Nearly 40% of those who fled the conflict with Russia have made return trips
Nearly four in ten of the Ukrainians taking refuge across western Europe have reportedly felt safe enough to travel back and forth between their temporary homes and their native country, making trips for visits with relatives, medical appointments and other endeavors.
More than two million such refugees have made teh journey home since fleeing the fighting in Ukraine in 2022, according to a survey by the United Nations Refugee Agency. The study, first reported by the New York Times on Tuesday, found that around 300,000 of the displaced Ukrainians had gone back to their home country for health care procedures.
“Medicine is just better in Ukraine,” 39-year-old refugee Liudmyla Gurenchuk told the newspaper. “It’s cheaper, it’s faster,” and the doctors are more attentive. “That’s why I come every time I can.”
Gurenchuk, who is living with her 7-year-old son in the French Riviera, is among more than 5.8 million Ukrainians who have been given temporary homes in other European countries amid the conflict with Russia. Among those, 62% want to return to Ukraine at some point in the future, and 14% intend to go back within the next three months, the UN study found. The remaining 24%, or about 1.4 million people, are either undecided or have no intention of returning.
Trains crossing back into Ukraine are often packed with families during school holidays, in many cases to visit the men left behind when the country’s government banned adult males under 60 from leaving, NYT said. Others go back for such purposes as checking on their property or obtaining official documents.
The scale of return visits to Ukraine by refugees is unusual for a major conflict and reflects the fact that large swaths of the country remain accessible and relatively unscathed by the fighting, the newspaper said. For many of those who return, it’s about “rebuilding a relationship with your homeland without being completely resettled,” Paris Nanterre University sociologist Ioulia Shukan told the outlet.
The UN Refugee Agency survey found that only 43% of Ukrainian refugees in the EU are employed. About two out of three are receiving financial assistance, but just 35% said they have enough income to meet most of their needs.