BUCHAREST, Romania ( Associated Press) — Elena Trofimchuk fled from Ukraine to Romania more than a month ago. She now sees Bucharest’s northern railway station as a second home.
She doesn’t live there, but it is where she spends most of her day welcoming fellow Ukrainian refugees who survived Russia’s war and helping them sort out tickets, accommodation and onward destinations.
The 26-year-old says keeping herself busy and productive has saved her from Russian shelling in her hometown of Odessa, where many of her friends live.
“If you sit and do nothing, you can go crazy because you’re always searching for the news. It’s so hard. So here I can help people buy tickets and find accommodation. I’m in the kitchen in Romanian I also help people, ”said Trofimchuk.
Before the start of the war in Ukraine, she worked as a photographer.
Trofimchuk is one of several orange-veined Ukrainian volunteers working at the station.
Ukrainian volunteer Vitaly Ivanchuk flew all the way from Sri Lanka, where he lived with his Ukrainian girlfriend, to help refugees arriving in Romania.
The 29-year-old IT developer said many Ukrainians have a hard time communicating with Romanians, and volunteers who can speak both Ukrainian and English are in high demand.
His girlfriend, Anastasia Hadduk, quit her investment job soon after the war broke out and decides to volunteer at the station until the war ends and she can be reunited with her family in Ukraine.
The Romanian government is currently offering free train tickets to Ukrainian refugees arriving in Romania that they can use to travel to Hungary, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia and Bulgaria.
Trofimchuk said she was impressed by the warm welcome and the Romanian people’s display of solidarity with Ukraine.
“Every Romanian person wants to help. They are very friendly. And I was surprised by that. I am very happy that everyone wants to help,” said Trofimchuk.
About 5.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of Russia’s war on February 24, according to data from the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Most have entered countries on Ukraine’s western border: more than 3 million people have fled to Poland, while more than 817,000 others have fled Romania and about 520,000 crossed into Hungary, UNHCR figures show.
For some Ukrainian volunteers, their Saturday evening ritual is to attend a weekly demonstration at the Russian Embassy in Bucharest with Ukrainian residents and Romanians.
Station volunteers in Bucharest say they are now seeing an increase in the number of arrivals from Odessa following Russian missile attacks on the southern Ukrainian port city on the Black Sea.
But Trofimchuk dropped a recent protest, saying he expected people to come from his hometown.
“I will stay at the station as long as possible, because there may be people who need my help,” said Trofimchuk.
More Associated Press coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine and migration issues at https://apnews.com/hub/migration
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