Hello from Warsaw, Poland
I am writing you today from Warsaw, Poland as part of our team of volunteers from www.OperationSafeHarborUkraine.com which is assisting Ukrainian refugees displaced by the war. I am so proud of our team of volunteers as they are putting their care and compassion into action by helping people who have lost everything in this tragic war. Our mission has been to rent hotel rooms and provide them to Ukrainian families and also provide them with meals and medical assistance. Here are a handful of observations from my first few days in Warsaw.
Warsaw is a beautiful European city – With grand Boulevards, a wonderful mass transit system, very nice buildings and it has all the appearances of a very prosperous Western European city. Even with the estimated 500,000 refugees from Ukraine entering the city in the last 60 days Warsaw does not look or feel overwhelmed on the surface. If you had not seen the massive refugee movement on TV and driven through this city today you may not even know of the massive humanitarian effort going on in Warsaw.
The Polish people are my heroes for their compassion to help their neighbors from Ukraine – Almost every house in Warsaw is filled with Ukrainian families, some with as many as 20 people in one small house. The Polish people have filled their homes with Ukrainian people, feed them, and given them hope. The current problem is that all the residential housing is now full and hotel rooms are filling up fast as well. With the escalation of the war this week www.OperationSafeHarborUkraine.com is trying to grab as many additional hotel rooms as possible to extend refugees a safe harbor as they flee the war.
I was surprised at the massive amount of medical support required for refugees staying in our hotel rooms – One in every three refugees has medical problems caused by the long and dangerous journey of fleeing the war. Some families spent weeks walking to get out of the country while facing snow, rain, below-freezing temperatures, as well as mental and physical trauma. They have the flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, a cold, are dehydrated, some are pregnant and many are critically exhausted and just at the end of their physical ability to deal with this nightmare when they arrive at our hotel. The good news is that many of the hospitals and medical centers for refugees in Warsaw provide complementary medical assistance. Almost every day we have a handful of people with health issues ranging from a runny nose to seizures. It never dawned on me that medical support would be such a large part of this humanitarian effort.
The Ukrainian people are amazingly resilient – Even as the war takes away their homes, their families, their jobs, and their possessions they bounce back with amazing strength. Many of them are just weeks removed from losing everything yet a smile quickly comes to their face knowing their family is now safe.
It appears that about half the Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw want to return back to their families in Ukraine after the war – We recently polled the families in our hotel and half of them planned to push forward and build a new life in western Europe, Canada or the US. The other half hoped to be able to return soon to start the rebuilding process in Ukraine.
Pets, pets, and more pets have been brought along with Ukrainian refugees – There seem to be dogs and cats everywhere with Ukrainian families who are fleeing the war. Pets have been an amazing comfort to the children of these refugee families and have provided them with a sense of home. Some days in the halls of the hotel it seems like we have wall-to-wall pets everywhere.
The food is better than I thought in Poland – Today I had chili soup on top of rice sprinkled with salted peanuts and banana slices. I don’t know what they called it, but it was very tasty. For those of you not so bold they also have lots of fast food stores such as McDonald’s, KFC, Kwik shops, and grocery stores throughout the city where you can find the same tasty treats you can find back home.
Finally, thank you from the bottom of my heart to those of our readers who have made generous donations to this humanitarian effort – We cannot stop the war in Ukraine, however, we are doing so much good for refugees that need our help in their time of darkness. If our effort is speaking to your heart I hope you will consider donating by visiting our website www.operationsafeharborukraine.com. I personally guarantee you that every penny you donate will go directly to the Humanitarian effort serving Ukrainians here in Warsaw. Thank you for your kindness, care, and love.