A grandmother who went to get her grandson, a young man who fled alone to Poland, or a 12-year-old girl who paints pictures are some of the “life stories” of Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in Guimarães today.
A bus carrying 52 Ukrainian refugees, including three children, arrived in Guimarães, coming from Warsaw, the capital of Poland, on the initiative of the Guimarães City Council, through the Solidarity Network, jointly with the Municipal Community of Ave (CIM do Ave), which includes eight municipalities: Cabeceiras de Basto, Fafe, Guimarães, Mondim de Basto, Póvoa de Lanhoso, Vila Nova de Famalicão, Vizela, Vieira do Minho.
“We have a grandmother in Olhão, in the Algarve, she deliberately went to Ukraine to take her grandson to bring him to Portugal, because the mother is a police officer in Ukraine and the father is forbidden to leave due to martial law. He told me that it is very difficult to leave Ukraine with his grandson. bombed by Russian forces”, shares Hugo Quaresma, Civil Protection of the municipality of Vieira do Minho, who accompanied the trip.
Five days and about seven thousand kilometers later, it was 09:11 when the bus stopped next to Largo da Mumadona in Guimarães. Shortly thereafter, the women, teenage girls, three 3-year-olds, and three dogs, one in the arms of a young woman, began getting off the bus.
Amid smiles, hugs, some tears and a lot of weariness, the refugees took their bags and sacks, which is all they were able to reclaim from a life-changing war.
One of the stories that distinguished Hugo Quaresma the most was the story of a 17-year-old (who will remain in Guimarães), placed in institutions in Ukraine, and fleeing alone to Poland.
“He was institutionalized in an institution in Ukraine. When the war broke out, he fled to Warsaw on his own. He is 17 years old and alone in the world. He is a person to follow, as he no longer has any kind of support. Neither here nor in anywhere,” he reported, adding that he had previously informed the relevant authorities of the case for the necessary follow-up.
While Hugo Quaresma shares the “heroic and life stories” of some of the refugees, they are transported to cars and minibuses that will take them to their next destination: either to the home of family and friends or to accommodation provided by the provinces.
Among those who will also reside in Guimarães is a 12-year-old girl with artistic talent.
“We have a 12-year-old girl, who really loves art and will also stay here in Guimarães. She speaks good English, and I have already learned a few words in Portuguese, and last night [segunda-feira]Within 10 minutes, he painted my picture inside the bus,” revealed Hugo Quaresma, who made the trip with four drivers and an interpreter.
Among the “passengers” is a young woman who worked as a proofreader on the Ukrainian railways and had to flee with her daughter, leaving her parents and husband in Ukraine.
These are the life stories here who, unfortunately, found themselves in the midst of this war without knowing why. Some said they would return, others already had family members in Portugal and would stay here, but, mainly, older ones, with nostalgia, intend to return to Ukraine,” said Hugo Quaresma.
Some of the refugees on the list who will come to Portugal were unable to board the plane.
Mother and son could not come because the son fell ill. Traveling with the sick child to Portugal was a risk. We were able to replace it with other people,” he said.
For a civil protection technician from the municipality of Vieira do Minho, this experience was great on many levels.
We can’t change the world, that’s impossible. In Guimarães, in Vieira do Minho, Portugal. But the people at CIM do Ave changed the world of these people and that’s what matters. We were happy to get these people here safely. Hugo Quaresma announced in a broken voice.
Bathing has now become Hugo Quaresma’s desire, something he hasn’t done since Friday, the day the bus left Guimarães.
The war in Ukraine has caused thousands of deaths and injuries, but the exact number has not yet been determined.
The United Nations counted 636 civilians killed and 1,125 wounded as of Sunday, but insisted the number was likely much higher.
More than three million people have fled Ukraine for neighboring countries since the start of the war, in what is already the worst crisis of its kind in Europe since World War II (1939-1945).