The starred name has been changed to protect identity
Sokolka, Poland—— When Shirin*, a 28-year-old Iraqi Kurdish, took her 7-year-old son Ali* from Belarus across the border into Poland, she did not expect that she would eventually lose consciousness and move in the cold woods.
“My son and I survived miraculously,” Shireen told Al Jazeera in a hospital in a Polish border town a day after being put in an ambulance.
Her body was injured and blistered from the cold.
“I will never forget what I saw in the woods,” she said. “I saw a lot of children and babies there. Their mothers screamed and prayed for miracles. Adults can’t live anymore. What chance do babies have?
“These images will continue to haunt me until I die.”
Shirin fled the Kurdish region of Iraq with her only child Ali and her husband Afran* on October 22.
However, according to her testimony, when the Belarusian police saw them trying to cross the border into Poland, they intervened and pushed Afran back into Belarus.
Shirin crossed the border alone and spent 21 days in the woods with Ali.
“My son is crying:’Please, my father, please, my father,’ but we don’t know if he is alive or dead. The last of us is frozen and there is no food.”
Shireen was crying and trembling as she told her story to Al Jazeera. Her legs and one arm were bandaged. She cannot walk.
She still doesn’t know where her husband is.
“I don’t know where she is”
In recent weeks, as the immigration crisis that began in August has escalated, thousands of women and children have tried to enter the European Union by entering Poland.
Crowds of people are now trapped between the border between Belarus and Poland. They went to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, and promised that they would be able to break through the fence and enter the EU countries.
Poland and its Western allies stated that Belarus encourages people (mainly Middle Easterners) to come to the country to try to push them to the border and destabilize Europe-this is the sanctions imposed by the West on the administration of President Alexander Lukashenko Retaliation.
There is no official data on the number of people at the border between Belarus and Poland, but Agnieszka Kosowicz, head of the Polish Immigration Forum, a non-governmental organization supporting Polish refugees and immigrants, told Al Jazeera, “2,666 women have applied for asylum in Poland. This year alone, there are 6,697 inches in total.
She said that although the media reported fewer stories about women than men, women accounted for a large proportion of the immigrant population.
“Based on the daily testimony of local volunteers, we are convinced that there are women at the border.
“Volunteers talk about women who are weak and unable to walk or take care of their children, women who cry for their hungry children, and women who mourn the loss of their babies — the children they lost due to miscarriage, or the children who lost their children while walking at night In the forest,” she said.
Azin Govand*, a 27-year-old asylum seeker from the Kurdish region of Iraq and currently living in Minsk, has not seen her 3-year-old daughter Shewa* or her husband since the Belarusian authorities allegedly separated from his family at the border.
At the same time, Ajin said that the authorities pushed her back to Belarus.
“I haven’t heard from my husband and daughter for more than 7 days,” Ajin told Al Jazeera by phone via a Belarusian number.
“I recently saw a picture of a baby girl and my daughter wearing the same clothes on social media. The girl was lying face down on the floor near the border,” she said. “This may be my daughter. I don’t know where she is.”
Kosowicz said that several families split at the border or separated in the forest.
This includes, for example, when parents are taken to the hospital and their children are left in the forest, or when people get lost, or when people are pushed back by border officials on both sides of the border.
In the chaos, cases of miscarriage have been recorded. It was also found that other women were pregnant with young babies with serious health problems.
A one-year-old Syrian baby boy is considered the youngest victim of the border refugee crisis. According to reports, the cause of his death has not yet been determined.
Nazanin* is an Iraqi Kurdish woman who was recently rescued after spending a month in the Polish woods near the Belarusian border. She told Al Jazeera, “Only God saved her. [seven-month-old] The baby is dying. “
She and her husband fled the Zako area near the Turkish-Syrian border because they were exposed to shooting and shelling.
“The baby is freezing,” Nazanin said. “She cries from the cold every night.
“We only have a T-shirt and a sweater for the baby, no other clothes, and no diapers,” she said.
“We were told that the journey would be short and we ran out of food soon. We hadn’t eaten for 10 days and walked seven or eight kilometers (four to five miles) without shoes,” she pointed to her frostbitten foot Say.
“During that time, we had to drink the dirty water given to us by the Belarusian guards, or the water we found in the swamp. We were all sick.”
Karol Wilczynski, the head of the Salam Laboratory NGO who has been helping people in need, told Al Jazeera that he had seen several women and babies in need of help.
“The scariest and most moving scene I have ever seen was a 49-year-old grandmother and her two-year-old granddaughter,” Wilczynski said. “When we found them, the grandmother was unconscious and had hypothermia—the body temperature was only 34 degrees (93.2 degrees Fahrenheit). Miraculously, the baby survived.”
He said an emergency service operator refused to send an ambulance and threatened to call border guards to “handle the refugees.”
“Then we called Border Aid, a group of volunteer paramedics, and they said that if the grandmother stays there again, she will die. I can’t imagine what will happen to this baby,” Wilczynski said.
He has been volunteering at Grupa Granica, an umbrella organization that provides assistance at the border, supporting 1,000 people from November 8th to 12th.
“Of 1,000 people, 10% are children and more than 25% are women,” he said. “Of the remaining 65% of men, a large portion is vulnerable.”
36-year-old Sarkawt*, his wife Nazdar* and their three children stayed in the woods for about a month. They were 6 years old, 8 years old, and 9 years old.
The cold and lack of drinking water hit Nazdal, who fell and was hospitalized.
The children got frostbite.
“Although we don’t know what will happen [Nazdar], I thank God every day for saving my three children,” Sarcourt told Al Jazeera.
“In the woods, I took off my jacket and put on my children. Sometimes, I tried to make a fire, but sometimes, it was so swampy that I couldn’t do it,” he said.
“In the woods, we saw many women and children,” he said. “On the Belarus side, the guards will sell us food and water, but they will demand astronomical figures. They will sell us a bottle of water or a biscuit for the children for $50, because they know the mother will pay,” he Say.
Kosowicz said that she had contact with a woman who gave birth to premature twins after entering Poland.
She said: “I still remember those women who couldn’t leave the crowd to take a few steps to urinate, and those women who had menstruation and couldn’t meet their basic hygiene needs in privacy.”
“Every time we hear a new story, it is dramatic.”