Some Ukrainians leave asylum abroad to return home

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February began a mass exodus of refugees into western Ukraine and neighboring countries. There are now about 7 million Ukrainians internally displaced and another 5 million have crossed borders and become refugees across Europe.

But many of them want to go home. Between February 28 and June 21, according to the United Nations, there were 2.8 million “cross-border” movements back into Ukraine. The number of refugees included in this total is not recorded, but cities such as Kyiv are gradually recovering from their pre-war population. It appears that many Ukrainian refugees are now returning, at least temporarily.

Why did we write this?

As war rages on in Ukraine, some of the millions of refugees who have fled are looking to return. Fighting may be a threat, but to them, the call of home may trump the safety of a foreign land.

Refugees during war in particular move according to a number of different push and pull factors. On the one hand, fleeing to a new country – with a different language and culture – can be stressful. On the other hand, despite the brutal missile strikes, most regions of Ukraine are now much safer than at the beginning of the war, when Russia was attacking on many fronts. Some Ukrainians may find life abroad too difficult and life at home safe enough.

For many, like Olga Rostovska, who fled Kramatorsk with her two young children in April, the house is worth the risk. “We never wanted to leave,” she says.

Lviv and How, Ukraine

Olga Rostovska sits at a small kitchen table and projects a picture on her phone of where she wants to be: a partially burned apartment building 400 miles away.

“I cried when I learned that the Russians destroyed my house,” she says, sitting next to her sister, Lyudmila Skidan, who lives with her family and children in Kyiv. “That’s why I want to go home so much. I hope I can fix all this and live there.”

Ms. Rostovska is from Kramatorsk, a city in eastern Ukraine now less than 50 miles from the front lines. As in cities throughout the Donbass region, the citizens of Kramatorsk have a group chat – where they spread news about the bombing and pray for normal life – on the Telegram messaging app.

Why did we write this?

As war rages on in Ukraine, some of the millions of refugees who have fled are looking to return. Fighting may be a threat, but to them, the call of home may trump the safety of a foreign land.

She hopes to read every day that her city is safe again. She was evacuated with her two young children in April, first to western Ukraine, then to Lithuania for two months, and then back to Kyiv. Now they want to go home – even if Russian bombing means there aren’t many homes left.

The Russian invasion began last February in a mass exodus of refugees into western Ukraine and neighboring countries. About 7 million Ukrainians are now displaced within their country, and another 5 million have crossed borders and become refugees across Europe.

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