Image: Miguel A. Lopes/ Lusa

Douro valley able to take in 400 Ukrainian refugees

The 19 municipalities of the Douro Intermunicipal Community (CIM) has said it has accommodation available for around 400 refugees from Ukraine, eight buses for transport and three doctors who speak Ukrainian to support their arrival here.

President of the CIM Douro and Mayor of Sernancelhe, Carlos Silva Santiago, told Lusa today that space has been identified to take in about 400 Ukrainians “with all the conditions of habitability and integration”.

“Language can be a barrier and we don’t want it to be”, he told Lusa – thus the importance of the three Ukrainian-speaking doctors.

The mayor explained the whole process is being coordinated with the government, through secretaries of state for migration and internationalisation.

Within the scope of the “We are Ukraine” campaign, medicines, food and warm clothes have also been collected in each municipality. These goods will now be transported to Lamego, where the multi-purpose pavilion has been transformed into a logistics centre.

There, all donations will be selected, organised and forwarded, to the main borders “where there are large flows of refugees”.

“The Portuguese people are supportive by nature, but when people mess with our values, with our freedoms, we are even more supportive”, said the mayor, who described what is happening in Ukraine as “a tragedy”.

CIM Douro is made up of the municipalities of Alijó, Armamar, Carrazeda de Ansiães, Freixo de Espada à Cinta, Lamego, Mesão Frio, Moimenta da Beira, Murça, Penedono, Peso da Régua, Sabrosa, Santa Marta de Penaguião, São João da Pesqueira, Sernancelhe, Tabuaço, Tarouca, Torre de Moncorvo, Vila Nova de Foz Côa and Vila Real.

And from Vila Real today two trucks loaded with 44 tonnes of goods departed, destined for Rzeszów, on the Polish border with Ukraine.

In the logistics centre installed in the fire station of Cruz Branca, in Vila Real, there are more goods ready to travel thanks to a movement involving the Ukrainian community living in Trás-os-Montes, local people, the municipality’s two fire brigades – Cruz Branca and Cruz Verde, charities like the Red Cross and the Rotary Club, local authorities and local businesspeople.

One such businessman is António Teixeira, who will be driving one of the trucks, in a mission he sees as one “for peace”. “This touches everyone”, he told journalists. “At this moment, this is the contribution I can make”.

José Carvalho owns a transport company in Murça, with 25 trucks, two of which he has made available for this mission. He is also one of the drivers in the initiative. As he said: “It’s them today, and it could be us tomorrow”.

Accompanying the trucks is a nine-seater van with members of the association Breathe Gasoline and Ukrainian friends Ivanna Rohashko and Svitlana Kononchuk, whose mission is to bring back a refugee family from the Dubno area, near the Polish border.

Ivanna’s mother, Svitlana Rohashko, is staying behind in Vila Real; her heart “in knots”, but with “pride” for the selfless work developed by the younger women.

A few days before the Russian invasion, Svitlana managed to bring her 80-year-old mother to Portugal but she still has “many relatives” who remain behind, refusing to leave.