The Main Buryatia Portal reported that on August 14, the first plane with Ukrainian refugees landed at Baikal Airport with a two-hour delay. Passengers were greeted by a crowd of representatives from various institutions and administrations; their number probably exceeded that of the refugees themselves.
The Portal writes: “As the aircraft landed, members of the welcoming committee took their seats, and a minute later the hall was filled with Ukrainian “guests”. Tired after a nine-hour flight from Simferopol to Ulan-Ude via Orenburg, surprised by the scorching Buryat sun, they waved happily to the awaiting crowd. The refugees were met by eight buses that were supposed to take them to the Svetly Sanatorium. But, the refugees were in no hurry to get on the buses.”
“War has forced these people to leave their homes and travel far to get away from chaos and famine. Most do not even know where they are headed. Some are worried about their jobs: “I’m a teacher of Ukrainian language and literature. Well, do you think I’ll really be needed here?”, “Is there a mineshaft near the Svetly Sanatorium?” – questions in the crowd.
Neither the representatives of the Ministry of Social Welfare nor the refugees themselves know exactly how long they will stay in Buryatia. According to one refugees, the authorities have a definite programme, but they refuse to announce it; they are implementing one phase at a time. No one wants to stay in our hospitable republic forever…
Tired of talking to the media, standing in the scorching sun, and listening to the “overly-polite” administrators, our guests begin dispersing through the airport – some for a smoke, others to relax in the shade. Here, we overhear the most interesting conversations:
“What the hell? Why were we “exiled” here? I thought I’d be really close to home, could get in touch with friends easily, even hop over sometimes… but here I am in this Ulan-Ude (third largest in eastern Siberia – Ed.)!” shouts an indignant man loudly, as he smokes his third cigarette.
What’s up with this guy? Didn’t he learn any geography?
Sure, maybe our “Ulan-Ude” is not very well known, but people should know the word “Baikal” and the name of the airport, that these places are quite far from Ukraine. As it turns out, this man learned some geography, but when he was filling in the flight documents, he thought he was flying to Anapa (town in Krasnodar Krai, Russia, located on the northern coast of the Black Sea near the Sea of Azov-Ed.). And he’s not the only one.
“We also thought that we were going to Anapa, but this is how it turned out. We had no choice; we had nowhere else to go, in fact.” said the miners in a chorus as they leaned out of the bus windows.
More… It turned out that the refugees were literally “recruited” to get on that flight. They explained that while they were staying in temporary shelters, people approached them and strongly urged them to leave.
“We need about 40 more people on board, they said. They’ve got some kind of plan for refugees in Buryatia…” say the Ukrainians stuck in Buryatia.
Despite such a “misunderstanding”, most of these residents of south-eastern Ukraine are quite happy with the conditions. “They say that at least the sun is hotter here.” concludes the Buryat newspaper.
Previously, the Informatsionnoye Sopritivleniye Group (Information and Resistance Group-Ed.) reported that the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Ukraine estimates the number of refugees from Crimea and Donbas at more than 109.000.
Translated by Christine Chraibi