Article: Ukraine: Emigrant men trapped by martial law

A number of Ukrainian men permanently living abroad were visiting their native country when the war broke out. Now, many of them can’t leave. Reports

Andrei has lived outside of Ukraine for over a decade, but, when his father died, he returned with his wife to the country of his birth to attend the burial in mid-February. After a short visit, they planned to fly back to his home in Miami.

One week after he arrived, Russia invaded, and Ukraine declared martial law, banning Ukrainian men between 18 and 60 from leaving the country. Andrei is now stuck alone in Ukraine with only a single suitcase of mostly winter clothes.

Andrei’s sister and mother fled to Latvia, and his wife, whose visa for Ukraine was about to expire, returned to the United States. Andrei is desperate to get back there, too — to his wife, his house, his job, and his normal life.

Ukraine-Krieg | Andrei wartet auf einen Taxi in LembergAndrei waits for a taxi at the central bus station in Lviv, Ukraine

A bureaucratic blind spot

Andrei’s predicament may sound like bad luck, but there are many more like him: Vitalij, a medic in a Czech hospital, took a vacation to visit his parents in Ukraine three days before the war began; Vito, a museum employee in the United Arab Emirates,  flew to Ukraine on February 17 and now has no income to support his family; Mykola, a scientist at a research institute in Germany, needed to file paperwork at the German Embassy for his wife’s visa but the embassy closed shortly before the border closed to Ukrainian men; Aleksy, who returned to Ukraine from Poland to fight on the frontlines and now, after completing a tour of duty, cannot return to his family and job in Gdansk. The men requested DW use only their first names to prevent possible repercussions.

DW talked to eight men in this predicament. Some of them continue to work remotely, others have taken unpaid leave in the hopes of returning to their jobs. Most of them have been separated from their families, and all of them say the exit ban has caused them emotional and financial distress.