About a week ago Andrea, one of our representatives, was sent to Poland to learn first-hand about the situation of the Ukrainian refugees who have fled to their neighbouring country and to find out how best to help them, as well as researching the best way to send money to the NGOs that are supporting the cause. Andrea also wanted to find out what tasks that volunteers can do once they are there, in this case Poland, such as what activities are being carried out and how etc.
During the week’s visit, our envoy was able to get to know the situation at first hand. The first of his destinations was the city of Krakow, where he decided to register as a volunteer at the City Council, because once registered, the City Council is the place which puts you in contact with the NGO that you have been assigned to support, such as Caritas.
Unfortunately, this is a very slow process due to all the work flooding in and the amount of time taken to process all the volunteers arriving. Therefore Andrea decided to contact different NGOs himself. Thanks to his initiative, he was able to contact a priest named Matthew, who assigned him to a soup kitchen where the worldwide organisations World Central Kitchen and Caritas were working, distributing food to many Ukrainians in need. Andrea assured us that the food is of good quality and that there are volunteers arriving from all over the world who are eager to help as much as possible. At the beginning of the war they were rather overwhelmed, but little-by-little and thanks to the official bodies that are now supporting them, the general organisation has improved a great deal.
Andrea also informed us that there are now two other tents in the square of the central railway station, Jana Nowaka – Jeziorańskiego, where the soup kitchen tent is located: one tent has many beds for refugees who still have nowhere to sleep, and the other tent has supplies of mainly personal hygiene products and clothes which are distributed to anyone who needs them.
One of the things that struck Andrea the most was the excellent conduct and good spirits of the Ukrainian people who at this time are mostly women and children. They have shown unceasing gratitude, showing themselves to be a little calmer every day, in spite of the situation they are living through. Andrea summed up his experience in Krakow as follows: “It was a moving experience. On the one hand, I could see Ukrainians coming here with anxiety, stress and loss; and on the other, there is a lot of help, love and hope waiting for them” (article in Polish).
On Friday Andrea was able to visit the border together with two other volunteers (a Chilean-French man and an American). They visited the village of Medyka, where for an hour and a half, they were able to see refugees crossing the border. It was a very slow process due to all the legal paperwork involved. Most of the refugees have small suitcases, but some Ukrainians do not have passports, so the production of necessary documents is a frequent task and this process slows down the border crossings. At the border itself there are tents of different NGOs (e.g. Red Cross, Unicef, IOM, etc.) where refugees crossing the border are attended to.
From Medyka, most of the refugees are transferred to the city of Przemyśl, and from there many take a train, bus or even make use of vehicles which can take them to other countries if so wanted.
We at Conexión Creando Puentes hope and wish that the situation will improve as soon as possible and that more people will be encouraged to help as volunteers.
[translated from Spanish]
Proofreading: Kathryn McNeil
29th March 2022