Private initiatives join refugee crisis response in Poland

By Miguel Ángel Gayo Macías

Krakow, Poland, Mar 16 (EFE).- The massive influx of Ukrainian refugees to Poland is straining the country’s public resources, prompting the private sector to step in to alleviate the pressure.

Poland has so far taken in 1.9 million of the roughly 3 million Ukrainians who have been forced to flee Russia’s brutal invasion, the government said on Wednesday.

With public services at tipping point, a number of private initiatives have sprung up to help the refugees’ plight.

One such project operating in Krakow, southern Poland, is a shop offering free clothes donated by a variety of fashion brands.

“If you dress well, you feel well, and when everything is going wrong, that’s more important than ever,” one Ukrainian refugee, who preferred not to be identified, said.

The store opened its doors on March 11 and at first glance appears like any other shop, although there are no price tags on the clothing or footwear, Maria Wojtacha, the project’s coordinator, told Efe.

The only entry requirement to access the free clothing outlet is a Ukrainian passport.

The store is located at the Krakow Plaza mall, which itself has been converted into an accommodation center with the capacity to host up to 300 people.

Where there were once chain stores there are now laundry facilities, a games room for children, a diner, a medical center and dormitories.

“We’ve been told that we can stay here for two months, but I want to leave before then. Where to? I don’t know, Italy, Turkey or Dubai,” a 50-year-old woman from Kyiv told Efe.

“I have family in those places. At first it would be a burden for them but I’d hope to find work soon after,” the woman, who also declined to give her name, added.

While Poland’s public and private sector have gone to lengths to accommodate refugees, and thousands of citizens have opened up their own homes to help fleeing families, hundreds of Ukrainians still spend the night sleeping on the floor of the country’s train and bus stations as they wait to be assigned accommodation.

The local governments in Warsaw and Krakow believe their populations have swelled by 15% in just three weeks. EFE


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