Ukrainian refugees at the Polish border

'Divine providence': Israeli recounts harrowing escape from war-torn Ukraine

Anton Borts woke up to the sound of distant blasts as Russian forces invaded and immediately realized he had to flee, but his journey to safety proved no easy feat as the fog of war shrouds the Eastern European nation

Alexandra Lukash |
Published: 03.03.22, 10:57
Anton Borts is an Israeli student who was studying in Mykolaiv near the Black Sea when the Russian military launched a full-scale invasion of its neighboring country last week.
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  • Alongside another Israeli student studying in the southern Ukrainian city, Borts embarked on a week-long journey to the Polish border and out of the war-torn country.
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    פליטים מ אוקראינה מגיעים ל גבול פולין
    פליטים מ אוקראינה מגיעים ל גבול פולין
    Ukrainian refugees at the Polish border
    (Photo: AFP)
    He finally arrived safely in Israel Tuesday night sat down with Ynet and shared the story of his great escape.
    "I arrived Tuesday night around 10pm and the first thing I did was hug my family," Borts said. "I'm so happy to see everyone and only starting to realize that it's behind me. It's a process. I believe that I'll move on from that in the next few days."
    Borts said he realized he woke up on the morning of the invasion last Thursday to the sound of distant blasts and it immediately dawned on him he had to flee the country, embarking on a 400-mile journey from Mykolaiv to Lviv near the Polish border.
    "On Thursday, I think it was February 24, I woke up at 5am from the sound of a blast. At first, I didn't understand what was happening. I turned on the Ukrainian news and as I was watching, I couldn't believe what was happening, simply couldn't believe it," he said.
    "The first thing I wanted to do was just get under the blanket and not believe it. After I've processed it and realized that this is actually happening, I started planning my journey, what we were going to do, whether we should leave or not.
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    אנטון בורץ
    אנטון בורץ
    Anton Borts
    (Photo: Facebook)
    We drove to the central station, bought bus tickets to Lviv. The same day all the buses were canceled. We started to look for a taxi driver, someone that could take us from Mykolaiv, where we were, to Lviv. No one was willing."
    Borts said he was afraid he will be stuck in the warzone.
    "We didn't find anything, and we started to wonder whether we should leave. Many locals said I could get stuck without gas. I saw long lines stretching outside gas stations in Mykolaiv and barricades were erected at night," he said.
    "The day after, we decided we had to leave because our credit cards were denied and I only had close to a hundred shekels left. Now I understand that it comes and goes, that soon I'll be left with no food and water, and I must move on.
    On Friday, we arrived at the central station. Luckily, there was a man that driving a van, 20 people gathered there and everyone wanted to go to Lviv, so we left at noon on Friday to Lviv. We drove for 18 hours."
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    Russian troops move towards Ukraine on Friday
    Russian troops move towards Ukraine on Friday
    Russian troops move into Ukraine on Friday
    (Photo: EPA)
    "After 18 hours we arrived in Lviv. There were sirens. Suddenly, we saw a bus. We approached the driver and he said he's going to Krakow in Poland, so we asked him to take us. He was stressed," he said.
    Borts said that was widespread panic among the locals amid growing uncertainty as the scope of the Russian invasion became clear.
    "In Israel, we're familiar with sirens, we know what to do, there they don't. It caught them off guard and left them helpless because they don't know where to run to and where to find shelter. [The van driver] agreed to take us and we started to move toward the border," he said.
    He finally arrived at the Polish border, where he had to stand in line to get out of the country for a day and a half without food or water.
    "We reached the border with Poland and there all the mess began, some people were standing in line for three-four days," he said. "We got out of the van and started searching for something we could buy, and there were volunteers there that handed out hot meals. The lines for food consisted mostly of families with children so I didn't feel it was right cutting, but we had to eat."
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    פליטים מ אוקראינה מגיעים ל גבול פולין
    פליטים מ אוקראינה מגיעים ל גבול פולין
    (Photo: Gettyimages)
    Borts said that after he crossed into the Polish side of the border, he felt like he had been guarded by divine providence.
    "I had a very strong feeling that there was something that accompanied me throughout this whole process. I know I was also pretty assertive and active in the whole story, but there's no doubt that someone was with me, that feeling is with me even now," he said.
    "I can't believe this is happening in our times. It's not like 100 or 200 years ago. Tanks are rolling in. People, families are sitting and breaking out in tears, helpless. I simply can't process it."
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