A photo of empty strollers lined up at a train station in Poland is going viral as a powerful symbol of mothers showing solidarity with Ukrainian refugees coming into the country.
Photojournalist Francesco Malavolta captured the poignant image while documenting the arrival of people seeking asylum in Poland, eight miles from Ukraine’s border.
In the photo, seven strollers of different sizes are lined on a train platform at the border crossing between Ukraine and Przemysl, Poland.
The baby buggies would unburden mothers whose arms are tired from carrying their children all the way from Ukraine into a safe place. Their journeys would often last for several days.
The strollers were brought by local moms and women’s associations for Ukrainian moms arriving with babies and little children. Some of them were filled with supplies such as blankets and stuffed toys for the mothers and their kids.
The strollers wait to be claimed by those who need them, showing how mothers can support each other during this time.
“The arriving women had left their strollers in Ukraine to speed up the journey and because many of (the women) were traveling without husbands because they remained fighting,” the photographer told TODAY.
Women were forced to leave their fathers, brothers, and other male family members behind because the Ukrainian government has banned males ages 18 to 60 from leaving the war-stricken country.
Malavolta spoke to one of the women who dropped off a stroller at the train station.
“I spoke to one of them saying she was happy to have left her stroller and some clothes at the nearby school out of solidarity with the incoming people from Ukraine,” he said.
Malavolta said he was struck by the absence of people in the scene.
“While two meters away there were miles of people. It seemed surreal. I thought of them both … about the solidarity of those who brought the strollers and the dramatic stories of mothers fleeing the war,” he said.
Malavolta has been documenting the influx of refugees around the borders of Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary for almost two weeks.
“There is a strong feeling of solidarity,” he said. “There should always be and for everyone, regardless of the starting points of the most fragile.”
Malavolta also captured another photo of strollers lined in Vyšné, Slovakia, near the Ukrainian border.
“After the Przemyśl railway station in Poland, also on the border between Slovakia and Ukraine, passengers are brought for those mothers forced to flee Ukraine with their babies,” he wrote in a caption.
Russia began its invasion on February 24, and the Polish government estimates that over a million refugees have entered the country as of March 7. Many of them fled alongside their children, managing to only carry a few precious belongings with them.
A crisis center has been set up in Przemysl to allow mothers to charge their phones, have something to eat, and plan their next move.
In Berlin, thousands of Germans showed up at the train station to offer their homes to Ukrainian refugees who needed a place to stay. In the clip below, a woman talks into the camera, explaining that the train station is filled with people who want to help. As the camera pans around the area, locals looking to assist refugees can be seen holding up handwritten signs.
@thisorthatmort #ukraine #ukrainewar #ukrainetiktok2020 #ukraineinvasion #ukraine🇺🇦 #ukrainevsrussia #ukrainetiktok #ukraine2022 #berlin ♬ original sound – ThisOrThatMort
In Romania, people who set up a refugee encampment surprised a young Ukrainian girl named Arina on her seventh birthday. In the footage below, volunteers can be heard singing “Happy Birthday” to her. The girl was then led to a cake, where she blew out the candles as a small crowd cheered her on.
Aseară,cei din Tabăra Mobilă de la Siret au aflat, o fetiță împlinea 7 ani.
La mulți ani, Arina! Îți dorim ca acest coșmar pe care îl trăiți să se termine cât mai repede, iar următoarea ta zi de naștere să o serbezi acasă.
Mulțumim tuturor celor implicați!
Voi sunteți ROMÂNIA! pic.twitter.com/vgs5ggOt6o
— MAI România – Ministry of Internal Affairs Romania (@MAIRomania) March 4, 2022
People worldwide have also been booking Airbnb accommodations in Ukraine to funnel money to citizens who need financial help.
These stories prove that kindness always comes first—especially during a war. We can only hope to see an end to this senseless crisis soon.