Isaccea, Romania – On a Danube ferry beset by wind and waves, Ukrainian refugees fleeing their country after the Russian invasion are waiting to set foot in Romania. They have just crossed the river that separates war from peace.
Since Russian forces launched an attack on February 24, more than one million people have fled Ukraine, as per the UNHCR.
According to Romania’s Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca, as of Thursday morning, 118,461 Ukrainian refugees had entered neighbouring Romania. Many passed through to other countries, but Ciuca said at least 46,435 remain in Romania.
At the border crossing in Isaccea, some arrived in Romania on foot, pushing trollers or baby buggies, others managed to pass in their cars, packing the little they could take in their escape from war.
Heavy snow has hit the region in the last few days and refugees waiting in queue to take the ferry feel the cold in their bones. Some arrive late in the night, soaking wet.
“A Turkish truck driver saw my three kids and offered his cabin for us to stay safe from the cold,” a Ukrainian refugee coming from Odesa said.
On the Romanian side of the border, they are greeted with hot tea, food and blankets. The most vulnerable people are offered tiny rooms to sit and keep warm. With every passing day, the situation at the border becomes increasingly organised and the influx of refugees is managed quicker.
Buses or volunteers’ personal cars are waiting to take them further to their desired destinations. Most of the Ukrainians plan to travel further, as they have friends or family in other European countries.
Some that stay have been welcomed in Romanians’ houses or hotels, as many people have volunteered to help their Ukrainian neighbours.