Alex is a single father in his forties.
He had travelled for several days to reach the border. “Many people have had the same experience. They just jump in the car and try to escape,” he said.
Arriving at Moldova’s south-eastern border with Ukraine at Palanca with IsraAID’s Emergency Response Team, we saw two lines of cars.
On the right, going towards the border, parked cars with Moldovan license plates – locals, volunteers and officials, here to help.
On the left, driving into Moldova, private cars with Ukrainian plates, alongside buses and minivans carrying people on.
We got out and walked down, dodging traffic, to the Moldovan side of the crossing – where we met Alex.
He had crossed earlier, but he was waiting for someone he’d never met – the cousin of a colleague and her children – because he’d said they would travel together to Chisinau, Moldova’s capital, and work it out from there.
Most of the people we met at the border knew that they would move on quickly, but did not know exactly where they would end up – or of course how long they would be there. The vast majority were women and children. They had waited for several hours in the snow to finally cross the border.
IsraAID’s initial team got to Moldova in the early hours of Monday morning with two key tasks: bring urgent support, including essential relief supplies, to the people who need them most, and assess the situation in the country so we can rapidly plan our broader response.
Visiting Palanca today, we saw how dozens of local Moldovan volunteers have come together to support the Ukrainians. Grandmothers handing out soup and grandfathers handing out blankets. People arriving with cars and buses to drive Ukrainians wherever they wanted to go.
Moldovan police and government officials preparing temporary camps with everything needed to stay for a day or two. Now, with the numbers of people fleeing looking likely to keep rising and rising, more help is needed to ensure the protection of vulnerable people both immediately after crossing at Palanca and wherever they go next. That is where IsraAID’s professional expertise comes in.
We will be back at the border tomorrow morning, helping to kit out a safe space for mothers and babies – and working with both Moldovans and Ukrainians to make sure that the people crossing the border really do find safety. IsraAID’s team will be here for as long as this crisis lasts.
You can find out how to support IsraAID’s response to the Ukraine refugee crisis at www.israaid.org.