Prolonged Russian Ukraine Conflict Leads to Higher Refugee Efforts

Olivia Allery, news editor 

It has been almost a year since Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, and it shows no signs of ending soon. Attacks from Russia, hitting mostly in the southeastern region of Ukraine, have only been increasing these past few weeks and are weakening Ukraine’s defense on the eastern borders. Cities like Vuhledar, Kharkiv, Kupiansk, Vovchansk, Strilecha, Dvorichna have been attacked by Russian air missiles and caused significant damage to civilian homes and buildings. CNN also reports that the Russian military along with Putin’s mercenary force, composed of thousands of Russian prisoners, have seen an increase of brutality and relentlessness within its own soldiers and their attacks on Ukraine. 

As the attacks from Russian forces ramp up, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked continuously for support from countries in NATO along with the European Union (EU) military assistance. On Jan. 25, the United States and Germany, who proclaimed allies with Ukraine, sent a total of 31 advanced Abrams tanks to Ukraine; however, despite this support Zelensky is still asking for more. A summit was held in the Ukrainian capitol of Kyiv, where high ranking officials of the EU proclaimed additional financial and political support. 

According to MPR news, since last February the conflict has forced over 15 million Ukrainians to flee the country and seek refuge all across the world. This has caused what is now Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II. As a direct response the United States has increased the cap on the amount of refugees to 125,000, providing additional sanctuary to those displaced by the Ukrainian conflict. Services around the Twin Cities, such as Ukrainian Community Center and Lutheran Social Services International Institute of Minnesota, have allowed for temporary assistance and residency for Ukrainian refugees. 

Seniors Adrian Cerrato and Madison Gowens in the Augsburg social work department have been working as interns at Lutheran Social Services, providing direct services, such as food stamps and housing services, for refugees and parolees of Minneapolis. Both Cerrato and Gowens shared their experiences of working directly with Ukrainian refugees and their families as the conflict has gone on. 

“Displacement is very hard on the psychology of the refugees,” says Cerrato, “not only have they lost their homes in their own country but now they are also in need of home here and need to readapt to their environment.” 

“Many have been killed and are experiencing loss of family members as well,” says Gowens. “Many have lost their husbands and fathers because men who are within the age range have had to stay back and fight the war.” 

Working with refugees has led Cerrato to see how the U.S. is lacking in terms of fully supporting refugees as they navigate the U.S, Cerrato comments, “I will say the United States is not addressing full capability of each of the refugees, say if there’s an emergency situation of someone comes in with pre-existing conditions, because of the bureaucracy and how the U.S. has set up refugee services they will need additional services and the timeline to receive services will much longer for them.” 

Cerrato also says that this conflict will be going on for a while “Even from the refugee perspective, many do not think the conflict will be over soon,” says Cerrato. “Many have expressed that there has been underlying tension going on for years before the invasion even happened.”