7 million. Two-thirds of those fleeing have arrived in the polish towns along the border. Surprisingly, Poland reacted with open arms. The authorities have opened the borders and admitted anyone who is in need, almost regardless of the necessary documents for immigration. “Don’t show me your passport,” is what an inspector told us at the train station. “I look people in the eye first, look at their IDs after.” It looked like aid groups, NGOs, Polish officials and volunteer associations from all over Europe were working together for the same humanitarian goal. The faces of the fleeing Ukrainians remind Polish people of their intertwined past when the countries of Central and Eastern Europe had gained their independence only to lose it shortly afterwards. Indeed, those faces are also a warning of a possible disturbing shared future. By helping the fleeing population of Ukraine, Italian and European volunteers are fighting their own feelings of terror, hoping that if the West can save Ukrainian sovereignty this time, it can also escape the trap of history.

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