Thousands of Germans in Berlin Offer Housing to Ukrainian Refugees amid Russian Invasion

·3 min read
Thousands of Germans in Berlin Offer Fleeing Ukrainians a Place to Stay
Thousands of Germans in Berlin Offer Fleeing Ukrainians a Place to Stay

Fabian Sommer/picture alliance via Getty

Thousands of Germans have gathered to assist refugees amid the unfolding war in Ukraine.

As Ukrainians flee their home country due to the Russian invasion, many people are awaiting their arrival at Berlin's central railway station to offer housing. Hundreds of locals were seen standing by with posters detailing how they can support displaced residents as well as what languages they are able to speak.

Volunteers were also dispersed at the station distributing food, hot drinks, diapers, coats and more, NPR reported.

A 20-year-old woman named April — a native of Ukraine who has lived in Germany for a year — told the outlet that although she couldn't help her family flee, she's doing all she can to help those in need.

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"The least I can do is help people who were able to escape," she said, noting that she's provided both moral and material support. "It's very important for me that my fellow Ukrainians feel welcome here, especially the children."

Thousands of Germans in Berlin Offer Fleeing Ukrainians a Place to Stay
Thousands of Germans in Berlin Offer Fleeing Ukrainians a Place to Stay

Carsten Koall/Getty

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Matina Wardakas and Timmo Kohlery, a couple in Berlin, also opened up their home to Ukrainian refugees.

"When we started reading the news we said, right away, we need to take someone in, to give someone peace, because it could have been us, this is how we feel," Kohlery told BBC.

"We have lived in peace our whole life," Wardakas added. "We don't know what it is like to live in war, it's shocking. Our first thought was we need to help a family so that they can feel safe. We will give them some peace, in this house."

More than 1.7 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia began its attack, according to the United Nations.

"More than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed into neighbouring countries in 10 days — the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II," Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in a tweet on Sunday.

Thousands of Germans in Berlin Offer Fleeing Ukrainians a Place to Stay
Thousands of Germans in Berlin Offer Fleeing Ukrainians a Place to Stay

Maja Hitij/Getty

RELATED: More Than 1 Million Ukrainians Have Fled Russia's Invasion, U.N. Says, with Hundreds of Civilian Deaths

An agency spokesperson said the situation "looks set to become Europe's largest refugee crisis this century" while commending Ukraine's neighbors for keeping their borders open to Ukrainians fleeing Russian attacks.

"We have seen tremendous solidarity and hospitality from the countries receiving refugees, including from the authorities and local communities," Shabia Mantoo said in a statement.

Russia's attack on Ukraine continues after their forces launched a large-scale invasion on Feb. 24 — the first major land conflict in Europe in decades.

Details of the fighting change by the day, but hundreds of civilians have already been reported dead or wounded, including children. More than a million Ukrainians have also fled, the United Nations said.

"You don't know where to go, where to run, who you have to call. This is just panic," Liliya Marynchak, a 45-year-old teacher in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, told PEOPLE of the moment her city was bombed — one of numerous accounts of bombardment by the Russians.

Thousands of Germans in Berlin Offer Fleeing Ukrainians a Place to Stay
Thousands of Germans in Berlin Offer Fleeing Ukrainians a Place to Stay

Maja Hitij/Getty

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The invasion, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has drawn condemnation around the world and increasingly severe economic sanctions against Russia.

With NATO forces massing in the region around Ukraine, various countries have also pledged aid or military support to the resistance. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for peace talks — so far unsuccessful — while urging his country to fight back.

Putin insists Ukraine has historic ties to Russia and he is acting in the best security interests of his country. Zelenskyy vowed not to bend.

"Nobody is going to break us, we're strong, we're Ukrainians," he told the European Union in a speech in the early days of the fighting, adding, "Life will win over death. And light will win over darkness."

The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE's complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.