ZAHONY, Hungary (AP) — The violin was so beloved by Myroslava Sherbina that it was the only item she took when she fled Ukraine, along with the clothes she was wearing. But the instrument has remained silent since the beginning of the Russian invasion of his country.
“I didn’t want to play so I could hear the sirens and we could go to the air raid shelter,” said Sherbina, 20.
She is among more than 1.7 million people who have fled Ukraine in what the United Nations calls Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II. The number is up from 1.5 million on Sunday, the UN refugee agency said.
Sherbina spoke at a train station in Hungary, one of dozens of musicians from the Ukraine Youth Symphony Orchestra who are now refugees. They were on their way to Slovenia on a joint evacuation mission with a Slovenian orchestra.
Cellos, violins, violas and other instruments lay on the train platform beside their bewildered young owners. Train delays of several hours caused by the influx of Ukrainians to the borders meant that around 30 musicians were still missing.
“There is a group of around 90 people coming to this particular station,” said Uros Dokl, a Slovenian volunteer who traveled the 665 kilometers (413 miles) to greet the orchestra members. “Not all of them are members of the orchestra, but they are young people who play music, and young people of course need to be guided.”
Sherbina, the violinist, said she was confident the war in Ukraine would end soon and she would return home. Until then, she will hone her skills in Slovenia, a country she has never visited.
“I want to feel safe so I can train, and not think that a bomb might drop and ruin my house,” she said.
Some 4 million people could flee Ukraine if the Russian offensive continues, according to the UN. On Monday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, called for the mobilization of “all resources” from the 27-nation bloc to help host countries.
Two Czech army convoys were on their way to neighboring Slovakia to help. “We didn’t have to think twice and immediately responded to the Slovak request,” Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova said. The temporary base will be able to accommodate up to 400 people.
A cardinal sent by Pope Francis on a mission to promote peace has traveled to the Polish-Ukrainian border to meet refugees. It will highlight “the sad similarity between the suffering of Ukrainians and the protracted conflicts that no longer attract the attention of the world,” the Vatican said, citing the Pope’s frequent denunciation of suffering in the wars in Ethiopia, Yemen and in Syria.
Uncertainty and relief continued along the border among the thousands of arriving Ukrainians. Many were wrapped in blankets. Some were holding small children. They were looking for the basic necessities: food, shelter, sleep, support.
Under a canopy next to the train station in the Hungarian border town of Zahony, Tamas Marghescu stirred a cauldron of traditional meat stew. As an outdoor enthusiast and Hungarian director of the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation, he called the meal well-suited for those who have been shivering for hours at the border.
“When you’re at home watching the news, you feel so helpless,” said his wife, Ilona. “It’s… important for people when they get off those trains to have someone smiling at them and to know that there are people here who care.”
The couple said they felt responsible for helping those who had fled. Ilona’s parents left Hungary for Australia during World War II. Marghescu’s family fled Soviet rule twice, after the 1948 war and again after the brutal Soviet crackdown on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
“My parents still tell me stories about when they were refugees and they were taken care of,” Marghescu said. His wildlife organization has set up similar outdoor kitchens on the Polish, Slovak and Romanian borders with Ukraine.
“It’s a traditional meal and it’s cooked with love,” his wife said.
In Moldova, some families have opened houses for refugees. “It was a natural and beautiful process,” said Sabina Nadejdin, who is hosting pregnant Anastacsia Luybimova and her three young children. Like most other men, Luybimova’s husband remained in Ukraine. Raising her hand from her belly, she showed off a heart-shaped tattoo she and her husband had on their ring fingers when they got married.
Poland, where more than a million refugees have arrived, on Monday approved legislation offering them financial assistance and allowing them to stay legally in the country for 18 months. Helping Ukrainians is the biggest challenge Poland has faced in decades, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said, and efforts “can only be spontaneous”.
At the Przemysl station, near the Medyka border crossing, the main entry point into Poland, the hall was packed and a banner in Ukrainian read: “Here you are safe”.
A 17-year-old Polish volunteer, Zuzana Koseva, described the refugees as “just very, very tired, terrified and confused because they don’t know what to expect”.
Volunteers were trying to organize food and a warm tent, she said. She was moved by the exhausted mothers and sometimes confused little children.
“They are happy with a candy, so it’s just amazing,” Koseva said.
A mother held a child to her chest and, closing her eyes in what might be a prayer, touched their foreheads together.
Associated Press reporters from across Europe contributed to this report.
Follow AP coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine