The Polish Caritas magazine with humanitarian aid for refugees from Ukraine in Budy Glogowskie village, southeastern Poland, March 17, 2022 | Photo: EPA/KARINA SALO
The Polish Caritas magazine with humanitarian aid for refugees from Ukraine in Budy Glogowskie village, southeastern Poland, March 17, 2022 | Photo: EPA/KARINA SALO

Poland is hosting more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees and the Polish chapter of Catholic charity Caritas is on the frontline to provide assistance with dozens of housing facilities and hundreds of volunteers, thanks to donations made by the population which have nearly reached 20 million euros.

Solidarity for Ukrainian refugees has reached record numbers in Poland. In just a few days, the Polish chapter of Catholic charity Caritas has set up an organization with dozens of hosting facilities, hundreds of volunteers, thousands of meals and people hosted in homes, packages of food and essential products.

"The generosity of people was great and in just a few weeks offers were gathered for 83 million sloti", nearly €20 million, Father Marcin Izicki, director of Caritas Polska, told ANSA in a recent interview.

On Thursday and Friday, the charity operating on behalf of the Polish Episcopal Conference travelled to Rome to discuss with Caritas Internationalis, Caritas Europe and the Caritas Italiana, a coordination system to provide aid more efficiently to the population of Ukraine hit by the conflict.

Over 2 million refugees in Poland, reallocation in EU necessary

The objective, says Caritas, is to push all European Churches to ask Europe to reallocate refugees, considering that Poland currently hosts over two million people.

"Right now, there is a lot of enthusiasm, there are families housing up to 10 refugees, but after two months, six months, what will happen," wondered the head of Caritas. "There is also a problem connected to the hope many Ukrainians have of returning home soon. For this reason, they don't want to move too far away from the border of their land," explained Father Izicki.

Hundreds of volunteers at border crossings, 800 orphans also hosted

Father Izicki also spoke about the great solidarity shown by 2,000 volunteers and nuns who take shifts to provide assistance at the eight border crossings between Poland and Ukraine to welcome refugees. Refugees are mainly women and children, he said and "as Caritas Poland, we have also taken under our care 800 children coming from orphanages in Ukraine."

"We have succeeded in rescuing them and now our facilities, religious homes or structures for the holidays of families have been converted to host these children. Groups of orphaned kids have been hosted by the diocese of Opole, in Bielsko-Żywiec, in the archdiocese of Czestochowa and in Krakow. The archdiocese of Warmia found housing for a certain number of children with oncological problems."

These children and teens are aged 3 to 17, although there are also older refugees with disabilities, he explained. Language courses have been organized for them, as well as for children who have fled Ukraine with their mothers, so they can be enrolled in school as soon as possible.

Chaos at the border, Caritas Poland confirms trafficking risks

Amid the solidarity at the border, "there is however a little bit of everything, people with signs offering a lift - people who perhaps want to take advantage of the fragility of these women", said the vice director of Caritas Poland, Ireneusz Krause, confirming the potential risk of trafficking, as noted by Pope Francis during his Sunday Angelus prayer.

"When we see a suspected case, we immediately report it to the police and we don't cooperate for these 'lifts' which we know nothing about," Caritas Polska representatives said.

Along with the Ukrainians, citizens from other countries who were living in Ukraine when the invasion started have also reached Poland.

"They also receive aid from Caritas, like the organization of transport to Poland for Ghanaian students who were studying in Ukraine, promoted by the archdiocese of Katowice. Caritas in Lublin organized various types of aid for refugees, from psychological assistance to translation services. Medical care was offered and SIM cards for phones were distributed."

"We do what we can but Europe must help us in this", they concluded.


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