On February 24 2022 Russia started a war against Ukraine and continues to attack cities close to the Russian and Belarus borders when I am writing this post.
It seems this war is about Russia’s interests in Ukraine and it doesn’t sound like it poses a threat to neighboring countries like Romania.
Romania is a NATO member country (https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/nato_countries.htm) and therefore according to NATO’s article 5, Romania will be defended by the other NATO member countries including the United States in case it will be attacked.
Since the war started more than 3 million Ukrainians have left the country. Their main exit has been through Poland but also significant number of people left through Romania, Slovakia and Hungary.
UNHCR keeps track of the official numbers on their website https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/ukraine
Also more than 2 million people are displaced within Ukraine, mostly to Western Ukraine.
As of March 16th, 1.9 million Ukrainians went to Poland and 490,000 went to Romania and many continued their exile to other parts of Europe. As expected, most of those are women and children.
If the war continues, this number is expected to increase especially since the Odessa region of Ukraine is not currently under attack but it may be attacked in the future.
To the east of Romania, Odessa region is the closest region of Ukraine to Romania and if this will be attacked it will bring the war closer to the Romanian border. From the city of Odessa to the Romanian border are around 200km (Danube Delta region). But smaller cities like Reni and Izmail are right next to the Romanian border.
Further North-East between Romania and Ukraine there is the Republic of Moldova.
On the northern side of Romania there is a border with Ukraine between Suceava county (Romania) and Chernivtsi region (Ukraine, not Chernihiv) and between Maramures county (Romania) and Zakarpattia oblast (Ukraine). From Kiev to the closest Romanian border are over 500km.
Romania is a safe country to travel to. We have looked at the travel advisories from the US, British and Canadian governments. Here are the main recommendations
Canada: Take normal security precautions https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/romania. There are no recommendations against traveling to Romania because of the situation in Ukraine or Covid.
UK: “There are multiple reports of widespread military activity in Ukraine. Although Romania shares land and sea border with Ukraine the situation here remains normal and we do not advise against visiting. You should not attempt to cross into Ukraine from Romania.” https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/romania
US: as of now the State Department hasn’t changed its recommendation “do not travel” to most European countries because of covid, including Romania (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/romania-travel-advisory.html). It has kept it for most other European countries including Germany, Italy, Spain, France. The US had the same advisory in 2021 but Americans could travel to Romania, we organized trips for Americans and all trips went ok, without incidents and no covid infections among our travelers. We took the normal safety measures (using small hotels, wearing masks, avoiding crowds and got tested as needed).
Romania went through a massive covid wave in January-February because of the omicron variant. Now the number of cases is down and the government is lifting restrictions just like the other European countries.
So from Covid perspective, Romania is a relatively safe country to travel to. The tours we organize in Romania continue to take into consideration safety measures.
Back to the Ukrainian refugee’s situation in Romania.
At the moment the number of Ukrainians who stay in Romania for the longer term (not transit) is manageable. A lot of Romanians offered their houses and apartments to host Ukrainians and showed once again their hospitable nature and gracefulness in helping others.
At the border crossing points there are temporary refugees’ camps. Those who stay in those camps are soon relocated to more permanent location, either in Romania but also abroad.
Government institutions also provide accommodation facilities and food to the Ukrainians who come to Romania.
So far around 70% of Ukrainians entering Romania have left the country after a few days going to other European countries or even further to North America or other places around the world.
So there is a constant flow of Ukrainians coming to Romania, it is generally well managed and Romania continues to function normally.
For the Ukrainians choosing to stay in Romania for longer, there are efforts to help them integrate. Basic needs such as accommodation, food and medical are the first needs to be covered. Then, there is an ongoing effort to help them find jobs and to place children in educational institutions.
The European Union has activated for the first time its Temporary Protection Directive and according to this legislation Ukrainian citizens now have similar rights to EU citizens. This means for example that they can access medical services, they can get employed and attend educational institutions just like Romanians can in Romania.
Romania is not a country used with refugees and to help people from abroad come and settle here. So the integration system is currently developing and it will take time until it will be optimal. But it is obvious that some of the Ukrainians who came to Romania will probably settle here for the long term and their integration is a complex and long term process.
Romanians are showing solidary with Ukrainians and are shocked and disgusted with Russia’s military intervention. We thought Europe can live in peace but once again, Russia shows its evil side as it has shown so many times throughout our shared history with them.
We are also very aware that there are a lot of fake news and that Russia’s propaganda machine is active through all media channels including (and especially) social media. Please treat carefully any news or rumor coming from the Russian side or trying to discredit Ukrainians, Romanians, Americans and any other nations and institutions helping Ukraine and its citizens.
To conclude: life in Romania generally goes on as usual even if there is a huge mobilization to help Ukrainians coming here. It is human to do so and to show support to our neighbors who are going through horrible experiences.
Romania is a safe country to travel to even given the current context. We will continue to organize tours. The safety of our travelers is of first importance.
Traveling abroad gives you the opportunity to learn about cultures but also current world affairs. One thing is to sit at home and read the news or this blog post. And a completely different thing is to go to another country, to see the reality with your own eyes. And to meet a Ukrainian family running away from war in Romania where it is safe for them and for you.
Please feel free to contact us for additional information or if you want to visit Romania in 2022.