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WASHIGNTON, D.C. — Friday marks one year of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainians have died from the war, cities destroyed and the end of this unjust war still looks uncertain.
Almost immediately after Russian troops crossed over into Ukraine, Lilly Broadcasting was the only local television station to send local reporters to cover the crisis.
In the early days of the war, we saw firsthand the hardships refugees were going through.
In March 2022, just weeks after the Russians invaded. The Medyka border crossing, one of the few crossings from Ukraine into Poland, was as filled with volunteers from all over the world.
At that border, we saw many Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and children, take their first few steps into Poland.
Most of the refugees we saw only had a backpack or a suitcase, carrying as little as possible for the long journey into Poland.
The crossing was crammed, but filled with people who have good intentions.
The help didn’t end at the border. In Warsaw, we saw the soccer stadium transform into a place where refugees can help get settled in a country that is not their own.
Animal shelters also took in people’s pets while families looked for a place to stay. Refugees filled train stations, giving them free rides to cities in and out of Poland.
Many refugees fled to Poland and other neighboring countries without knowing anyone there, but we met people who took in refugees into their homes; turning strangers into family.
We saw an overwhelming amount of good will in Poland, but during our reporting, we also stumbled upon people from our local communities doing their part, people from Corning New York, helping refugees at the border.
Also, Erie’s Logistics Plus made arrangements to deliver humanitarian aid and a Chautauquan County New York woman, putting her life on the line driving into Ukraine to deliver medical supplies and military vests.
There is a lot of good in this world when we need it the most, but the reality is, many people still can’t return home.
After waiting for hours at the Poland border, we made our way to the western city of lviv, Ukraine. Our arrival was just hours after a Russian missile strike that targeted energy infrastructure sites. It was apparent. Russia was using winter as a weapon.
We saw people in lviv try to live as normal of a life as possible, by playing in the snow, running errands and going to restaurants, if they are open.
The strikes on energy sites kept most of the city in the dark, unless the store had a generator, which was a rare site. Ukrainians had to adapt working, living and eating in the dark.
Although the Russians never stepped foot in lviv, it doesn’t mean it’s safe. Across town, we saw people prepare for these attacks by stacking sandbags by windows and statues.
Air alarm systems would notify people of an incoming missile attack, making people race for shelter underground where they could sometimes be forced to stay for hours during an attack. We were lucky we didn’t experience that when we were in Ukraine.
But what we did experience, was seeing strangers helping strangers. We met with people making humanitarian runs into Ukraine and prepare meals for the soldiers on the front lines.
The people who are still in Ukraine say this is their home and don’t want to leave, but those who are leaving, they have to deal with long traffic lines to get to Poland. Forcing many to wait anywhere from 6 to 24 hours at a time.
We also crossed through the same border crossing we visited back in March, looking completely different than it did at the beginning of the war.
For many who left Ukraine early on are most likely living with strangers in a foreign land. One group in the south of England, they frequently meet up to keep a sense of community.
One thing we did hear often while we were in Ukraine: people asking us to not give up on them.
The people we met have made a huge impact on us, sharing their experiences from the war, showing us that not all is lost and strangers are still helping those who need it the most, but also reminding us of this war’s toll.
So until Russia leaves Ukraine, and even after that, we will continue of coverage of the war in Ukraine.
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