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Volunteers are anticipated at St. Petersburg centers for Ukrainian refugees

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Centers for refugees from Ukraine and department of Federal Migration Service need volunteers. The flow of people is huge, ordinary employees cannot handle so many.

Elena Boldysheva made sure that even school pupils in St. Petersburg are ready to help those in need.

Anna, refugee: “They’re reporting that Gorlovka is bombed. The whole town is under fire. Building entrances are riddled with bullet holes. Apartments are destroyed by bombs”

These are shots of Gorlovka bombing. July 27th. A month before that, 13-year old Anya and her mother Mariya managed to leave the town. They’re learning of terrible things happening in their hometown from those who have stayed there.

Mariya, refugee: “People started disappearing. They went to work and then they were gone. Its unknown where they are”

Mariya is afraid to show her face. In May, she took part in the referendum in the status of Donetsk People’s Republic. 

Mariya, refugee: “It was unsafe, My child didn’t go to school in May”

Help came unexpectedly. Tatyana from St. Petersburg posted online an invitation for the refugees to live at her place – free of charge.

Tatyana, resident of St. Petersburg: “It was heartbreaking to see videos of mothers fleeing with their children” 

Tatyana also paid for accommodation in Rostov and for transportation - helping out completely unknown people.

Tatyana, resident of St. Petersburg: “We hugged as a family. Some say letting unknown people stay at your place is uncomfortable. I don’t understand that”

Three housewives fit into the kitchen. Its cozy. Flowers at the windowsill. Small courtyard at the Petrogradka. Quiet. But Mariya does not want to abuse hospitality – she’s looking for a room for herself and her daughter. Found a job as an administrator at a hotel. Works one day on, one day off.

The vacancy ad was posted by Daniil – owner of mini-hotels newtwork. Job vacancies aside, he also offered his house in the Leningrad region to refugees – free of charge – as well as several rooms in communal flats. Several families from Ukraine lived in this apartment at Goncharnaya Street. Daniil says there is a lucky room here. All those who stayed in it quickly found jobs and accommodation.

Daniil Samsonov, businessman: “I bought a flat, the documents are still being processed. But they let me live in the rooms earlier, so I gave them to refugees. There’s nothing in it, because there are those who need it. Just gave it to them and that’s it. Nothing heroic. I have a man living in a hostel, who said that he saw mothers of rebels shot dead in Slavyansk. He is from Kramatorsk”

This young man is also staying at Daniil’s hotel. He fled Ukraine because he didn’t want to go to war against his own people

Refugee: “They really are shooting people. Or breaking feet or arms. They throw people into pits. And this guy – he’s just like me. Imagine – he’ll be thrown into a pit if he doesn’t pull the trigger”

The Smolyachkova Street. Every morning hundreds of refugees gather at the doors of the Federal Migration Service building. Electronic cues were abolished. Everyone is being admitted in a real-time line. Its quicker.

Temporary asylum status takes only three days to register. The refugee status is a bit more difficult to obtain – at least a month for the decision.

Eduard Khorkov, head of immigration control department: “Volunteer help is acute for us. The flow of people is huge. We take 400-500 people each day”

Young people work a full day here. Nobody’s paying them for this.

By 1pm almost 200 people filed in their documents. People come according to lists they made for themselves. The main thing is to get to the meeting with the authorities. In St. Petersburg, Ukrainians can get employed straight after they have submitted their documents.

Nobody knows how many more refugees will come to St. Petersburg. It depends on how events in Ukraine would develop. Meanwhile, refugee centers are expecting more volunteers – those who can and are willing to help. 

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