People look at a damaged school in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, on March 20.

'Some of us never unpacked our suitcases': Putin's refugee crisis didn't start in 2022

Updated 1034 GMT (1834 HKT) March 23, 2022

(CNN)In the month since Russia invaded Ukraine, at least 10 million people have fled their homes. But for countless more refugees across the world, Vladimir Putin's assault on democracy began long before 2022.

Eight years ago, the breakaway enclaves of Donetsk and Luhansk, in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, became the site of fighting between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces. That same year, 2014, Russia also annexed Crimea, sparking global condemnation.
There was precedent for this. In 2008, over the course of five days, Russian troops under then-Prime Minister Putin invaded the former Soviet state of Georgia, supposedly to defend the independence of two pro-Russian territories -- South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Beyond Europe's borders, Russian forces entered Syria's long civil war in 2015, bolstering ally President Bashar al-Assad's regime. In the wake of Russia's massive bombing assault on Aleppo, the country lost its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
We asked refugees and displaced people from each of these conflicts to share their stories of forging new lives -- and the lessons for Ukraine today. The opinions expressed in these commentaries are their own.