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‘I’ll never forget the Ukrainians who helped us escape’: Singaporean evacuated from Ukraine by Malaysia shares his story

WITNESSING “THOUSANDS OF UKRAINIANS” FLEEING

But their journey was met with preliminary automotive troubles, together with one automotive’s engine overheating, whereas one other ran out of gasoline. 

“With all the gas stations sucked dry, we were running out of options. I suggested as a last resort we get a tube and a jerry can to siphon fuel from abandoned cars. Thankfully we didn’t have to resort to such tactics … luckily the seventh or eighth gas station that we hit had fuel,” mentioned Mr De Witt.

Along the solution to Lviv, he recalled seeing many roadblocks by navy and armed civilian volunteers. The roads had “mounds of traffic”, and there have been “thousands of Ukrainians fleeing west” on the streets. 

“My phone was blowing up with messages from friends all over the world and in Ukraine asking for help, checking if I got out safe and the like. I helped out with whatever information I could provide,” he added. 

“But as we got closer to Lviv, the plan changed. Due to the martial law placed on cities, we didn’t want to risk getting stuck in Lviv, so we decided to go around and head directly to the border.”

Near the border of Poland, Mr De Witt noticed “almost 30 to 40km of a single line of cars lined up trying to get through”. 

“(Traffic) was nearly at a standstill. Some had waited for over 12 hours … Thankfully, the Malaysian embassy in Poland allowed us to use a VIP lane to overtake them,” he mentioned. 

Right at the border, Mr De Witt mentioned “thousands of foreigners and Ukrainians alike who had no cars or had abandoned them were trying to get out on foot in the freezing cold”, however they couldn’t cross the border on foot. 

“You needed to be in a automobile. So they huddled round makeshift campfires of tree branches and newspapers,” he added.

“The sight of this truthfully broke my coronary heart. You may see the worry of their eyes … the despair … Men, girls and youngsters crying, unsure of what tomorrow would carry. Their houses and lives misplaced …” 

ARRIVING IN POLAND “EXHAUSTED”

After 40 hours in a automotive, Mr De Witt and his companions had been “mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted” by the time they arrived at Warsaw, Poland in the early hours of Feb 27. He then took a bathe and went to sleep. 

“It was a uniquely terrifying experience,” he instructed CNA. 

“I’m ceaselessly grateful to the Malaysian embassy and to my fellow travellers for remaining calm and useful for the complete journey. (After arriving in Poland), I principally made my very own preparations and was even supplied an evening to remain at the resort free with the different evacuees.

“That night, the Malaysian trade commissioner of Poland bought us all dinner. The Malaysians left the next day.”

Reflecting on his ordeal, Mr De Witt mentioned his family and friends had been “terrified” for him, however he instructed them “only the good news” as a result of he did not need them to fret. 

“I did expect on some level to deal with something like this when I came to Ukraine, so I wasn’t totally unprepared. I just told myself to remain calm no matter what and to find a way, fixing one problem at a time,” he added. 

“My NS experience (in Singapore) definitely helped here … I didn’t see actual combat, but looking at my friends who were snipers and commandos, it sort of prepared me mentally to expect death or to fight and take a life. So I had that mentality that I may actually have to kill somebody if they threaten my life.”

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