According to a survey by the United Nations Refugee Agency, nearly four in ten of the Ukrainians have taken refuge across Europe. They reportedly felt safe enough to travel back and forth between their temporary homes and their native country, making trips for visits with relatives, medical appointments and other endeavors. More than two million refugees have made visits back home since fleeing the fighting in Ukraine in 2022.
The study found that around 300,000 of the displaced Ukrainians had gone back to their home country for health care procedures. One of the refugees, Liudmyla Gurenchuk, who is living with her 7-year-old son in the French Riviera, cited the better medical care in Ukraine as one of the reasons for returning. She said, “Medicine is just better in Ukraine. It’s cheaper, it’s faster, and the doctors are more attentive. That’s why I come every time I can.”
The survey revealed that 62% of the refugees want to return to Ukraine at some point in the future, and 14% intend to go back within the next three months. On the other hand, the remaining 24%, or about 1.4 million people, are either undecided or have no intention of returning.
Trains crossing back into Ukraine are often packed with families during school holidays, in many cases to visit the men left behind when the country’s government banned adult males under 60 from leaving. Others go back for purposes such as checking on their property or obtaining official documents. This scale of return visits to Ukraine by refugees is unusual for a major conflict and reflects the fact that large swaths of the country remain accessible and relatively unscathed by the fighting.
Only 43% of Ukrainian refugees in the EU are employed according to the UN Refugee Agency survey. About two out of three are receiving financial assistance, but just 35% said they have enough income to meet most of their needs. The scale of return visits to Ukraine by refugees is unusual for a major conflict and reflects the fact that large swaths of the country remain accessible and relatively unscathed by the fighting.
This trend of Ukrainian refugees making return visits to their home country illustrates the complexities and challenges of displacement and resettlement. It is not uncommon for refugees to experience mixed feelings about their living situation, as many refugees are faced with economic and social challenges in their host countries. However, the desire to maintain ties to their homeland is a strong motivator for many refugees, as they seek to rebuild relationships with their families and communities in Ukraine. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine continues to have a profound impact on the lives of millions, both within the country and across Europe. As these refugees navigate the challenges of displacement and resettlement, their resilience and determination to maintain connections to their homeland highlight the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.