Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. It wasn’t a local attack but a full-scale invasion targeting most of the biggest cities in Ukraine. Targets were not only military sites but also many civilian objects that were damaged.
The capital of Ukraine Kyiv, as well as other Ukrainian cities, are under attack but Ukrainian soldiers and regular people, men and women, are repelling attacks effectively. That seems to be a big surprise to Russians. Ukrainian men between 18 and 60 stayed in Ukraine. More than 200 thousand women and children escaped to Poland (as of Sunday afternoon, Feb 27). There are long lines on Ukrainian-Polish borders (our friend’s family waited almost two days before they were able to cross the border).
When they enter Poland they have free medical care here, they can use trains and other transportation arranged for them for free. There are organized reception points at the border. Thousands of Poles are waiting at the border with hot meals, warm clothes, helping refugees with transportation and offering them accommodation in their homes. See one of the videos from such place https://youtu.be/g_DUIi2FfMM
This is what we know either first hand from our friends in Ukraine or from news broadcasters we think we can trust. Most probably you are aware of the most important facts from the media. Of course, the war is not only on the ground and in the air but also in the media (disinformation), in cyberspace (like attacks on servers of crucial institutions, businesses, or media broadcasters) and evidently there is a psychological war.
Throughout centuries of common history of Polish and Ukrainian people (back then called officially Rusyns or Ruthenians) lived together in good relations. Lemkos or Boykos, or in general Rusyns, used a slightly different dialect than Polish, had their own traditions, but the main distinction was their Greek Catholic rite. Together with Jewish people and old German settlers they were an important part of a multicultural, diverse society.
My father comes from a village south of Rzeszow where about 50% of the population were Ukrainians, or more precisely, an ethnic group called in Polish “zamieszańcy”, in Ukrainian замішанці. In my veins, there is about ⅛ of Ukrainian blood. I am writing this to you from another village which before WWII was populated by 50 Lemko families and only by 5 Polish ones. Such places of mixed nations (or ethnic groups) in south-eastern Poland and western Ukraine were plentiful and situations like, for example, mixed marriages were very normal.
Nowadays there are still strong bonds between people from Poland and Ukraine. Within the last decade or so about 2 million Ukrainians immigrated and found new life in Poland. Of course, there were hard times between our nations, especially during WWII.
But now we are here fully focused on helping people who are our neighbors and who were brutally attacked by another neighbor.
The domineering theme in your emails, next to the question about our safety (yes, we are safe here), is HOW CAN WE HELP?
In this document, we created a list of official, verified organizations that are helping in different ways refugees or people who stayed in Ukraine. The list will be updated when we find more useful and current information.
You are also asking about assistance in helping your family members in Ukraine or after they crossed the Polish border. As I mentioned before, there are organized reception points which help all people crossing the border and they are taken care of at the beginning.
But you can give us a phone number to your family member for us to reach them and find out if she needs any specific help in accommodation, contacting specific institutions or doing any other thing. We can also pass them messages from you or help in accommodation in a hotel if they didn’t find any more permanent accommodation yet.
In the same document (in part 2 “After crossing the Polish border” https://polishorigins.com/help-ukraine#border) you will find a bunch of useful information we collected for Ukrainian refugees which you can pass further to your family and friends
If you have any questions, requests for help your family or friends, or ideas of how you could (and would need our assistance in that) write to us at [email protected]!
Best wishes from Poland, where we are grateful to live in a safe place and to be able to help our neighbours.
(Update March 10: Because of personal and sensitive character of reports from now on we publish Alex’s messages and other reports from Poland and Ukraine in our newsletter only: https://polishorigins.com/newsletter-sign-up/ .)
Zenon and Team