MEDYKA, Poland -- One Afghan family has had to flee two countries in less than a year.
After leaving Afghanistan in 2021, Ajmal Rahmani believed he had found a haven of peace in Ukraine.
This week, however, he and his family had to flee again -- this time to Poland -- as Russian President Vladimir Putin last Thursday (February 24) launched an illegal war of aggression against Ukraine.
By Monday, more than half a million people had fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
"More than 500,000 refugees have now fled from Ukraine into neighbouring countries," UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said in a tweet.
UNHCR had previously said it is planning to deal with up to four million refugees if the situation worsens.
But the European Union's crisis management commissioner says the figure could reach seven million.
A UNHCR breakdown issued when the total tally was slightly below 500,000 showed that more than 280,000 people have already fled Ukraine into Poland.
Over 30,000 people had crossed into Romania, 85,000 into Hungary, 70,000 into Moldova, 30,000 into Slovakia and a few hundred into Belarus, according to UNHCR.
While most of the refugees are Ukrainian, among them are also students and migrant workers from further afield, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India and Nepal.
'I lost everything'
"I run from one war, come to another country and another war starts," Rahmani told AFP Sunday, shortly after crossing into Poland. "Very bad luck."
His seven-year-old daughter Marwa clutched a beige-coloured soft toy dog as Rahmani spoke.
Together with Marwa; his wife, Mina; and son Omar, 11, the family walked the last 30km to the crossing because of the gridlock on the Ukrainian side of the border.
After arriving at Medyka on the Polish side, the family waited with other refugees for a bus that will take them to the nearby city of Przemysl.
Rahmani, who is in his 40s, said he worked for NATO in Afghanistan for 18 years at the Kabul airport.
He decided to leave the country four months before the US withdrawal because he received threats and was so scared he kept his children out of school.
Before that, "I had a good life in Afghanistan, I had a private house, I had a private car, I had a good salary," said Rahmani.
"I sold my car, my house, my everything. I lost everything," he said.
But, he added, "Nothing is better than my love, than my family life."
Rahmani said he struggled to get a visa to leave Afghanistan and decided to go to Ukraine because it was the only country that would take him in.
They set up home in Odessa -- a Black Sea port city.
Last week, when Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, they had to leave everything again and travelled the 1,110km to the border.
Rahmani and his family, like others without a Polish visa, now have 15 days to register, said Tomasz Pietrzak, a lawyer with the Ocalenie (Salvation) Foundation, a charity for migrants.
The timeline is unlikely given the numbers.
"Poland will have to very quickly amend its legislation on this issue," he said.
In Poland, border guards Sunday said that 90% of those arriving were being put up by friends or relations but that reception centres were also being set up close to the frontier.
Across the country people are mobilising with offers of accommodation, money, clothes and work for the new arrivals.
Rahmani said he was concerned about the future but was encouraged by the warm welcome he received from volunteers and officials assisting the stream of refugees on the Polish side of the border.
"They gave us energy," he said.