WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Ukrainian military plane evacuated dozens of Ukrainians as well as several Poles and Syrians from Syria on Wednesday.

Most of those evacuated are Polish and Ukrainian women married to Syrian men along with their children. The mixed families are a legacy of strong communist-era ties between the Soviet bloc and Arab countries, a time when Arab students would often study engineering, medicine and other technical subjects at Eastern European universities, sometimes returning home with wives.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Dikusarov said the plane took off from Aleppo on Wednesday with 138 Ukrainians, 15 Poles and seven Syrians on board and was to briefly land in Damascus to pick up about 40 more Ukrainians. The plane was then to fly to Kiev’s Boryspil airport.

The evacuees reached the Aleppo airport safely despite attacks on the access road a day earlier, said Poland’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Marcin Bosacki.

The plane is due to land in Kiev late Wednesday and the Poles will then continue their journey on to Poland, Bosacki said.

He said those fleeing Syria decided to leave because of the escalating fighting between rebels and the Syrian army, but that many Polish citizens chose to remain.

Last month, 62 Ukrainians were evacuated from Syria.

Poland evacuated its diplomats and closed its embassy in Damascus last week due to the intensifying civil war. The Polish embassy had also represented US interests in Syria since February.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.