Meeting with Ukrainian Refugees in Poland

by Julie Jones

Some of the young recipients of the packs of sweets, colouring books and pens

As the Assistant director of the International Freedom of Religion or Belief, an All-Party Parliamentary Group, Sister Julie Jones took a trip to Poland with a British government delegation to see how Poland is coping with the influx of Ukrainian refugees, and to see how additional support could help. 

“Once we reached Poland after an early start, our first stop was a retreat house, Dobre Miejsce, attached to the University of Cardinal Wyszynski in Warsaw. We stopped to buy sweets, colouring books, and pens for the 50 children we were about to meet. Dobre Miejsce looks after 95 women and children. The absence of men at the University refuge was noticeable and reinforced the awful concern of the women and children, not knowing if the men in their lives are alive or not.

We managed to spend a little time with the children for whom we had brought the packs. I will treasure the drawing that one little child gave us of the Union flag and the Ukrainian flag with a heart drawn around it; their little faces shining at such a simple gift is something I will remember for years to come. 

Next day we visited the Global Expo centre. It was the most emotional day, seeing 2,800 refugees living without basic medical help, and a mountain of volunteers in dire need of additional financial help. The volunteers, from many different churches, were addressing spiritual as well as physical needs. We were with Bellwether International, an international human-rights non-profit organisation, and with them we were able to give socks and other practical clothing.

Sister Julie Jones with the Dominican Sisters and her associates in Bellwether International and the UK government delegation

We visited the Dominican Sisters who cater for 100 families, with almost 500 people in total. They were out of food but with the help of Bellwether International, thankfully, we were able to bring enough food to help them for the next few days.

We visited the Central Warsaw train and bus station (Warszawa Centralna) where Misja Kamilianska, in partnership with World Central Kitchen, are producing 10,000 meals per day for refugees arriving from Ukraine via bus. It was very humbling to give food and water to those who had fled a war zone with nothing but the clothes on their back.

We learned a lot from our visit to Poland.  The humanitarian cost has been significant and will continue to rise. We must do all we can to meet the needs; practically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Dziękuję Polsko – thank you Poland.”