Blasted by icy winds, huddled around fires, Ukrainian families buffeted by a savage war

Blasted by icy winds, huddled around fires, the families buffeted by a savage war: RICHARD PENDLEBURY joins Ukrainian refugees in Lviv who have trekked across the country in search of safety

Icy winds are another burden for hundreds of thousands Ukrainians fleeing warThe refugees made up of mothers and babies are fleeing to the West  But their partners are staying behind to fight in sub-zero temperaturesRichard Pendlebury reports for the Daily Mail from the city of Lviv





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Overnight snowfall across western Ukraine, and the city of Lviv is even more picturesque under its fresh white blanket, Richard Pendlebury reports for the Daily Mail from the city of Lviv. 

But as far as the hundreds of thousands fleeing the Russian invasion are concerned, the icy winds and treacherous conditions of a classic East European winter are yet another burden to bear.

No more so than the mothers on the move with their babies and young children.

Sometimes at a moment’s notice, they have been pitched from their homes by war and are now travelling west — often without their partners who have stayed behind to fight — in sub-zero temperatures.

Overnight snowfall across western Ukraine, and the city of Lviv is even more picturesque under its fresh white blanket, Richard Pendlebury writes for the Daily Mail from the city of Lviv

Refugees that fled the conflict from neighbouring Ukraine await transportation at the Romanian-Ukrainian border, in Siret, Romani

Scenes at Lviv station in Western Ukraine as thousands of women and children try to catch trains to Poland to escape fighting

And still they arrive here from north, east and south, as Putin’s forces attempt to tighten their grip on a neighbour’s throat.

You have probably never heard of the industrial city of Zaporizhzhia. 

Nor had I, until now. It is situated north west of the fiercely contested seaport of Mariupol, on the mighty Dnieper river which flows from the besieged capital Kyiv to the Black Sea. 

The evidence here, yesterday, was that war has also pitched its tent in Zaporizhzhia.

The women and children of whole neighbourhoods of the city have crossed Ukraine to Lviv in the past 48 hours, they told me.

‘We heard bombs and that is why we decided to leave,’ one young mother said. 

She was in transit with her own mother and her only child, 20-month-old son Yan, whose cheeks were pinched red with cold. She didn’t want to give her own name. She was scared.

‘My husband stayed to defend our home,’ she said. ‘It is very difficult to travel with a baby in wartime. 

‘The trains are very crowded. We don’t know what we will do next. 

‘We might shelter in Lviv or maybe we will go abroad. 

‘All we were able to do before we left was pack the essentials for Yan; nothing more than what we could get into two small bags.

‘In the bomb shelters back home there was not enough light and the air was bad.’ 

Nearby there was another group of mothers and children from Zaporizhzhia, surrounded by meagre luggage, their breath billowing in the cold. 

‘We were afraid for the lives of our children,’ Nastya said, cradling one-year-old son Matvij. 

‘Because of Putin, we were made to leave our homes and come here. We hope to get to Poland.’

She said her husband and father had stayed behind to fight. ‘We are living near the airport and yesterday it was attacked so we had to leave. 

‘Our district is almost deserted now.’ 

Their escape was made more difficult, she said, by the Ukrainian military having to destroy a bridge over the Dnieper to stall the Russian advance. 

Ukraine has denied reports that the city, also home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, had fallen into Russian hands.

Nastya said her daughter Lera, seven, had been particularly affected by the ordeal.

‘Matvij is too young to understand but she knows exactly what is happening. In the bomb shelter where we spent two days she was very frightened and crying.’ Did Nastya have a message for the outside world? ‘Yes, just please let us live in peace in our homes.’

At Lviv’s main railway station two young women — Katya and Maria — from a town on the Dnieper river, had assembled a pile of luggage and travel boxes for their three dogs, Mario, Misha and Vasily, and two cats, Bucks and Korsha.

‘I know it looks a little strange,’ said Katya. ‘But they are so dear to our hearts. How could we leave them behind?’

She then began to rage against the Russian president, bursting into tears as she did so. 

‘It is hard to realise we have lost our old life because of some ill person,’ she said. 

‘He cares nothing for us. He is not a kind person. In fact, he is not human. I do not have a big enough vocabulary in English to describe what I feel for that man.’

Natalya was a young mother from Ukraine’s second biggest city Kharkiv, which is being attacked by Russia, with reported heavy civilian casualties. 

She was with her five-year-old daughter Alicia.

‘We were under bombardment, we had to leave,’ Natalya said.

Nearby, a little boy was pushing his toy car along the frozen pavement — as little boys do even when surrounded by catastrophe. Nestor is four. 

He too is from Kharkiv and was travelling with his 22-year-old parents Dmitri and Angelina. They were accompanied by Dmitri’s teenage brother Oleksii and his friend Daniel.

They had left their home two days before because ‘the bombardment was all around us’, said Dmitri. A telephone conversation with a relative in Kharkiv had to be ended because of new attacks.

More than 400,000 people have escaped Ukraine since Friday, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 

But many more are on the move inside this country.

The authorities are preparing for the worst. We visited one of the main maternity hospitals in Lviv. 

Walls of sandbags had been piled along the lowest windows. 

The basement was being prepared to receive and treat war wounded rather than expectant mothers.

The joyous moments, the miracles of life, are having to play second fiddle to the bloody fallout from the Kremlin’s vicious ambition. Spring seems a long way away here.



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