Ukrainian refugees in Italy are beginning to return home, three months after fleeing the Russian invasion. More people are reportedly crossing into Ukraine than are leaving the country.
Italy has welcomed more than 115,000 refugees from Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24. Most arrived with little or nothing. But just three months after Ukrainians left their homes and jobs, and children said goodbye to friends, some are already returning home.
"The trend reversal occurred after (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's speech on May 9," said Oles Horodetskyy, the president of the association of Ukrainian Christians in Italy. "Many expected an announcement of an even harsher, total war, but it didn't happen."
Since the first week of May, according to the Ukrainian news agency Interfax, the flow of people entering Ukraine through its western border has exceeded the number of those leaving.
"This is also due to the fact that central and western Ukraine are safer," said Horodetskyy.
5-7% have returned
Fabio Prevedello, the president of the Maidan Italian-Ukrainian Association, has noticed that many are returning to Ukraine. He said 5-7% are believed to have travelled back home "for the moment".
"We have also witnessed, with the buses we use to fetch people, that some are asking us to take them home. We also came across people who were returning at the border. Everybody is ready to return to Ukraine, many are already packing but, for the moment, the situation is quite limited," he said. "If the trend continues, in a few weeks we will see a significant number of departures."
The trend was confirmed by Mykhaylo Dolya, who owns the bus company "Tarko Tranc" that leaves Ukraine each Wednesday and Friday and departs from Italy on Saturday and Sunday. "During one of the last trips, I brought to Italy 20 Ukrainians while 50 travelled to Ukraine," he said. "In another one, seven arrived in Italy and 35 returned home."
According to data provided by the Italian interior ministry, 115,342 Ukrainians had arrived in Italy as of Sunday: 60,085 women, 16,093 men and 39,164 minors. The main destinations were Milan, Rome, Naples and Bologna.
A reported 85,000 applied for a temporary permit and nearly 28,000 applied for a subsidy of about 300 euros for each adult and 150 for each minor.
Horodetskyy said: "I personally accompanied a boy to apply for the subsidy and he was given an appointment on July 12. It is normal that those who don't have the means (to support themselves) decide to return home," he said.