Portugal Colonial - 'Terrified' Ukrainians reach relatives in Greece

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'Terrified' Ukrainians reach relatives in Greece
'Terrified' Ukrainians reach relatives in Greece

'Terrified' Ukrainians reach relatives in Greece

Tightly clutching her orange tabby cat to her chest, a 15-year-old girl joins hundreds of fellow Ukrainians waiting to be issued emergency refugee documents at the Greek border.

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"I'm terrified of the war. I want this to end quickly so I can go back home," she says.

She has just spent 25 hours on a coach from the western Ukrainian city of Lviv to the Greek-Bulgarian border crossing of Promachonas.

She declines to give her name. The male cat looks petrified and has shed part of its fur.

Over 4,600 refugees from Ukraine have reached Greece since the Russian invasion according to Greek police statistics, including over 1,400 children.

They are among more than 1.7 million people who UN data show have fled the conflict.

Greece has also repatriated nearly 200 of its own nationals including sailors and journalists from Kyiv, Mariupol and Odessa, according to the Greek foreign ministry.

Some are members of an ethnic Greek community of over 100,000 that traces its roots to Black Sea settlers in the 6th century BCE.

Nearly a dozen ethnic Greeks were killed in two villages early in the invasion in what Athens said were Russian airstrikes. Moscow blames the deaths on Ukrainian forces and irregulars.

"Greece is ready to receive Ukrainians and ethnic Greeks coming to our country as war refugees... as a rule, Ukrainians usually go where they have relatives or acquaintances," Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi told Open TV this week.

Greece is issuing temporary residence permits to Ukrainian refugees, who will be able to stay and work in the country for one year.

There are already some 25,000 Ukrainians living in Greece, Mitarachi said, with many employed as household staff and construction workers.

At the Promachonas border crossing, Ukrainian consulate staff are helping to issue registration documents to those who fled without passports.

Around five kilometres (3.1 miles) from the border, Greek authorities have prepared a container camp that previously housed migrants for short-term accommodation.

"The camp can house people for two or three days. We have stockpiled food. So far, a few dozen people have stayed over," said a camp employee.

But most people prefer to go straight to the homes of friends and family.

- 'Frozen and scared' -

"People are frozen and scared," said Yiannis, a 52-year-old entrepreneur who has lived in the western Ukrainian city of Khmelnytskyi for the past 20 years, marrying a Ukrainian woman with whom he has an eight-year-old son.

"There are over 10,000 people gathered on the border with Romania and most of them want to come to Greece," he said.

"May God help stop this war."

The migration ministry has said that Greece can accommodate some 30,000 people from Ukraine.

Mitarachi this week said thousands of beds were immediately available in unoccupied migrant camps in the north of the country.

With EU funding, Greece would also be able to provide hotel accommodation, he said.

The Greek government has also said there are over 140,000 jobs available in the agriculture sector and some 50,000 in tourism.

- 'Fearing death every day' -

Albina Koshariuk, 25, is among those hoping to work in the Greek travel sector.

"My mother has been living on the island of Crete in recent years. I will go to Athens initially and then settle there," she says.

"I could no longer live in Ukraine in the shelters, fearing death every day."

"(Russian President Vladimir) Putin is a murderer. I will return to keep on fighting. We will win," he says.