O polskiej pomocy humanitarnej dla Ukrainy w związku z rosyjską agresją opowiedziałam na konferencji zorganizowanej przez Stowarzyszenie Narodów Zjednoczonych w Polsce (UNAP) w Akademii Finansów i Biznesu Vistula w Warszawie. Współorganizatorem konferencji była Ambasada Szwajcarii w Polsce.
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
it is a great honour for me to be here. I would like to thank for the invitation Mr Adam Dziedzic, the President of the Board at United Nations Association Poland.
Let me start with a personal story.
It happened 82 years ago. In the middle of the night on February 10, 1940, during a very cold winter, which nowadays we don’t know anymore, a group of armed Soviet soldiers stormed into the house of my grandmother’s sister. She lived with her family in eastern Poland.
The members of my family, awakened from sleep, heard the sentence: as a hostile social factor they will be sent into a labour camp in the interior of Soviet Russia. Why? Because they were relatives of a Polish officer. The brother of my grandma fought in the Polish-Soviet war of 1920. His sister lived in the house he had given her before he died.
The soldiers arrested the family – and I have to add, that among them were three women, an older uncle suffering from cancer and a 2-year-old boy. The family was taken by force to the railway station in a near town.
In a train without heating– when the temperatures outside were about minus 30 – they waited a week for departure. Then they spent the next week on the way to the camp. The uncle with cancer died soon, he is buried in the forest and we don’t know where. The others spent two years working hard in extremely difficult circumstances.
In 1942 they were allowed to leave. They evacuated from Russia with the Polish Anders’ Army. They travelled for several weeks through Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran. In the capital of Iran, in Tehran, died my 15-year-old cousin, named Helena, she died of typhus. Her two brothers had already joined Anders’ Army, and her mother, after she had buried her daughter, was displaced from Iran to Uganda in Africa.
She returned to Poland in 1947 – seven years after she was forced to leave her home. Her son who fought in the famous battle of Monte Cassino, left Italy for Canada. He came to Poland after 45 years, after communism broke.
The family lost their home, property, their material history. They lost their future for many years. They experienced trauma of war, slavery labour camp, death of the child, long separation. Only because they were Poles. Because the Russians considered them their enemies. This trauma still lives in my family. And that fate met thousands of Polish families – deported, arrested, broken, robbed – by the Russians. We Poles know exactly what Russia means and what it is capable of.
Now history has repeated itself. The Russians do the same to our neighbour. With the same brutality, in the same inhuman way.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wanted to share with you the story of my family to explain why we Poles understand so good the situation and the fate of the Ukrainian people. We know what it means. And we know that this could be just the first step. In the last century the Russian or – if you wish – Soviet regime has killed millions of people.
We have to stop it.
But we also have to help the victims now. So Poland supports the Ukrainians with all our strength. We help them from the very first day. Ordinary people and authorities together. No one looks at the other, we just do what is needed. We do not calculate. We help.
All this could not be possible without memory of our history, faithfulness to moral principles and sensitivity of our people. But this is also a very rational choice.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
since almost 3 months we have been witnessing one of the gravest displacement and humanitarian crises on record. This is the fastest growing crisis in Europe since World War II. Poland – as a close neighbour and friend of Ukraine – took the burden of care for war refugees. We welcomed by today over 3.4 million people. They have not been sent to any camps, any refugee camps. They get help from the very first moment. They were welcomed warmly and with full understanding by Polish authorities and ordinary people. Most refugees have been accepted and received by Polish families in their flats and homes. Today many of them are still living together.
We should bear in mind that another few million might come, if the conflict escalates. The number of internally displaced person in Ukraine is above 7.7 million people.
In the first weeks of the war, the Polish government prepared a special law, and the parliament passed it with national consent, without any doubts. It regulates the right of refugees to stay in Poland as well as their access to the labour market, medical and social care, schools. By today more than 100 000 Ukrainians found employment in Poland on the basis of this special law. Almost 200 000 Ukrainian children are already in Polish schools, most of them in primary schools. Another 540 000 pupils are learning on-line by connecting from Poland to their schools in Ukraine. Over one million refugees have received a Polish personal identification number, which allows them to benefit from the social services of the state.
Total support for refugees from Ukraine in Poland only for the three months will be 4-8 billion euro. Poland pays it from its own resources. By the end of the year it can be 11-24 billion euro.
And this is not the only aid we provide to Ukraine. We help not only here, but also in Ukraine in every possible way.
Poland appeals to the international community, especially the European Union, for financial support. This month International Donor’s Conference for Ukraine took place in Warsaw. The event was attended by heads of state and governments of more than 20 countries. They pledged over 6.5 billion dollars in support of Ukraine and refugees. Poland pledged 3.7 billion dollars.
Helping Ukraine is our European duty. We must act together. Now is the difficult moment. The enthusiasm has slightly decreased, there is some fatigue to see, but costs are not decreasing. They are rising. Ukrainians need immense help. And Poland cannot carry this burden alone.
In recent years we have talked about values in Europe a lot. Is there any greater value than helping one of us when people are killed and a country has been ruined? I appeal to all countries in Europe for immediate financial help and solidarity.
Thank you for your attention.
More about the deportation of my family by the Soviets you can read here (in Polish): https://bognajanke.pl/stolpce-10-lutego-1940-deportacja-polakow-z-kresow/
More about the evacuation from Soviet Russia, Anders’ Army, Iran and Monte Cassino you can read here (in Polish): https://bognajanke.pl/ucieczka-z-lagru-szlakiem-armii-andersa
Zdjęcie: Przemysław Keler/ KPRP