Ajmal Rahmani has fled conflict in Afghanistan, only to find himself trapped in the midst of another war.
After leaving Afghanistan a year ago, Ajmal Rahmani believed he had found a haven of peace in Ukraine.
This week, he and his family had to flee again, this time to Poland, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“I run from one war, come to another country and another war starts. Very bad luck,” Rahmani told AFP shortly after crossing the border.
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 (18 miles) to the crossing on foot because of the gridlock on the Ukrainian side of the border.
After arriving in Medyka, on the Polish side, the family waited with other refugees for a bus to take them to the nearby city of Przemysl.
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled during the four days of conflict into neighbouring countries, mainly Poland, Hungary and Romania. The United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) says more than 500,000 people have fled Ukraine, nearly 300,000 of them entering Poland.
While most of the refugees are Ukrainian, among them are also students and migrant workers from further afield, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India and Nepal.
‘I lost everything’
Rahmani, who is in his 40s, said he worked for NATO in Afghanistan for 18 years at Kabul airport.
He decided to leave the country four months before the US withdrawal after receiving threats. The Taliban armed group returned to power last August, 20 years after it was toppled in a US-led NATO invasion.
“I had a good life in Afghanistan, I had a private house, I had a private car, I had a good salary,” Rahmani said. “I sold my car, my house, my everything. I lost everything.”
Ukraine was the only country that would grant the family a visa. They set up home in Odesa, a Black Sea port city.
When Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, they left everything again and travelled the 1,110km (690 miles) to the border.
Rahmani and his family, like others without a Polish visa, now have 15 days to get registered, said Tomasz Pietrzak, a lawyer with the Ocalenie (Salvation) Foundation, a charity for migrants.
“Poland will have to very quickly amend its legislation on this issue,” he said.
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.