Some are leaving, others still coming
Lithuania ranks 10th in the EU in terms of the number of officially registered Ukrainian refugees, according to data from the European Commission’s Blueprint network. In terms of the number of refugees per capita Lithuania ranks third among all EU countries (except for Greece, which did not provide data). According to the latest figures from the Commission, 2,061,556 refugees from Ukraine have been registered under temporary protection across Europe. In total, the United Nations estimates that over 5 million people have fled the country since the start of Russia’s military invasion.
Lithuania’s latest official statistics showed on May 13 that almost 48,000 refugees from Ukraine have been registered in the country so far, but it is believed that the actual number could be considerably higher. Ninety-nine percent of the officially registered refugees in Lithuania have Ukrainian citizenship and 40 percent are minors. Ukrainians who fled the war in their country are starting to return home. Three full buses leave the city of Kaunas for Ukraine every week.
Those who have decided to return say they are worried about their safety, but homesickness is stronger than fear.
The Lithuanian NGO Strong Together (Stiprūs Kartu) has been organizing regular free bus trips from Kaunas to Lviv for four weeks. As the planned buses filled up fast, more trips were added. “We have been running two buses on Mondays and Thursdays every week. In May, all the buses filled up in two days, so we added another trip on Saturdays. These filled up in half a day,” said the head of the passenger transportation company Kautra.
After dropping off the Ukrainian returnees in Lviv, bus drivers also take those who wish to flee to Lithuania. “Some return home thinking it’s all over. But those who see what is happening there want to leave. People who meet in Lithuania, hug each other, cry, and say that they should have left earlier,” said a bus driver.
More than 50,000 refugees from Ukraine have already been registered in Lithuania. Currently, around 200–300 Ukrainians arrive every day, almost ten times less than in mid-March. LRT.lt