Filipinos brace to leave Ukraine, but say situation is calm for now

Michelle Abad
Filipinos brace to leave Ukraine, but say situation is calm for now

KYIV. The Independence Monument is seen during the sunset in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 14, 2022.

Antonio Bronic/Reuters

Filipinos with the means to flee have already left the country, the head of a Filipino community says

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos in Kyiv, Ukraine are bracing themselves to leave the country due to a looming threat of a Russian invasion, but say the situation is calm in the meantime.

Some Filipinos who had the means to leave immediately have already fled the country, Shirley Santosildes, head of United Filipino Global in Ukraine told ANC’s Rundown on Tuesday, February 15. She said around eight Filipinos were set to be repatriated on Thursday.

Russia has more than 100,000 troops massed near the border of Ukraine. Santosildes said they received reports that the areas with the troops were “peaceful (tahimik)” and were on standby for now. Kyiv is a few hundred kilometers away from the border.

Dito sa Kyiv, wala ka rin po talagang mararamdaman na [gulo]. Pero sa ngayon kasi, ito ‘yung pinaka-crucial, parang inaabangan ng lahat ng tao, dahil ‘yun nga sa balita, ngayon sila mag-aatake,” said Santosildes. (Here in Kyiv, you don’t feel like there is conflict. But in the meantime, everyone is bracing for the most crucial reports in the news that say they will be attacking now.)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address to the nation on Monday, February 14 evening (Kyiv time): “They tell us February 16 will be the day of the attack. We will make it a day of unity.”

Russia denies Western accusations that it is planning an invasion, but says it could take unspecified “military-technical” action unless a range of demands are met, including barring Kyiv from ever joining the NATO alliance.

On Tuesday, Russia’s defense ministry said some troops in Russia’s military districts adjacent to Ukraine are returning to their bases after completing drills – a move that could de-escalate frictions between Moscow and the West.

Repatriation for those who need it

The Philippine embassy in Warsaw is offering repatriation for Filipinos who want to fly home, according to the United Filipino Global in Ukraine. Since the Philippines does not have an embassy in Ukraine, the country falls under the jurisdiction of the embassy in neighboring Poland.

The embassy earlier said it reached out to the approximate 380 Filipinos in Ukraine. Santosildes said that the Filipino community has regular meetings with the embassy every Sunday.

“Filipinos in Ukraine do not fear repatriation. Lagi po kami nagmi-meeting para updated lahat at saka alam ang gagawin (We are always holding meetings to update and prepare everyone),” the United Filipino Global in Ukraine said.

However, not all Filipinos are looking to leave right away. One of those staying for now is Santosildes, a teacher, who said that they are continuing face-to-face schooling for now. She said her employers are calling the reports of an invasion “political propaganda.”

“But just in case something does happen, wherever our employers will go, they will bring us with them to a safe place,” Santosildes said in Filipino.

Santosildes said a director in their school is from Romania, so they could be brought there or to Moldova.

Of the four Filipino teachers in the school Santosildes works in, one has gone home to the Philippines, while the two others with her are still “50/50” on whether to leave or not.

On Saturday, February 12, Department of Foreign Affairs deputy assistant secretary for public and cultural diplomacy Gonar Musor said Filipinos who remain in the country are “encouraged to contact the embassy, report any untoward incident they might observe in their respective areas, and continue monitoring their Filipino friends through social media.” – with reports from Reuters/

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer with the investigative unit of Rappler. She also covers overseas Filipinos and the rights of women and children.