Hi, I’m Jola, and I grew up in a small town in northern Poland. When I was a child, Poland was under Soviet occupation and control. We had no freedom; news and information were controlled by the government; all goods, including food, clothing, toilet paper, and appliances – what little there were – were rationed; traveling outside the country was forbidden, and education was discouraged. We made the best of it, but it was easy to be pessimistic. Many years later, after I had moved to the US, I realized just how hopeless that life was.
In February, when Russia invaded Ukraine, my heart broke, and childhood memories of life under occupation came flooding back. I couldn’t stop watching the news, and I wanted to do something – anything – to stop the attack. But of course, there was nothing I could do. I felt lucky not to be there, and at the same time guilty that I could just turn off the news and go on with my life while people lived through the war day in and day out – not knowing where the next bomb or cruise missile would land, or even where their next meal would come from. I am sure you know the feeling.
I decided that, while I couldn’t stop the war, I could still help in a meaningful way by going to Poland and helping the refugees directly. There are almost 3 million refugees from Ukraine in Poland, and many are staying in the area where I grew up. With the help of a local nonprofit organization in the town of Slupsk (called Slupski Fundusz Localny), I will be able to meet the refugee families, buy them food and other necessities, and hopefully help them with housing. I have connected with six families that will benefit from your generosity. They are mostly women and children. Every single dollar raised will benefit the refugees DIRECTLY.
On the cover picture is one of the families I will meet. Oksana and her two children are currently staying in a home donated by a Polish family. The father stayed behind in Ukraine to fight in the war. They need help with the most basic of needs – food, clothing, shoes. Oksana would like to move closer to a city where she could find a job and support her family on her own. Her story is not unlike that of many others; they just need a little bit of help to get back on their feet.
Funds raised will cover the following immediate needs:
1. $12,000 – pays for six months of rent for 2 families
2. $3,000 – pays for one month’s food supply for 6 families
3. $5,000 – purchase essentials such as shoes and clothing
There are approximately 30 families currently staying in a vacation complex in the town of Barkocino, but they will have to move when the summer season starts in June. Some of these families will be moved to school buildings that are being turned into shelters when they are empty during the summer. Some might find temporary housing with Polish families – but when school starts, they will have to move again. I would love to find more permanent housing for at least 2 families in the area that would allow the women to find a job and continue renting on their own, as well as enable their children to go to school. An apartment that can house a small family costs approximately $1,000/month.
Inflation in Poland is currently pretty severe, partially due to pandemic, but mostly because of the war over the border and a huge increase in Poland’s population over the last several weeks. The expectation is that $500 will cover one month’s worth of groceries per family; household products (health, baby care, etc.) would cost another $500/month.
Most of the refugees came with nothing more than a pair of shoes and whatever small number of belongings they could fit in a bag. Many thought and expected they would be back home by now. With spring approaching, the weather changing, and the war’s end unfortunately nowhere in sight, most of the refugees now find themselves in need of bare essentials as they adapt to their new reality. With your help, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who – through no fault of their own – have lost everything, and help them start anew.
Thank you for reading and for your donations! Anything makes a difference!
Update as of August, 2022
We wanted to share with you that through GoFundMe and other donations, we've so far received over $40,000! The trip to Poland was very successful, and as long as the donations keep coming, we will continue helping Ukrainian refugees settle into their new lives.
Following is a summary of the help we have been able to provide thus far through the generosity of your donations:
1. Rented 5 apartments for 5 different families for 6 months, enabling these families to jump-start a more stable situation (finding work, sending kids to school, etc.)
2. Supplied 100 Ukrainian children with school supplies and gift cards for shoes, shorts and shirts
3. Provided 18 families with gift cards to a local mall that could be used for shoes, clothing, medication and other essentials
4. Purchased and distributed a two-week supply of groceries for 50 families
5. Purchased groceries to restock a local Humanitarian Aid Organization (enough to supply 50 families for 2-3 weeks)
6. Funded an account in a grocery store in Barkocin (a small town in northern Poland) where a group of local women shopped to prepare meals for around 20 Ukrainian families staying in the town
7. Provided a local orphanage housing 54 Ukrainian children (ages 5 to 15) with a much-needed washing machine and 5 free-standing clothes dryers, as well as chocolates, cookies, personal care and cleaning supply products, groceries, and t-shirts for the kids
8. Purchased cold, flu, and pain medication for a local Humanitarian Aid Organization
9. Purchased a 6-month supply of insulin for a Ukrainian boy that had just turned 18, and was therefore no longer eligible for medication assistance from the Polish government
In addition, we also took 6 suitcases full of donated clothes for women and children and 10 boxes of "Costco-size" M&Ms, which was such a hit with the kids! We left the suitcases with the refugees - they move around a lot and need them.
Almost all refugees would like to go back home as soon as possible, but they are realizing it will take time to rebuild. Refugees have different needs now: Finding a home, job, and place in a daycare for children will help them to start building a more normal life.
This was the largest private donation in the City of Slupsk, and we were featured in local radio and TV news programs to encourage other people to donate and extend the positive impact of donations already received.