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Near Zaporijjia, in southeastern Ukraine, a large center is hosting displaced populations. Many Ukrainians arrive from the occupied Kherson region, having passed through Russian “filtration passages”. To France 24, they confess their dismay, their anger, but also the fear for their loved ones left behind.
The Ukrainian authorities continue to urge civilians to flee the territories occupied by Russian troops, in particular in the south of the country, where the Ukrainian army claims to be preparing a major counter-offensive. The city of Zaporijjia has thus become an important place of reception for sometimes very tried populations.
In this center for displaced people located near Zaporizhia, many of them have arrived from the south, where they fled the territories occupied by the Russians.
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Among them, Yulia, displaced from Kherson, has just arrived. “You feel like you’re in another world. As soon as we arrived, we immediately understood that we were in a free country, and then it’s clean. There, everything is so dirty and abandoned, there are Russian soldiers everywhere,” she told France 24.
These families go through what the Russians call “filtration passages”. Trips that can last whole days, between waiting in cars and coaches, and nights under the stars.
“Our wonderful soldiers welcomed us, we hugged them, we were in tears,” said other displaced people. These did not want to be filmed, for the sake of safety for their loved ones left behind. They decided to leave because the Ukrainian army asked them to. “They say: ‘Help us to continue the fight, evacuate with your children'”, they explain. “Anyway, our children were going to the Ukrainian school, and now the Russians would establish their schools there with their programs, and we don’t want that.”
“Mariopol no longer exists”
Most of the displaced are arriving from Kherson. Those from Mariupol, who are rarer, can seek help from their local administration. The municipality in exile of the port city, decimated by the war, has set up a dozen reception centers like this one in the country.
“I no longer feel anything about the Russians”, confesses, moved, Svetlana, moved from Mariupol. “I feel offended, and I’m angry too, because we have nothing now, Mariupol no longer exists.”
“95% of Mariupol is in ruins,” says Irina Krobka, director of the support center for displaced people in Mariupol. “People who have experienced this tragedy, those who have lost loved ones, are extremely psychologically. They need a lot of time, support, therapy.”