A Vancouver Island-based global author and analyst who has been reporting directly from western Ukraine for the past week says the situation is growing increasingly tense and frightening.
“Lviv is starting to look like a city under siege,” Michael Bociurkiw, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and former spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told Black Press Media in a message sent Monday night Ukrainian time.
The country continues to resist Russian attacks, which began last Thursday.
A resident of Sidney, Bociurkiw spent almost a month in Ukraine, including Kyiv “when it was quiet”, before moving to his current location in Lviv. “He was safer, he was untouched,” he said.
But that’s not to say the wider effects of the war have bypassed the city. Due to its size and proximity to the Polish border, the historic town – Bociurkiw describes it as “an open-air museum” – has become a staging post for Western aid arriving in Ukraine. It is also a transit point for people from other parts of Ukraine seeking refuge in neighboring NATO and European Union member states.
The town also has a personal meaning for Bociurkiw.
“It’s the region where my parents come from,” he says. “Obviously I have a lot of affection for this place, a lot of feeling of connection. But we are very afraid that it will be perceived as a prize by the Russians. It contains a lot of symbolism and I see today (Monday ) much more congestion People coming from the east, other parts of Ukraine, heading to the Polish border or staying here.
He described the situation at the border as a humanitarian crisis. “We’ve heard of waits of up to 40 hours to cross and it’s only a two to three hour drive from Lviv.”
As hundreds of thousands of people seek to cross the border, temperatures are dropping, he added.
“There is snow on the ground. It is very, very, very bad for anyone, especially women, children and the elderly, to have spent time in the cold. So one of the things I’m advocating is the immediate opening of a humanitarian corridor, so that the most vulnerable can leave without having to go through checkpoints and all.
Other more immediate aspects of the life around him also change. “It’s getting harder and harder to get cash, many places don’t accept credit cards,” he said.
Bociurkiw’s message also suggests that a sense of helplessness has gripped the city.
“A lot of us are shaking our heads,” he said. “We cannot believe what is happening in the year 2022 at the gates of Europe.”
Personally, things are getting tougher, said Bociurkiw, who has worked in several international hotspots in the past, including in the Middle East in Turkey, Israel; Sudan, Tajikistan-Afghanistan border, Pakistan and Myanmar.
“I’m kinda lucky in the sense that I can use my platform to tell the world what’s going on,” he said. “I also speak Ukrainian, I understand the language (and) I have a lot of Ukrainian friends who give me information. So that was very helpful.
That said, fatigue sets in after a while. “I try to employ the techniques I’ve learned over the years on the pitch…to make time to eat, sleep and see friends. But the situation is changing. »
He has a small bag of personal items with him in case he needs to flee.
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