From Ukraine to Moldova: Escaping the bombs in Mykolaiv

Ukrainian refugees in Palanca

Ukraine 2022 © Maxime Fossat/MSF

At the Palanca border crossing in Moldova, thousands of Ukrainians are arriving every day to escape fighting in the south of Ukraine. As of March 8, more than 230,000 refugees have arrived in this small country of 2.6 million people. Less than half of them have stayed in Moldova, as the majority are in transit heading for Romania, Poland, and other destinations in Europe. 

Those arriving in Palanca are mainly from Mykolaiv, a blockaded town 130 kilometers (80 miles) east of Odesa and a target of intense bombing. Entire families—mainly women, children, and the elderly—often wait several hours in sub-zero temperatures before being allowed to cross the border. Volunteers welcome them with tea, food, and tents to protect them from the wind. 

Every day, dozens of people suffering from physical deterioration due to chronic diseases—hypertension in particular—are being treated at the medical post located at the Moldovan border. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has set up a medical center in Palanca to support the Moldovan teams already on site and to offer psychological first aid.

Sergei, 32 years old, is from Mykolaiv. After several days of bombing, he took his pregnant wife and six-year-old son to safety in Poland before returning to Ukraine. Today, he leaves Ukraine through Moldova to join his family. He is one of the few men allowed to leave the country. Because he was treated for hepatitis C in Mykolayiv by MSF, he was discharged by the military on medical grounds. He shares his story in the video below.