Despite devastating news of alleged war crimes, the number of Ukrainians returning to their homeland is increasing again. For them, the danger of war is less dangerous than separation from the family or not being able to fight.
In the early days after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, heartbreaking photos show scenes at Kyiv’s central station, as families bid farewell to their fathers and sons. Young husbands kiss with tears in their eyes, mothers hug their sons, and fathers hug their children again. While conscripts are not allowed to leave the country, more than 4 million people have fled since the war began. But in the past few days, a new picture has emerged: more and more people want to return to their homeland.
This is especially evident in the border city of Lviv. More citizens are still leaving the country, according to “The New York Times.” “At the beginning of the war, ten times the number of returnees left the country,” said Yuri Bochko, deputy military director of Lviv, in an interview with the newspaper. But something seems to have changed in the past few days. “The stats have changed a lot recently,” Bochko said. Some days, half of the people who cross the border are on their way back to Ukraine – mostly women and children.
“I have to go home”
Because, as pictures from Kyiv at the main train station show, thousands, if not millions, of families have been torn apart since February 24. The last-minute decision to leave male family members behind when war broke out was the only solution for many of the women and children. It was also a short-term forced decision – one that many now seem to be reconsidering. “The need to be with children and spouses who remained in Ukraine undoubtedly plays a major role in this decision,” says Albert Scheer, head of the Institute of Sociology at Pedagogical University of Freiburg, who specializes in migration and flight research. de.
Lilia Shuba fled Ukraine at the start of the war but has now returned, according to Politico. “It’s always better at home,” the teacher told the newspaper. “We left a week ago and now we’re back. My husband volunteered for the army and there is no one in our house.” Zhanna Sinitsyna sees it the same way: “Mykolaiv is my home in my soul,” the 49-year-old told the Washington Post on her way back to Ukraine. “I have to go home.”
The second side brings the Ukrainians back to their homeland. The almost daily video speeches of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are a communicative masterpiece – impressive pleas and words from Kyiv, from a head of state in green military uniform, send a clear signal to his compatriots: raise your arms and join the fight.
The people who fled now face a choice on their conscience. In principle, the president says with this nationalist narrative: “Anyone who does not respond to this nationalist call is a traitor – a coward who evades his duty,” Scheer explains.
For this reason, 52-year-old teacher Vera Labchuk decided to make a comeback, according to The Washington Post. After the beginning of the war, the teacher ran away to her son in Poland. However, a week later she realized that she had to return. “I’m not afraid,” Lapchuk told the newspaper, although she feels “desperate” for her city and country. But she felt the need to support her students during this time.
‘A massive personal and moral dilemma’
And this is despite the fact that reports from Bucha show cruel, albeit suspected, war crimes on the part of the Russian side. But it is not so everywhere: in Kyiv, life is partially returning to normal. In Lviv, too, daily life continues despite the war: “Now people understand what war looks like and that despite the war you can survive and live in Ukraine, in Lviv,” Bochko told the New York Times.
In addition, there was a realization that the war would last much longer than initially anticipated. “At the beginning of the war, we thought or hoped that this war would last a week, or maybe a few days,” Bochko told the newspaper. “Now we see that it probably won’t last months, but several years. And we have to live with that.”
Of course, no one knows how long this war will last. But if the war really continues for years, Ukrainians abroad will have to settle long-term refugee status – provided they are separated from their families as spouses or fathers. “From the perspective of women whose husbands are fighting in the war, it’s not easy to say, ‘My husband is behind in the war and I’m going to Europe and running from danger,'” Scheer says.
“This is a huge moral and personal dilemma for those affected,” Scheer says. Because there is no right or wrong in this decision. It is a situation in which social obligations, ethical considerations, national appeals, and individual personal responsibility play a role. “You really can’t wish anyone was in a situation like this.”