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Ukraine's Refugees in Kyiv Not Ready to Go Home

  • Daniel Schearf

Talk of a possible cease-fire deal in eastern Ukraine has raised hopes for an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia rebels and government forces. But refugees who fled west to avoid the fighting are skeptical and have refused to return home.

United Nations estimates put the number of displaced by fighting in Ukraine's east at over one million.

While many flee across the Russian border, thousands also go west to makeshift refugee camps supported mainly by donations.

“We organized a hotline. People called, and we instructed them how to leave, where to go, and where to meet,” said Vyacheslav Zakharov, whose charity, Worldwide Help for Children of Ukraine, helped evacuate more than 4,000 people from conflict areas.

Hundreds now live at a rundown sanatorium once owned by the family of deposed president Viktor Yanukovych.

Volunteers took over the resort to house those who fled, according to head organizer, Zenoviy Dopilka. Although nicer than most refugee camps, he said they are not able to use all the facilities.

“We could start the saunas and the pool in this beautiful sanatorium but two boilers are not working. And providing hot water to the refugees is a priority,” Dopilka said.

Although many fled areas now controlled by government forces, they are refusing to go back home.

After several false cease-fires, many families have little faith that political leaders can establish a lasting peace with pro-Russia rebels.

“There were lots of negotiations but the war continues just as before. Nothing is stopping. And, I don't believe it will stop. I don't believe in cease-fires, absolutely,” said Katya, a refugee from Donetsk.

Oxana and her children have been living at the resort for two months but still hold out hope.

“I am not sure when I can go home but I want to really bad. I have hope, of course. But, my hope is for a miracle. Miracles should happen and peace should be restored,” she said.

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