Hundreds of brave Ukrainians are returning to their besieged homeland to fight against the invading Russian army.
Heroic volunteers responded to the battle cry of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, calling on men of fighting age from 18 to 60 to stay and defend the country from the onslaught of Vladimir Putin.
And while more than 40,000 people have fled the war-ravaged country since fighting broke out earlier this week, according to Polish authorities, 9,000 more have crossed the border, hundreds of them poised to fight against Russian forces.
At Medyka, a Polish border post 50 miles west of the Ukrainian city of Lva, Mail Online met three men who had flown in from all over the world to take up arms.
Sergei Udod, 40, Nikolai Lysko, 42, and Viktor Kondratyuk, 53, met on a flight from Paris to Warsaw and then asked for a transfer to Medyka, from where they planned to travel to Kyiv and fight the Russians.
At Medyka, a Polish border post 50 miles west of the Ukrainian city of Lva, Mail Online met three men who had flown in from all over the world to take up arms. Sergei Udod, 40, Mykola Lysko, 42, and Viktor Kondratyuk, 53 (pictured together), met on a flight from Paris to Warsaw and then asked for a transfer to Medyka, from where they planned to travel to Kyiv and fight the Russians.
While more than 40,000 people have fled the war-ravaged country since fighting broke out earlier this week, according to Polish authorities, another 9,000 people have crossed the border, and hundreds of them are ready to fight against Russian forces.
Ukrainian soldiers line up across a highway in Kyiv, preparing to defend the city from Russian attackers, as gunfire and explosions are heard in the center of the capital on Friday.
Sergei, a Libyan doctor, said: “We have no choice but to return and fight. This is our duty. Our country needs to be protected, and we are all ready to do it.
“Russian aggression must be stopped. We are a proud nation and we are brave, our army may be smaller than Putin’s, but we will make sure he fights and we will give him a fight he doesn’t expect.
“He will regret that he never crossed Ukraine and stayed at home in Moscow. We will not give up without a fight and are ready to die if we have to.”
Police officer Nikolai, who was on vacation in Brazil when Russia invaded earlier this week, said: “I could have taken the easier route and just stayed on the beach, but I couldn’t do that when I knew my compatriots were fighting and are dying. to save our country.
“I have friends and relatives who have taken up arms and I have family in Kyiv, as soon as I saw the situation, I didn’t think much and sat back from Brazil to Europe, where I met these two guys in Paris and we flew to Warsaw.
“It has been a long journey and who knows how it will end, but I did my duty and defended my country.”
Truck driver Victor, who flew in from Canada, said: “You have to resist aggression, so I returned. I fought before in 2014 and I know I will fight again. My country needs me, our president needs us, and all people must stick together to fight Putin and his troops.”
Hundreds of people poured into Poland in the freezing cold, greedily grabbing cups of hot tea and coffee offered to them by local charities and volunteers.
Many stood for hours in long lines and on traffic jammed roads winding from the border towards Lev and Kwov, more than eight hours away.
Shortly before arriving in Medyka, President Zelenskiy posted a pep talk on Facebook, dressed in military uniform and with his advisers, he said excitedly: “We are all here. Our soldiers are here. The citizens are here and we are here. We are defending our independence, our country. Here is how it will go.
“Glory to our defenders, men and women, glory to Ukraine.”
His advisors responded in unison: “Glory to our heroes.”
Another person, who declined to give his name and stopped on his way back to Ukraine from Poland, said: “I saw President Zelensky make a speech. He was there in Kyiv with his advisers and talked about our brave soldiers, men and women who are fighting against a madman.
“I have made sure my wife and children are safe here in Poland and now I am returning to help in the fight. It’s the least I can do.
As he spoke, hundreds of people poured into Poland in the freezing cold, greedily grabbing cups of hot tea and coffee offered to them by local charities and volunteers.
Many stood for hours in long lines and traffic jams that meander from the border towards Lva and to Kviw, more than eight hours away.
Water bottles, fruit and chocolate bars were also distributed. In the vast majority of cases, the number of women and children who crossed the border was evident, and there were almost no men after President Zelensky imposed martial law prohibiting men aged 18-60 from leaving the border. the country.
It says that this is “in order to ensure the defense of the state, maintain the combat and mobilization readiness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations.”
Earlier, President Zelensky said: “We will give weapons to everyone who wants to defend the country. Be ready to support Ukraine on the squares of our cities.”
People fleeing Ukraine as Russian troops attack the capital spotted in Medica
Views of the border between Poland and Ukraine in Medyka, when people flee from Ukraine
Anastasia Podkhovna and Daria Rikhimova with their rescued cat Siri
19-year-old law student Darya Rlhimova left her boyfriend in Lvov to fight the Russians and blinked away her tears as she crossed the border in Medyk and said: “People are scared, I’m scared, but our country is strong, we will fight and resist.
“I left my boyfriend to fight, my mother lives in Poland and is waiting for me here. I don’t know when I’ll be back and see my boyfriend, but we’ll talk every day. He is doing his duty to his country, like other brave Ukrainians, and we are all proud of them.
“It took me 24 hours to cross the border, and while I was there, the Ukrainian authorities came to the border and said that all men between the ages of 18 and 65 must return, and there were very emotional scenes.
“The wives cried, they said they wanted to go with them, but the men refused, they need to go to Poland, and they will reunite when everything is over. I saw some families even decide to come back because they didn’t want to break up. It was heartbreaking.”
While she was talking, her friend Anastasia Pedkhovna, 19, stood next to her and sobbed, clutching her suitcase and carrying a basket with her beloved cat Siri, Daria said: “I met this poor girl in line to cross the border. She is from Kyiv and cried all day, she was completely terrified and scared.
“She was there when the explosions started and her family told her to leave and go to Poland, she doesn’t know anyone and she has nowhere to go. She only has a suitcase with clothes and a cat, and it’s all thanks to Putin.”
Law student Darya Rlhimova (right) consoles her friend Anastasia Podkhovna after crossing the border in Medyk