A day at Gara de Nord: Supporting refugees from Ukraine during their journey

By Angela Hill, Canadian Red Cross communications delegate in Romania
The Gara de Nord train station in Bucharest is a busy place; it’s Romania’s main rail connection point with the rest of Europe. Since the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, thousands of people fleeing the conflict have passed through this station.
Romanian Red Cross team members assist refugees from Ukraine at the borderThe Romanian Red Cross with its partners runs a quiet refuge in the midst of the bustle, a place for women and children to wait for connecting trains or other travel onward.
Olena travels with her 3-year-old son Marat, her sister, Irina, and her nephews, Yaroslav, 7, and Rostyslav, 1. Mid-afternoon they arrive, one stop in a multi-day journey from where they were staying in Bulgaria via Hungary to Italy.  
The kids play with a ball on colourful mats. Through a translator, Olena speaks about how difficult it is to figure out what to do next – wishing she could go home to rejoin her husband and second son, but also thinking ahead to September when she’ll have to enroll her 3-year-old in kindergarten.
The Red Cross provides the family with dinner, food for the train, and a suitcase so they can store the warm clothes they wore when they fled in March – items that are increasingly unneeded as the weather warms up.
Romanian Red Cross team members gathered on their phonesAt the station, Red Cross volunteers help to arrange tickets for onward travel, and make sure people know where and when to catch the next train.
“We are trying to help the Ukrainian refugees in all the ways we can. From handing them necessary products, food, to showing them how to buy tickets, or how to reach the tent to get medicines [and see] the doctors, or how to get transportation. Anything that they ask us that we can do,” says Anca Dumitrescu, Romanian Red Cross volunteer.
In the waiting room, strangers quickly become friends as refugees from Ukraine share stories, pass on advice, and realize they will be on the same train to Budapest. Olena speaks with another young mom who left Ukraine with her children when the medicines they required were no longer available. She constantly checks her phone for updates from friends and her mother who she has left behind.
Another young family comes in, a mother, two children and a small pet dog. The dog runs around the play area, much to the delight of Marat and the other children, whose shrieks of laughter show that for a moment they can be kids again.
At 9:30 p.m. these new communities pack up and start towards the platform. Red Cross volunteers make sure the families are safely on their way, before preparing for the next arrivals.
People living in Canada wishing to make a financial donation to the Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal can do so online, by calling 1-800-418-1111, or by texting UKRAINE to 20222 to donate $10.

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