March 14, 2022
Following FAFCE’s call for donations for Ukrainian families, Theresa Kapela, FAFCE delegate of the member association “Związek Dużych Rodzin 3+” (association of large Polish families), shares her testimony and courageous example of Polish families helping Ukrainian families since the beginning of the war.
I would like to give you an overview of the situation in Poland, still unthinkable just two weeks ago. It is a great outpouring of help and solidarity that emerged throughout the country.
There are many local and individual initiatives to help the Ukrainians who are arriving in Poland in increasing numbers. People in cars spontaneously went to the border to help refugees leave the threatened areas as quickly as possible.
First came the people who had some acquaintances in Poland or in other countries. We had to help them find their way there, put them up for a night or two, give them food, before they continued on their journey. Now there is a wave of people fleeing the bombings and looking for help in general. Many individuals offer their accommodation to house them, and a whole information network has been formed with the development of large common rooms.
In a village near our home, the staff of a school has converted classes into dormitories, and the municipality has taken charge of the meals. A person who speaks Ukrainian organizes games for children with volunteers. I did not even know that there are Ukrainian workers in our village of about 100 inhabitants. These are mainly initiatives in the border regions.
People load their cars with groceries, take petrol to cars waiting to enter Poland, and go to the border to pick up people crossing the border by foot.
We communicated detailed lists of the supplies that are needed to people around us and indicated the places where they could be delivered, for example at my grandson’s nursery school. Most refugees find refuge with families, but we can already see the limits. The big cities are completely overwhelmed. I have just learned today that refugees currently constitute 25% of the inhabitants of Krakow.
Luckily, there are a lot of initiatives to help those who remained in Ukraine: organization of convoys of medicine and food, and assistance with transit within the country.
We have an apartment that is not inhabited at the moment, and we have declared ourselves ready to take in some persons. Yesterday, friends from Krakow called us asking us to house a family arriving from Kiev, with two disabled members. We ourselves live in a house very close to Warsaw. This family from Kiev is with us for now. Regarding the apartment, there are already 3 families waiting to be placed, each consisting of 6 people. We are looking for other places. These are families who want to stay together: parents, children, and a grandmother. Right now with us there are 2 adult sisters, their brother and a cousin with her daughter. It is increasingly difficult to find available space – all our friends are already hosting refugees.
What makes things a lot easier is that Ukrainians can cross the border without a passport, they have access to public transport in Poland for free, and they are provided with phone cards for a month for free. These actions are very important in a context of confusion.
The government also provides financial assistance for those hosting refugees, which will prove to be invaluable if the conflict lasts.”