Maine’s two U.S. senators returned from their weekend trip to Germany and Poland on Sunday, bringing with them a firsthand perspective on how Russia’s  invasion of Ukraine has impacted the citizens of that country as well as America’s allies on NATO’s eastern flank.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King both said the sight of refugees driven from their homes by a savage Russian assault was disheartening, but that the response by humanitarian relief organizations from across the world to help the victims of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked attack was uplifting.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency,  a total of 10 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes, including 3.4 million refugees, since Putin’s forces launched an attack last month on what had been a sovereign, peaceful nation. The invasion has sparked outrage around the world and brought accusations that Putin is committing war crimes against civilians.

Collins and King departed Thursday night with a bipartisan group of U.S. senators to get a close look at what is happening on the ground. They arrived in Germany in Friday, visited the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, and then headed to the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in Poland, where they met with soldiers, including a few Mainers. They also spent time visiting with refugees who were being housed at a camp in Poland near the Ukrainian border.

Joining King and Collins were Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, John Cornyn of Texas, Steve Daines of Montana, Roger Marshall and Jerry Moran of Kansas, and Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Jacky Rosen of Nevada.

Collins King Poland

Maine’s U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King speak with U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Dyllon Lodge, who is from Waterville, Maine, during their tour of Germany and Poland over the weekend. Photo courtesy Sen. King’s office

“This strong, bipartisan delegation proves the Senate stands united in its support for Ukraine,” the senators said in a joint statement before leaving on Thursday. “During our time in Poland and Germany, we will have the opportunity to gain greater insight on the U.S. and NATO response through engagements with top military leaders.”


The delegation flew back to the United States on Sunday evening and is expected to hold a press conference in Washington on Monday. But Collins and King shared their experiences on social media, posting videos and statements on Facebook and Twitter.

King appeared in a two-minute-long video on Twitter. He can be seen standing outside a refugee center about 3 miles from Poland’s border with Ukraine. He said most of the refugees were women and children, who came to the center from all parts of Ukraine. The refugees are being allowed to stay there for a couple of days before boarding buses to take them to new homes in countries such as Italy, Spain and Germany.

“People are getting on buses and their lives are being changed,” King said. “It’s an extraordinary moment and a very emotional one. Very powerful scene.”

King reiterated what the United Nations reported Sunday, noting that 10 million Ukrainians have been displaced by what he called a “terrible, inexcusable, unnecessary war.”

King said he met with military officials as well as representatives of relief organizations that had come from all over the world to help Ukrainians displaced by the war.

“It’s an amazing experience to be in the midst of so much anxiety and suffering. You can see it on people’s faces, but at the same time it is uplifting to see the way people have come together to serve their brothers and sisters from Ukraine,” King said.


Collins posted an account of her experiences on her Facebook page. In a video recorded at the same refugee camp King spoke from, Collins described her encounter with a woman named Katarina, who fled Ukraine with her two children, ages 8 and 6. Her husband remained in Ukraine to fight the Russians. The family was heading to a new home in Wales.

“She kept saying over and over again, ‘I really want to go home. I want peace. I want safety for my children,’ and that is all she is seeking,” Collins said.

Collins said the humanitarian relief effort has been impressive. She said she met with several representatives of nongovernmental organizations from countries such as Canada, Finland and New Zealand, all committed to providing aid to displaced Ukrainians.

“This trip has been so educational, but so poignant, as we talk to these people who have done nothing wrong,” Collins stated in the video. “This is just a case of Russian aggression, unprovoked, and all these families from Ukraine want is to live in peace.”

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