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Ukrainian workers, seeing little hope at home, head abroad

As Ukrainians get ready for a presidential election on Sunday, millions have already voted with their feet to leave a nation mired in corruption and inequality.

With Russia in control of Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and backing separatists fighting the government in eastern Ukraine, the government in Kiev is unable to fulfill its aspirations of joining the European Union or NATO.

Ordinary Ukrainians long for better wages but see them stuck at a monthly average of $350. Business owners crave transparent rules but often face being extorted for bribes by corrupt officials.

Andriy Lytvynenko Ukrainian war veteran, sorts drinks and food at his workplace at a supermarket warehouse near Teresin, Poland, March 12, 2019, with nearly half the workers being Ukrainian. Millions of Ukrainians, an estimated one in 10, have left their country to seek the opportunity of working abroad, as many see no hope if they remain at home. (AP PhotoMstyslav Chernov)

Many Ukrainians who dream of a decent existence are seeking it elsewhere. In a nation of 44 million people, about 5 million — more than one in 10 — now work abroad, especially in neighboring Poland.

Ukrainians disembark the Kharkiv-Warsaw bus in Warsaw, Poland, on March 10, 2019. As Ukrainians prepare to go to the polls in a presidential election March 31, millions have already voted with their feet to leave the country, seemingly mired by corruption, poverty and conflict. (AP PhotoMstyslav Chernov)

Nurse attends the child in Rivne Regional Children's Hospital, Ukraine on March 14, 2019. As Ukrainians prepare to go the polls in a presidential election March 31, millions of Ukrainians, an estimated one in 10, have left their country to seek the opportunity of working abroad, as many see no hope if they remain at home.(AP PhotoMstyslav Chernov)

Mother and daughter walk away from the Rivne Regional Children's Hospital, in Rivne, Ukraine, on March 14, 2019. As Ukrainians prepare to go to the polls in a presidential election March 31, millions of Ukrainians have already voted with their feet by leaving the country, seemingly mired in corruption, poverty and conflict. (AP PhotoMstyslav Chernov)

Olena Aleksiychuk, a Ukrainian dentist, treats a patient, who is also Ukrainian, at a private dental clinic in Warsaw, Poland, on Monday March 11, 2019. 31-year old Ukrainian dentist Aleksiychuk, left behind her parents, a home and her private dental practice in Ukraine four years ago, to learn how to speak Polish and seek the opportunity of working abroad. (AP PhotoCzarek Sokolowski)

Ukrainians pray at the St. Mary Magdalene Church in Warsaw, Poland, on March 10, 2019. Ukrainians prepare to go the polls in a presidential election March 31, although millions of Ukrainians, an estimated one in 10, have already left their country to seek the opportunity of working abroad, as many see no hope if they remain at home. (AP PhotoMstyslav Chernov)

People walk along the street of Rivne, Ukraine, on March 14, 2019. As Ukrainians prepare to go to the polls in a presidential election March 31, millions of Ukrainians have already voted with their feet by leaving the country, seemingly mired in corruption, poverty and conflict. (AP PhotoMstyslav Chernov)

An elderly woman takes a walk to the WWII monument in Rivne, Ukraine, on March 14, 2019. Millions of Ukrainians, an estimated one in 10, have left their country to seek the opportunity of working abroad, as many see no hope if they remain at home. (AP PhotoMstyslav Chernov)

A girl peeks out from the door in Rivne Regional Children's Hospital, in Rivne, Ukraine, on March 14, 2019. As Ukrainians prepare to go the polls in a presidential election March 31, millions have already voted with their feet, by leaving the country mired by corruption, poverty and conflict. (AP PhotoMstyslav Chernov)

Ukrainians pray at the St. Mary Magdalene Church in Warsaw, Poland on March 10, 2019. Ukrainians prepare to go the polls in a presidential election March 31, as millions of Ukrainians, an estimated one in 10, have already left their country to seek the opportunity of working abroad, as many see no hope if they remain at home. (AP PhotoMstyslav Chernov)