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Exodus from Ukraine

photographs by Louis Witter

Louis Witter/Le Pictorium

Many of the refugees arriving at the border were already exhausted from days of travel, Przemysl, Poland, March 4, 2022

Editor’s note: More than a million Ukrainians have fled the country in the ten days since Russian forces invaded. Millions more have been internally displaced, as the conflict continues. The French photojournalist Louis Witter reached the small town of Medyka, in southeastern Poland close to the Ukrainian border, at the beginning of the week. There he found hundreds of newly arrived Ukrainians, bewildered, lost, and lacking basic items. It was cold, sometimes snowing; many people had brought with them their pets, which now shared the harsh conditions.

Soon, humanitarian volunteers from all over Europe began arriving to help, buses started ferrying the refugees to the nearby city of Przemyl, and local Polish people mobilized to take care of the more than three hundred thousand people crossing the border. Makeshift camps have been established and train stations became staging posts to find temporary accommodation for refugees and help with their onward journeys.

Witter found that some Ukrainians still hoped to return soon—and met others who were making the journey in the opposite direction, going back to fight. But most, he said, simply seemed in shock.


Louis Witter/Le Pictorium

Some Ukrainians walked across the border with only the possessions they could carry, Medyka, Poland, March 2, 2022


Louis Witter/Le Pictorium

Among the Ukrainian refugees arriving at the border were foreign students and workers of color, many of whom complained of racist treatment by Ukrainian border guards, delaying their passage; Medyka, Poland, February 28, 2022


Louis Witter/Le Pictorium

With men of military age barred from leaving Ukraine, the majority of those arriving were unaccompanied women and children, Przemysl, Poland, March 4, 2022


Louis Witter/Le Pictorium

Volunteeers working at the railway station where trains were arriving from Lviv in Ukraine, Przemysl, Poland, February 28, 2022


Louis Witter/Le Pictorium

Illia, who fled with his mother from the Ukrainian city of Zaporija, which came under Russian bombardment, fears for his grandparents who stayed behind and live near a nuclear power plant, Przemysl, Poland, March 4, 2022


Louis Witter/Le Pictorium

Donations of clothing from all over Europe waiting for distribution, Przemysl, Poland, March 4, 2022


Louis Witter/Le Pictorium

Casper, a volunteer firefighter who came to the border to provide refugee assistance, Medyka, Poland, February 28, 2022


Louis Witter/Le Pictorium

Natacha, who fled Kharkiv as it came under bombardment, praying for Ukraine’s victory over Russian forces, Przemysl, Poland, March 4, 2022


Louis Witter/Le Pictorium

Polish schoolchildren protesting in solidarity with Ukraine, Przemysl, March 1, 2022


Louis Witter/ Le Pictorium

Ukrainians arriving, many after days of travel, Przemysl, Poland, March 4, 2022


Louis Witter/Le Pictorium

“I miss my father terribly,” said Valery, right, who left the Lviv Oblast with his friend and their mothers, Przemysl, Poland, March 3, 2022


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