By Roy C. Mabasa
Poland has been transformed into a “wide humanitarian corridor” as it provides safe passage and temporary shelter to thousands of Ukrainians and other nationalities, including Filipinos, who are fleeing Ukraine since Russian forces launched an invasion last Feb. 24.
Polish Embassy in the Philippines Charge d’Affaires Jaroslaw Szczepankiewicz said his government is helping everybody who are escaping from the horrifying Russian aggression in Ukraine through its eastern border crossing points in Medyka, Dorohusk and Hrebene.
“It is hard to be indifferent to these people’s misfortune, especially to the women and children who are fleeing Ukraine,” Szczepankiewicz told Politiko.ph in an exclusive interview Wednesday.
The number of refugees, according to the Polish diplomat, is growing everyday, and “Ukrainian women and children are being allowed to go through the borders practically without any check.”
Since the crisis started, more than 600,000 civilians have fled Ukraine, according to Szczepankiewicz, citing statistics from various United Nations agencies.
Around 410,000 Ukrainian refugees are now already in Poland and the number is expected to rise dramatically in the next few days and weeks should the situation further worsen.
To ease the hardships of the refugees, the Polish government has designated special trains to evacuate the elderly and mothers with young children from the borders into Poland.
In the course of the initial evacuation, Szczepankiewicz said a couple of Ukrainian refugees even gave birth to their first born in Poland.
Even prior to the Russian invasion, he said Poland has prepositioned contingency measures and built a “broad aid network” for potential refugees from Ukraine consisting of immediate necessities like medicines, blankets and food in cooperation with their local and provincial authorities.
Reception centers were opened to provide information, meals and medical aid to refugees, while 120 hospitals were readied to treat the injured.
To help the Ukrainian children to continue their education while in Poland, the government will give them access to schools “with as little formality as possible.”
The Polish official said the children and teens will receive preparatory units in the coming months since most of them do not know the language enough to be able to participate in actual classes.
The government of Poland likewise activated specific websites where the public can extend their help whether by offering food, medicines, clothing, jobs or even housing to Ukrainian refugees.