“Your families are being looked after”

18 March 2022

Three million refugees and counting. That’s one indicator of the impact of the war in Ukraine – a war being fought on European soil.

That’s also about equal to the entire population of Kyiv, or the entire population of Warsaw. Three weeks ago, that is. In Warsaw, around 300,000 Ukrainians have already arrived, or passed through. It’s hard to tell exactly how many people are in either city today.

The flows of people moving West continue. The human impact, though lives lost, lives displaced, livelihoods buried, is incalculable. Three million is incalculable. The Russian advance is incalculable.

Yet, despite fear of the unknown, Ukrainians stay.

On a call yesterday with Mayors and Deputy Mayors from Barcelona, Braga, Florence, Ghent, Leipzig, Nantes, Oslo, Paris, Rome, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Vienna and Warsaw, Vitali Klitschko, Mayor of Kyiv found the time to recount the situation in his city.

He told a story about one 60-year-old resident whose home was destroyed this week, who asked the Mayor what he could do now. For his part, the Mayor offered assistance: to move the man, and his family to the West of Ukraine, to find schools.

“I don’t want to leave my hometown, my relatives, my friends live here” was the response.

All across this war-ravaged country, others are staying too.

Mayor Klitschko, who also leads the Ukrainian association of municipalities, spoke on behalf of around 1,000 local politicians, and thanked the mayors for their support to date. He highlighted the civilian aspect of the war, including the kidnapping of mayors, and said that more aid is still needed: food, water, medical supplies, first and foremost, as well as weapons and political support.

The incalculable challenges of war mean that no one can tell what the next days, weeks, and months will bring. People are not sleeping well; and they’re spending a lot of time in bunkers, according to the mayor. While aid corridors remain open, Ukraine is asking for help.

United front

It is Polish cities that have taken in the majority of refugees; Rafał Trzaskowski, Mayor of Warsaw, and others where refugees have already been received wanted Mayor Klitschko to know that Ukrainians are being looked after. Nonetheless, all cities represented on the call underlined their commitment to welcoming further refugees, and to sending the much-needed aid.

Vienna, for example, has sent at least 16 trucks loaded with items such as medical material, including protective equipment for hospital staff; humanitarian supplies, such as hospital beds stretchers and ultrasound equipment; and relief goods such as clothing, blankets and pillows to cities in both Ukraine and Moldova.

Rotterdam is making itself ready to accept up to 4,000 Ukrainian refugees, and, as Europe’s largest port, the city is also a site of more geopolitical concern in the European-Russian relationship, as the EU has already banned the import of certain goods.

Last Saturday 12 March, more than 150 cities rallied to show their support for Ukraine, sending a common message: no to war.

In his response to the mayors’ united support for Ukraine, Mayor Klitschko noted that they should not underestimate their political power, to send a united message, and to reach out to national governments, as well as the EU.

Joint call to action – 100 mayors

The Mayor of Gdansk, Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, launched an appeal this week for local-level politicians to express their solidarity with Ukraine, and call on national and European counterparts to:

  • Force the Russian government to open humanitarian corridors;
  • Swiftly adopt decisions concerning the refugees’ reception and relocation in Europe
  • Stop all trade relations with Russia and Belarus until the Russian army withdraws from Ukraine

The petition can still be signed here.
The text of the resolution can be read here.


Alex Godson Eurocities Writer