By Łukasz Olender
Warsaw, Jun 1 (EFE).- Poland has welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion with open arms but three months on from the beginning of the war fatigue has begun to rear its head, prompting humanitarian initiatives and organizations to adjust their tactics.
“We observe certain fatigue and the decline in donors’ abilities, but it is hard to imagine that everyone would still react so positively after 3 months,” Maciej Dubicki, a press officer for the Catholic charity Caritas Polska, told Efe.
“Additionally, inflation is high, there are different factors, which certainly make helping more difficult. Everyone must calculate how much they have in their wallets and how they can help. However, the assistance whether it be financial or through volunteering, remains high, although it did decline a little.”
Katarzyna Ordon-Harłacz, who works as an office employee in Sanok, a town close to the Ukrainian border, says that volunteering on top of her full-time job was challenging.
“I would transport help collected in Sanok with my private car to Równia. The center in Równia was established to provide refugees after they crossed the border with a place to sleep and eat before they traveled further,” she told Efe.
The volunteers were responsible for preparing meals, provisions, beds, welcoming the guests, and maintaining the help center.
“It was tiring, especially because I worked mainly during evenings and nights. In one situation we had to prepare provisions for 50 people who were being moved to another place. On one day, there would be only four or five people leaving the center, so it was easier, but there were days on which the bus with 40-50 people would come.”
Since the start of Russian aggression on February 24, Poland has dealt with an unprecedented influx of refugees.
Over 3.72 million Ukrainians fled across the border, of which around 1.72 million have returned.
Caritas Polska remains the biggest charity organization in Poland and currently runs 22 centers in large towns and cities, providing material and social help.
“They can also ask for assistance in learning Polish language, or if they are looking for a place to stay. We also offer psychological help from qualified psychologists,” said Dubicki.
According to Dubicki, in the first weeks of war, Caritas served 1.5 million meals, and provided over 20,000 tons of humanitarian help directly to Ukraine. During fundraising in churches, the institution collected over 100 million zloty (about 22 million euros).
Dubicki pointed out that the structure of the donors is varied, and includes private donors, but also small and large businesses.
“The help is still needed, and new people reach out to us. Lately, we have introduced support in the form of prepaid cards, which people from Ukraine can use for groceries and they are very popular,” Dubicki added.
“Therefore, rather than decrease, the needs remain on a similar level.
“For now, we hear that more people are going back to Ukraine than coming to Poland, but we do not know what the situation will look like in a few months. With the autumn and winter coming, it may turn out that many people will decide to come to Poland due to the economic difficulties and hardships.”
Svitlana Chystiakova co-runs one of the biggest grassroots humanitarian centers in Warsaw, the Center for Help Pulawska (Centrum Pomocy Puławska).
She admitted that for her and her team, helping people from Ukraine became a full-time occupation.
“Each of us has a professional and private life that in the last three months was left aside. So, we are tired, and even though we want to continue our work we need a bit of a break,” she told Efe.