We are raising £15,000 to support Ukrainian refugees in Poland: The Impact Appeal.
We are witnessing a humanitarian crisis in the heart of Europe. The war in Ukraine is destroying countless lives, tearing families apart and forcing many of them to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. Over two million people, mainly women and children, have crossed the border into Poland with what few belongings they can carry. Arriving exhausted, traumatised, and in urgent need of food, water and shelter, the Polish people welcomed them with open arms. There are no refugee camps. All of these people have either found shelter in private homes or temporary accommodation run by charities or the local government.
Impact is committed to doing what we can to help. Our team in Poland have been given a day off every week to support arriving refugees. Our team shared some stories about their experiences, and we were moved to tears by their selflessness, generosity, and unabashed humanity. We wanted to share one of these stories with you from Impact Poland’s Head of Project Management, Monika Jamorska. Please consider donating to Impact’s Ukraine appeal if it resonates with you, raising funds to buy essential supplies for Ukrainian refugees in Poland.
Impact Poland' Monika Jamorska's story
Hi, My name is Monika, I work at Impact Polska, and I live in Warsaw. Since the war started, 2.6 million refugees have arrived in Poland – more than the population of Warsaw itself. Writing this text is difficult because I am not sure which words to use and how to describe my involvement in helping those in need. I hope I am not going to offend anyone. The purpose of this text is just to describe the situation, not to make myself look good. Please remember that my story is only a tiny excerpt. Everyone at Impact Polska and so many other people around the world have theirs to share. I am very grateful to Impact for the opportunity to volunteer. Let me know if there are any questions or opinions. Thank you.
We all feel anger, frustration, and great sadness for Ukrainians. Here in Poland, we have managed to turn these feelings into action – our nation joined forces and started working together on a scale that is hard to imagine. With Impact’s support, I began volunteering immediately, throwing myself (unconsciously) into deep water by working at the nearby Warsaw West bus & train station (now called ‘Little Ukraine’).
The station is packed. Some people sit on hard metal station chairs, some lie on sleeping mats, and others stand and give the impression of not being here at all. A full spectrum of people is represented here – from the elderly and tired to families and youngsters. There are queues of people for various cash desks, both international and local, and mothers with children in specially designated spaces where they can change and feed them. There are lots of volunteers. I’m standing in my reflective vest in the middle, and I don’t know what to do with myself. There’s luggage everywhere, children, animals in cages, terrified eyes, and lost people asking where they can go. Some people have no idea whether they will go to Germany or France. I found out that all train tickets to Western Europe are sold out. People don’t have face masks. I don’t speak Ukrainian or Russian, so I look for a translator and use my phone instead. The coordinator is busy, so I find tasks to do myself.
At the station, refugees receive a lot of support – there are places to get hot meals and drinks, places where they can wash, shops that distribute free sim cards, and taxi networks that organise free rides around Warsaw. The kids smile when we give them Kinder chocolates, toys, and colouring books. We also hand out food for dogs and cats. In the evening, people try to sleep on the station floor. Those who stay overnight either do so because they’re waiting for transport or have no plan. The city has created places where coaches take people and offer accommodation. Unfortunately, this is available only to citizens of Ukraine. What if you are a refugee from another country? There is no solution. They are also at this station, waiting.
I walk past a woman with a black eye and a small dog in her suitcase. She is just staring blankly as if she can’t hear or see anything. How can I help her? Do I have the strength? In the next moment, I lead an elderly lady to the cash register, and she starts crying out of gratitude, hugging me tightly. The civic movement works excellent here. Poles arrive every few minutes to ask: Where to leave these sandwiches/pancakes? Where to leave these blankets? I have a spare room, who can I invite? At midnight, a lady who owns a restaurant arrives with a massive pot of hot tomato soup. We give it to cold and tired people.
When I finish my shift late at night, I go out and look at the crowds of people, their little suitcases, and mothers with children trying to take a nap. It took me a few days to recover from this.
I go to the logistics centre for my second voluntary service, where all the gifts from various European countries arrive. My section was the clothes section. The experience is very pleasant – for six hours, I forget about the world, not looking at messages or answering the phone; I just help unpack boxes, carry them from place to place, and sort clothes for women, men, children, and newborns. Most clothes have arrived from Portugal, France, and Sweden.
What I would like to share from these experiences is that it is impossible to fill someone else’s bucket if your own is empty, so let’s take care of ourselves in these difficult times. I can confidently say that I was out of my depth during my first session at the bus station. Before you start helping, check where you are going to be, and take stock of your mental health and your capacity to help. Do you have the strength for the specific type of work involved? Will you be able to work at the station, or would you be a better help with logistics work? Where will your energy be best placed? Next week, I plan to use my skills by working in an office, and helping to connect refugees with houses in Warsaw that want to accommodate people.