Representatives of cities and towns neighbouring Ukraine gathered in San Marino for the 83rd session of the UN Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management.

Photo by UNHCR/Moscow. A refugee family from Ukraine awaits registration in Poland. Archive photo

“During the most difficult first months [of the war], 90 per cent of the burden of hosting refugees fell on Chisinau,” said the mayor of the Moldovan capital, Ion Ceban. – I have never seen such solidarity in my life. Not a single person was left without a roof over their head, without hot meal, without support.

Moldova has received more than 90,000 Ukrainian refugees, with about ten thousand people temporarily settled in Chisinau. The deputy mayor of the Moldovan town of Ungheni, Dionisi Ternovschi, said the influx of refugees took the city authorities by surprise, but Moldovans welcomed the arrivals into their homes.

Юная беженка из Украины в Кишиневе, Молдова.

Andrzej Porawski, head of the Association of Polish Cities, told colleagues that the Polish city of Przemyśl, with a population of 60,000, had received six thousand refugees. Many of those who arrived chose to stay in this border town because of its proximity to home, hoping to return to their homes as soon as possible. In the meantime, bilingual classes have been set up in Przemyśl schools. A total of 1.4 million Ukrainian refugees have found asylum in Poland, more than in any other of Ukraine’s neighbouring countries.

Since February, 1.4 million Ukrainians have arrived in Bucharest, Romania’s capital, and some of them have settled here, Deputy Mayor Horia Tomescu has said. In the summer, the city authorities, together with UNICEF, opened language schools for Ukrainian refugee children in Bucharest. People were also helped to find jobs and to set up housing. All these programmes, a mayoral representative said, were rather of an emergency nature; Bucharest needs support to implement longer-term plans, he said.

New opportunities

But the arrival of Ukrainian refugees promises not only difficulties but also new opportunities for these cities. Andrzej Porawski notes that Polish cities have the second-highest population decline rate in Europe. And before the war, about 1.5 million Ukrainian migrants worked in Poland, mostly engineers and representatives of other professions requiring high qualifications. The bulk of the arrivals are concentrated in big cities, but smaller Polish settlements are also ready to accept refugees and are even waiting for them. “We have never uttered the word “problem”, we talk about difficulties and opportunities”, stressed Tomaz Frzolek, head of an NGO uniting 350 localities in Poland.