The first thing mothers feel when they get off the train at the Polish line is relief. The second is shock, followed by a rush of emotion and gratitude. There, at the Przemysl station, are lines of empty strollers and car seats free for the Ukrainian refugees. Displaced families walk the rows of cardboard boxes filled with toys and stuffed animals, try on winter coats from the mounds of donations, and rummage through diapers and other necessities. It's the locals' way of saying: let us help.
Most of the Ukrainians arrive only with what they could carry -- others with even less. Volunteers at the station told CNN that the amount of donations from the Polish people was "overwhelming" and spread mainly by word of mouth. In Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary, relief groups race to meet growing demands for food, shelter, and medicine. Inside Ukraine, the situation is more dire. President Volodymyr Zelensky has been working around the clock to secure humanitarian corridors for his people, saying his heart "breaks" at what the Russians want to do to those who "need urgent help."
Chuck Holton, a freelance reporter for CBN, told listeners on "Washington Watch," that he was near the front lines this week and still saw people trying to flee. Even without a true ceasefire, he watched several families come out on foot and cross a broken down bridge, pointing out that many of them are "wounded or sick, aged and elderly... And the Russians opened fire on those people [Wednesday] afternoon and killed two, wound[ing] several others in that renewed fighting."
Back at the capital, Holton estimates that 95 percent of the people have left Kyiv. "So when you look out the window today, the sun was out. There are elderly people out walking their dogs. There are soldiers, and that's about the only two types of people that you see right now. But the grocery stores, some of them are open. There are smaller lines in the gas stations, so... life is going on here in Kyiv. And although we hear those air raid sirens on a daily basis, sometimes an hourly basis, really, all [the Russians] can put in here is long-range rockets from the far extent of their range, which makes them far less accurate. And that's one of the reasons why civilian areas are being hit so often."
Like most people, he thought the Russians would take Kyiv in the first 48 hours. Now, more than two weeks later, Holton says there are "no Russian troops within 25 kilometers" of the capital. The only way he believes Vladimir Putin could take the city is to flatten it. "It will take either a political solution, or they will actually have to destroy the city completely because there are massive blockades on every road. There are checkpoints, there are bunkers -- everything is fortified. The people here have had a lot of time to dig in, and they're ready. It would be like the siege of Stalingrad if the Russians actually think they're going to take this city by force."
Some of the locals who can't fight are spending their time driving back and forth between the Polish border, bringing medicine and aid for the babies and elderly. Others are "making Molotov cocktails, sewing camouflage nets for barricades, distributing food, hot drinks, and cigarettes to those standing guard. They are raising money for the military, building more roadblocks, and even painting over traffic signs in an attempt to confuse invading forces."
They're also preparing for widespread outages -- phone, internet, heat, and electricity -- by setting up networks of neighbors to help each other inside Kyiv's borders. "You don't see fear in their eyes," Holton agrees, but the stakes are high. Eric Patterson, executive vice president of the Religious Freedom Institute, worries what Putin could do to the people of faith if he succeeds. "Russia has a uniquely hostile view towards religious minorities in the country when it comes to Ukraine," he explained on "Washington Watch." "Yes, this is a concern in a variety of ways. One is simply that we've seen attacks, bombs dropped, churches destroyed in eastern parts of Ukraine already. But over time, what we've seen is that if Russia exerts control in an area, it starts to squeeze out those religious minorities because it doesn't see them as having full allegiance to Moscow. And that's a problem..."
For now, the focus is on getting Ukrainians the help they need now. "I'm just getting inundated by people in the states who want to come over and do something... And what I'm telling them is go to Poland, go to some of these European countries, because there are literally millions of Ukrainians there now who had to pick up and leave at a moment's notice and don't have anything to rely on over there, except the generosity of the people in those countries. So there's so much need out there right now, and that's where you can be the most help." If you can't go, give to an organization on the ground like Samaritan's Purse, CBN's Operation Blessing, or others.
Above all, pray -- for the Ukrainians, for our leaders, and for a peaceful resolution to this devastating conflict.