As of Tuesday, more than 677,000 Ukrainians have left following Russia’s attack on their country, and the figure is growing by the hour. Over 280,000 individuals have sought refuge in Poland in the first five days after the military offensive in Ukraine began, crossing at eight border locations between the two nations. As a result, Poland is the most popular destination for refugees, with around 40% of Ukrainians escaping to the country.
Along the border, the government has set up nine receiving centers that provide food, medical help, and information. It has also developed a helpline and an online portal to coordinate citizen, commercial, and non-governmental organization (NGO) assistance offers. Authorities are continuing to register refugees and give them housing and help, providing information and legal assistance, and transporting additional relief materials to a warehouse near the border.
The national train operator PKP has added new connections and declared that inhabitants of Ukraine will be able to travel for free for the next month.
Before the invasion, Poland was home to an estimated 1.5 million Ukrainians, and many of those arriving now will join family members who already live there. Polish residents and local groups have also turned out in force to support the new arrivals by providing free rides to some of the many Ukrainian migrants with family ties in Poland.
Collection points have sprouted up near the welcome centers to gather items donated by throngs of concerned Poles. These facilities have been stocked with food, water, clothing, sleeping bags, shoes, blankets, nappies, and sanitary items in just a few days for those arriving with nothing but their belongings. One Red Cross center in Lublin is filled with donations from people wanting to help, showing citizen’s overall sympathy.
Tomasz Praga, head of the Polish border guard, said that “all refugees from Ukraine who need help will find it in Poland.” Beyond the efforts of major humanitarian organizations and acts of service by Polish residents, the country has consistently shown support in a variety of ways.
In terms of business efforts, Biedronka, Portuguese owned largest grocery chain in Poland, announced that all 1,800 Ukrainian employees will receive a payout of PLN 1,000 and is looking to hire Ukrainian relatives of employees. Inglot, a large cosmetics company, has offered work and housing to refugees. Panek, a car-sharing service, provided 1,000 of its 2,500 cars to volunteers to transport individuals in need along the Polish-Ukrainian border. Lux Med, a private healthcare company, provided free services to Ukrainians and dispatched some of its doctors to help migrants.
Further, hotels and hostels have offered free lodging, and others across the country have been urged to do the same. In a video posted on Facebook, the owner of Hotel PRL Rzemieślnik in Zakopane invited other hotels in the town to welcome Ukrainians as a show of support.
Several banks, including Poland’s mBank and BNP Paribas’ (BNPP.PA) Polish branch, have pledged to waive or refund costs for transfers into Ukraine, including mBank and BNP Paribas’ (BNPP.PA) Polish branch, which offered free withdrawals to Ukrainian customers.
NGOs have attempted to continue to assist at the border. Chef Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen, for example, served 4,000 meals at Medyka, Poland’s busiest border crossing, over the period of 18 hours.
Poland recognizes that it must prepare for a future in which it will be required to play a key role in keeping Putin’s Russia at bay. The country will continue to serve as a key player in the ongoing crisis.
by Nicole Zelazko, PAC Intern