Fleeing for their lives to Poland, Ukraine’s refugees find safety and solace in an army of strangers
Agniia and her husband Emile Nkoyok only escaped by the skin of their teeth, managing to jump on the last train out of Karkiv with their three-month-old daughter as the sound of bombs grew louder around them.
On Sunday, they arrived with Emily-Grace at the safety of Przemyśl railway station in eastern Poland exhausted, confused and with no idea what to do next. That is until a young Polish stranger stepped forward.
Ewelina Sendecka had only recently returned to Poland from working in Germany and was at a loose end.
So, after watching television images of desperate Ukrainians fleeing their homeland, she decided to do something herself, setting off from her home in Krakow on Sunday morning and driving the 150 miles east to Przemyśl, close to the border.
“I just felt I had to offer what I could and do something to help people who are in a desperate situation,” she told The Telegraph. “So I got into my car and came here.”
Here, like dozens of others Poles and Germans who had come to give practical assistance to those who have lost everything, she held up a hand-drawn sign offering a lift and a bed for a couple of nights to anyone who could fit into her car.
“I had to do something,” said Ms Sendecka. “I have a spare room at my house and they can stay there until they have worked out what to do next.”
The Nkoyoks fell gratefully into her arms, secure, now, in the knowledge their baby girl would have somewhere safe and warm to sleep.
They had spent a torrid three days travelling nearly 800 miles across Ukraine, tightly packed aboard trains taking thousands of people to safety in Poland.
Along the way they lost most of their luggage and precious possessions when running from one train to another and at one stage had to cling perilously to the gangway between two carriages – desperately holding on to little Emily-Grace’s baby carrier – because there was simply no space inside.
But the young couple decided they had no choice but to flee Kharkiv if they were to have any future at all.
“We had to get out, for the sake of our daughter,” said Mrs Nkoyok. “We had no choice but to try to get to safety.”