Polish volunteers worry Ukraine refugee wave may become overwhelming

By Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk

WARSAW (Reuters) – Grzegorz Patyk and almost two dozen pals began driving Ukrainian refugees between the Polish border and short-term housing a day after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb 24.

A translator from the southern Polish metropolis of Krakow, he is without doubt one of the 1000’s of Poles who’ve jumped in to assist the swelling wave of individuals fleeing warfare, by providing locations to remain, transportation, meals and even laundry or babysitting providers.

However Patyk, 40, is fearful that volunteers have gotten overwhelmed, after almost 1.5 million folks have crossed into Poland as Russia continues to shell cities throughout Ukraine.

“The size is large … and it is not a query of whether or not the Polish folks wish to assist or not, it is a query of whether or not they nonetheless can. Assets are working out,” Patyk stated.

The U.N. Refugee Company (UNHCR) has warned Europe’s success in absorbing the greater than 2 million individuals who have left Ukraine up to now stems largely from the truth that many have discovered shelter with the massive Ukrainian diaspora across the continent.

However the diaspora’s capability to soak up new arrivals may run out, leaving many caught at crowded reception centres which have cropped up alongside Ukraine’s border with central Europe.

Talking on the crowded essential corridor of Warsaw central practice station, the place he had only a introduced a household attempting to get to northern Poland, Patyk stated he believed his hometown of Krakow had run out of lodging.

“There isn’t any area there anymore,” he stated, as volunteers handed out sandwiches wrapped in wax paper close by.

Krakow authorities have stated town nonetheless had short-term beds out there however extra everlasting areas have been gone, in response to RMF24 radio station.

In Warsaw, which has seen 1 / 4 of one million refugees come by within the final two weeks, the largest short-term reception centre was about 70% full. Folks normally keep there an evening or two earlier than heading on.


Ready for the household he introduced from the border to purchase practice tickets for his or her onward journey and fill paperwork, Patyk spoke about seeing his spouse solely throughout the day, whereas he spent nights serving to refugees, and a few rising sense of chaos.

“To start with all the pieces was working very easily, folks took in refugees, they volunteered … however now (non-public) lodging is working out … and we’re in search of areas and the (native authority) coordinators swap off their telephones at night time.”

The Polish authorities proposed a legislation this week permitting individuals who home refugees to say 8.3 euros per day per particular person.

Additionally it is making ready a 1.6 billion euro fund to assist refugees, and has mobilised police, hearth fighters and different providers to distribute help. However volunteers say non-public donations are nonetheless fuelling a major a part of the quick assist.

Michal Wilczewski, who calls himself a social media influencer, says he is been coordinating meals distribution at Warsaw practice station, supplying sandwiches and ready-to-eat meals introduced by non-public folks and a few eating places.

“We simply received a bunch of pals collectively … scheduled three shifts a day,” he stated. “None of us are prepared for this, and we can not predict if we find yourself needing 500 or 5,000 meals a day.”

He stated the federal government was doing extra now than initially to assist coordinate assist for Ukrainians, like placing up a heated tent near the station have been meals will be served, however he worries the regular of stream of donations may dry up quickly.

“Individuals are simply cooking, paying for it with their very own cash, however these funds or their resolve to assist will finish.”

European Union officers have stated the bloc may see the arrival of about 5 million folks.

(Writing by Justyna Pawlak; enhancing by William Maclean)

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