6/6 © Reuters. A general view shows a primary school sports hall converted into temporary accommodation for people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Przemysl, Poland, March 19, 2022. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch 2/6

By Mari Saito

PRZEMYSL, Poland (Reuters) – Ukrainian mothers and their young children found refuge in an ornate theater in the Polish border town of Przemysl on Saturday, where they could rest after their harrowing journey.

For Tanya, a 34-year-old from Berdychiv in northern Ukraine, it was a relief to finally have some help with her five young children after their long journey to Poland.

Tanya, who did not give her last name, had stayed in her house until it was no longer possible to protect her children from the war.

“I tried to protect them from all this. When the alarm went off, I covered the windows with blankets so they couldn’t hear it. My little ones were a monster, the siren monster,” she said.

Her children ran around her as she stood in the theater, which is hidden in the Ukrainian cultural center of the Polish city. In the theater about 50 refugees slept side by side under borrowed blankets on fold-out cots. Children in colorful clothes danced and played on the stage flooded by theater lights as their exhausted mothers chatted nearby.

In a makeshift kindergarten next to the theater, Olga Pavlovska from Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine said she was relieved to finally be in a quiet place without air raids and sirens.

“At least we’re safe here. No air raid warnings, no turmoil,” said Pavlovska, 28, as her two rambunctious sons chased each other around a table and knocked over a box of toys.

“My child slept very badly the first night. He woke up a lot, cried a lot, but now everything is fine. He slept very well, really very well. Right Vovka?” she asked one of her sons.

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