STANDING at the Przemyśl railway station on the Ukrainian border of Poland, where thousands of desperate women, children and pensioners are arriving with only their clothes on, it’s hard to believe it’s 2022.
Europe has not seen scenes like this since 1945, when there was a mass exodus of people fleeing Nazi repression.
A new train arrives every hour, the refugees jostling each other, in an indescribable human spectacle.
There are people in wheelchairs, children screaming in strollers, mothers crying on the phone with their husbands who have stay and fight for Ukraine.
Each has their own horror and loss story to tell.
I have made several documentaries about the Holocaust and heard stories of survivors who sought refuge from evil almost 80 years ago – including my grandfather.
It’s hard not to remember that history when we see it today’s massive influx of refugees.
I think we all feel predestined with Ukrainianspeople who until a few weeks ago are living lives very similar to ours.
But I felt a special personal connection when I was contacted by Oksana Platero, my Ukrainian dance partner on the show Seriously Come Dance Together in 2016.
While Oksana, 33, now lives in the US, she’s gone mad with worry for her family, who were still living in her home town of Kharkiv when the war broke out.
Her mother Inna Dmytrenko, 53, and 10-year-old brother Kyrylo Velychko made it to Hungary safely, but her grandparents – all with living memories of World War 2 – refused to evacuate.
Oksana told me: “My mother begged my grandmother to evacuate with them. My grandmother just refused to go with them.”
Inna’s 75-year-old mother, Lidiya, stayed, along with Oksana’s paternal grandparents, Zoya, 95, and Vasyliy, 87. And then came the Russian bomb.
One person narrowly missed the Oksanas’ home but blew off a neighbor’s roof, blowing it up right in their garden.
It seems this has finally convinced Oksana’s family that they will have to make a grueling journey from the only home they’ve ever known.
“At that point, they left with no light, no electricity, no connection. In Ukraine it is cold without heat,” Oksana explained.
Oksana’s 95-year-old Mrs Zoya, who recalls the first war, said: ‘We will return home – and the autocracy will fall’
Zoya, 95 years old, Grandma of Oksana Platero serious
The two grandparents are unable to walk and her 57-year-old uncle Oleksii, who has a limp, had to help drag them up six flights of stairs while looking for somewhere to rest on their way through. war ravaged country.
During their flight from the bombing, which had turned Kharkiv to dust, her uncle’s car was requisitioned by the Ukrainian military and they slept in a nursery.
When Oksana talked to them on the phone, she could hear explosions in the background and windows rattling.
There is – thankfully – a happy ending, of sorts.
On Monday, we heard that although there were no wheelchairs, no food or medical supplies, the group of elderly people had crossed the border into Poland.
Oksana’s 95-year-old Zoya, who recalls the first war, said: “We will return home – and the autocracy will fall.”
I tell Oksana’s family story because it encapsulates the plight of so many people.
First, because they desperately need basic supplies – food, medicine, a wheelchair.
Refugee red tape
The humanitarian response to the Ukraine crisis has been spectacular – from relief organizations like the Red Cross to the incredible kindness of the Polish people, who are giving up their food and their homes. them for refugees.
But with more and more people coming to Europe every day, more and more help is needed – that’s why I ask for your support. The Ukraine Foundation of the Sun.
Second, like so many refugees, Oksana’s family was only looking for temporary shelter. They yearn to return to their homeland, as soon as peace is possible.
They want to go back to their homes and to their friends – they just want to stay with us for as long as it is really needed.
And that brings us to the third point, which is that while the most dangerous part of their journey is over, for Oksana’s family, the bureaucratic struggle has only just begun.
The British people, with their proud history of welcoming refugees, are ready to welcome heavily armed Ukrainians.
They hope to go to America with her, but if they want to go to England, they will find it extremely difficult.
While Poland has taken in 1.7 million refugees, and the EU has been open for three years to anyone with a Ukrainian passport, Britain’s response has been hampered by red tape and delays.
There were people who came to Przemysl with friends or relatives in the UK, but to join them they had to first go to Warsaw or Krakow and fight the British embassy.
There aren’t enough officials, not enough information, not enough understanding of the various unique situations to make seeking refuge in the UK a realistic possibility for many.
The sad thing is that the British people, with their proud history of welcoming refugees, are willing to welcome openly armed Ukrainians.
My grandfather was a man who was grateful for British hospitality when he arrived here in 1946… The fact that he was provided shelter when he needed it most is one of the reasons I am so proud to be a man. Brother.
Yesterday, ministers officially announced their policy allowing Britons to house displaced people in their own homes, in return for a thank you £350 a month.
But that won’t just be another noisy virtue signal unless they make a serious effort to make it not only possible but easy for people to provide their homes and accept Ukrainian refugees. they.
People want clear and unambiguous guidance, and not be tied up in red tape without the tools to navigate it.
My grandfather was a man grateful for British hospitality when he arrived here in 1946, after surviving Nazi concentration camps.
The fact that he was provided shelter when he needed it most is one of the reasons I am so proud to be British.
Now is the time, again, for actions, not words.
To donate to Oksana Platero’s fundraiser click here.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/4896532/ukraine-refugees-russia-war-strictly-judge-rinder/ My strict mate, 95-year-old Oksana, fled Ukraine after a Russian bomb blew up a neighbor’s roof