The Youth Orchestra of Ukraine is now a refugee

DETACHMENTS – Miroslav Sherbin fell in love with the violin so much that she took it with her, fleeing from Ukraine, together with her clothes.

But the instrument was silent from the beginning Russia’s invasion her country. “I didn’t want to play to hear the sirens and go to the bomb shelter,” the 20-year-old Sherbina said.

It is among more than 1.5 million people who fled Ukraine in what the United Nations calls the fastest growing in Europe refugee crisis since World War II.

Sherbina spoke to the Associated Press at the railway station in Hungary, one of dozens of musicians of the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, who are now refugees. But that was not the end of their journey. They were heading to Slovenia as part of a joint evacuation mission with a Slovenian orchestra.

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Cellos, violins, violas and other instruments lay on the platform of the train next to the young and disoriented hosts. Hours of train delays caused by Ukrainians jumping to the border have led to the fact that about 30 musicians are still missing.

“A group of about 90 people is coming to this particular station,” said Uras Dokl, a volunteer from Slovenia who has traveled 665 kilometers (413 miles) to greet the band. “Not all of them are members of the orchestra, but they are young people involved in music, and young people certainly need leadership.”

Sherbina’s violin said she was confident that the war in Ukraine would end soon and she would be able to return home. Until then, she will hone her skills in Slovenia, a country she has never visited.

“I want to feel safe so I can practice and not think a bomb could fall and destroy my house,” she said.

About 4 million people could leave Ukraine if Russia’s offensive continues, the UN said. On Monday, EU foreign policy chief Joseph Barrel called for mobilizing “all the resources” of the bloc from 27 countries to help welcoming countries.

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Uncertainty and relief continued at the border as thousands of arriving Ukrainians were greeted by strangers offering help. Many were wrapped in blankets. Some grabbed young children. Their priorities were to provide basic necessities: food, shelter, sleep, support.

Under a canopy near the train station in the Hungarian border town of Záhony, Tamas Margescu stirred a large cauldron of traditional stews, preparing for hundreds of hungry refugees.

As a tourist and director of Hungary’s International Council for the Conservation of Wildlife, he called the food well-suited to the needs of those who trembled for hours queuing at the border.

“When you watch the news at home, you feel so helpless,” said his wife, Ilona. “And it’s not that it’s such a big act, but for people when they get off the trains, it’s important that someone smiles at them and knows that there are people here who don’t care.”

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The couple said they felt obliged to help those who escaped. Ilona’s parents emigrated from Hungary to Australia during World War II, while the Margescu family twice fled Soviet rule, after the 1948 war and again after the brutal Soviet repression during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

“My parents still tell me stories about when they were refugees and cared for,” Margescu said. His wildlife organization has set up similar street kitchens on the Polish, Slovak and Romanian borders with Ukraine.

“This is a traditional dish cooked with love,” said his wife.

At the Medica border crossing in Poland, 17-year-old Polish volunteer Zuzana Koseva called the refugees “just very, very tired, scared and confused because they don’t know what to expect.”

Volunteers tried to arrange food and a warm tent for them, she said. She was moved by exhausted mothers and small, sometimes confused, children.

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“They are happy with one delicacy, so it’s just amazing,” Koseva said.

One mother put the child to her breast and, closing her eyes to what might be a prayer, touched their foreheads.

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Associated Press reporters across Europe have contributed.

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Follow the coverage of the crisis in Ukraine in the AP /hub/russia-ukraine

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