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Despite the large numbers, the continent responded with a speed — and generosity — that was a sharp contrast to other recent influxes.

In Poland, 547,000 Ukrainians arrived in just one week; volunteers rushed to the border to offer them food, shelter and support. Hungary, which built razor-wire fences during the last migration crisis, welcomed 133,000 Ukrainians in the same period.

The E.U. enacted the Temporary Protection Directive, granting those men, women and children the right to live, work and access social services in the bloc for at least a year, potentially more. Previous waves of newcomers, including from the Middle East and Africa in 2015, were not offered the same protections.

“All those fleeing [Vladimir] Putin’s bombs are welcome in Europe,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen declared, referring to the Russian president. “We will provide protection to those seeking shelter, and we will help those looking for a safe way home.”

The latest data does not provide a complete picture on the refugees’ whereabouts because some have not registered with national authorities, or have not yet been approved. People who started off in one country may now be in another. Some have gone back to Ukraine.

But the numbers do give a sense of where displaced people plan to stay for now.

TOP: Ukrainians wait in a miles-long line at a border crossing in Shehyni en route to Medyka, Poland, on Feb. 25. LEFT: Ukrainians wait to enter Poland, which has accepted 1.18 million refugees. RIGHT: In the four months since Russia invaded Ukraine, 5.2 million refugees have been recorded across Europe. (Wojciech Grzedzinski for The Washington Post)

As in the war’s early days, most people have opted to remain closer to home in central and eastern European countries. Those decisions will likely shape future E.U. debates over migration, as certain countries seek more funding and support for services, including schools.

Seven years ago, Europe was confronted by another wave of newcomers that included Syrians fleeing a brutal war as well refugees and migrants from South Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere.

There is no precise way to compare what happened in 2015 and 2016 to what is happening now because temporary protection has not been used in the E.U. before. However, refugee and asylum numbers offer a sense of how much larger and faster this wave is. Poland was hesitant to accept refugees during the last crisis, but has already welcomed 1.18 million people who left Ukraine. Germany, one of the most receptive countries last time, has received 780,000 refugees from Ukraine so far, 40 percent of the number of refugees and asylum seekers it received in 2015 and 2016 combined.

All refugees and

asylum seekers from

2015 to 2016

Estimated refugees

from Ukraine in

2022 (March to June 21)

Czech Rep.

All refugees and

asylum seekers from

2015 to 2016

Estimated refugees

from Ukraine in

2022 (March to June 21)

Czech Rep.

All refugees and

asylum seekers from

2015 to 2016

Estimated refugees

from Ukraine in 2022

(March to June 21)

Czech Rep.

The aftermath of the earlier exodus is still felt in Europe. After a warm welcome initially from Germany, with then-Chancellor Angela Merkel promising “We can do this!”, much of the E.U. decided it would not. Since then, a far-right backlash has fueled efforts to block asylum seekers.

Europe did not to invoke temporary protection seven years ago, leaving many in limbo for years while their asylum cases were assessed.

TOP: In 2015, refugees wait to enter Dobova, Slovenia, after taking a train from Croatia. (Matic Zorman for The Washington Post) LEFT: Soldiers reinforce a barbed wire fence at the entry from Serbia into Hungary during the 2015 migration crisis. (Jodi Hilton for The Washington Post) RIGHT: A migrant from Syria holds a picture of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015 as he arrives in Munich. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

As the war drags on, questions about how the bloc will share the cost of supporting newcomers will likely get more complicated. Margaritis Schinas, vice president of the European Commission, told The Post last month that he expects “at least 2.5 million to 3 million” Ukrainian refugees will stay in the bloc.

What happens next will be closely watched for ideas on how to handle displacement on a massive scale. The lesson so far, said Shabia Mantoo, a spokesperson for UNHCR: “If we can do this with millions of refugees who are fleeing in a short amount of time, then this can be done elsewhere.”

About this story

Sources: UNHCR data on temporary protection was reported June 5-15. Because no official refugee numbers were available for Poland, Hungary and Greece, the count for these countries is an estimate calculated by the sum of registrations for temporary protection and the number of asylum claims from refugees from Ukraine.

Editing by Reem Akkad and Kate Rabinowitz. Photo editing by Chloe Coleman. Video by Zoeann Murphy. Copy editing by Jamie Zega. Design by Irfan Uraizee and Junne Alcantara.