Ukranians look to Poland-bound buses to escape Russian invasion

Kunihiko Miura / The Yomiuri Shimbun
The normally busy streets are quiet and many stores are closed in the town of Lviv, Ukraine, on Friday night.

LVIV, Ukraine — Since Friday, residents of Lviv near the Polish border in western Ukraine have been subject to a curfew that lasts from 10 p.m. to 6.a.m.

The curfew drastically alters the appearance of this beautiful city, which is registered as a World Heritage site. Street illuminations have disappeared and business and domestic lighting is turned off after 11:00 p.m. in the face of overnight air raids. The city becomes shrouded in darkness.

Until Wednesday, the streets were filled with people walking around. Since Thursday, however, when Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, people have disappeared from the streets, and stores have closed their shutters.

Sirens echo at dawn each day, and I witnessed hotel guests in nightclothes running from their rooms toward underground shelters.

Kunihiko Miura / The Yomiuri Shimbun
People wait for a Poland-bound bus to leave the terminal in Lviv on Saturday afternoon.

A number of countries have temporary embassy offices here in Lviv. The city is about 75 kilometers from the Polish border, and an increasing number of people have been fleeing from the eastern part of Ukraine since Thursday.

City authorities are on high alert for possible infiltration by Russian agents.

On Saturday, checkpoints were set up in different parts of Lviv. People entering and leaving the city are being checked amid the rising tension.

On the eve of the Russian invasion, Lviv seemed quiet and peaceful with citizens going about their daily lives as usual. “There’s nothing to worry about, nothing’s going to happen,” a 45-year-old local interpreter said to me.

Kunihiko Miura / The Yomiuri Shimbun
People gather in an underground shelter following an air-raid warning in Lviv on Saturday morning.

On Thursday morning, I received a phone call from a taxi driver whose services I had booked. “I’m really sorry,” he said. “My wife and I have decided to flee to the countryside.” He sounded panicked and quickly hung up the phone.

A long queue of people formed at the bus terminal ticket office on Saturday, desperate to secure a ticket Poland. An Ethiopian man in his 20s was able to buy a ticket from a scalper for $100; normally, such tickets cost just €16 (around $18). The man grasped the ticket firmly as he boarded the bus.

According to a different taxi driver, the road to the border with Poland has become congested, and people can only drive to within about 10 kilometers of the border. After that, they have to carry their own luggage and try to reach the border on foot.