In the first days of the war in Ukraine, help to the refugees in Poland was organized mainly by ordinary citizens, private companies, and non-governmental organizations. Such spontaneous actions were necessary because the governmental and even big charitable organizations were not prepared for such a big wave of incomers.
Railway station in Warsaw
YMCA Europe started their actions in Poland immediately and, as most of other organizations had to learn how to provide help in a quick, but also rational way. There was a lot of help offered, but the technical delivery methods needed to be found.
Reception point in Warsaw
The actions undertaken in the first two weeks of the war were two-fold:
- Reaction to concrete request that come to us from other national YMCA movements.
- Cooperation with other NGOs and companies and individuals in Poland and abroad that need our help, or we needed them for solving issues.
Reception point in Olsztyn
In this way emerged an informal yet effective network. Every linkage in a chain of actions was necessary. For example, in one of the first evacuation actions – that was the request of YMCA Japan to bring one lady (64) with some health problems) – participated 8 people (and their families) in 3 different cities Poland and at least 5 people in Japan (no-one knows the number of those anonymous people who helped in Ukraine).
We helped one person, but that's not about numbers. That's about help people in need, removing obstacles, and completing a complicated process with the happy end. That was also a valuable experience for YMCA Europe in Poland and YMCA Japan (since that time they have helped about 30 refugees from Ukraine and 5 more people are right now on the way to Japan via Poland. Also providing help to other refugees that are in our care in Poland is easier now.
In that first, most tough phase, YMCA Europe (in cooperation with YMCA Ukraine) has managed:
- to find a way of humanitarian aid from Germany to L'viv in Ukraine
- to establish channel of transfer bigger quantities of humanitarian aid from any country to Lublin and from there to L'viv in Ukraine, where there is another distribution point arranged by YMCA Ukraine.
- to relocate people from big cities to the places where still exists capacity for decent reception (comparing the railway stations in Warszawa and Olsztyn shows the contrast)
YMCA Europe mission in Poland is still developing networking with other organizations We are always ready to meet people who want to provide concrete help. We are grateful for all the generous donations that allow us provide help in the most effective way. The meeting with the leaders of Daegu YMCA, South Korea at the Central Railway Station in Warsaw was one of those unforgettable experiences. The victors wanted to see the conditions of reception the refugees and brought donation raised by them locally.
We are continuing with immediate help help to the people in need, and at the same time we are getting ready to period when the Ukrainian refugees settle in Polish cities and merge with the Polish.
The Ukrainian youth and children will need long-term assistance. This means a need of serious programmatic work for the benefit of new members of Polish communities. We want them to have equal access to education, work, and leisure time activities. For YMCA Europe that means long-term efforts, but also a chance of restoration YMCA movement in Poland.
Updates 20 April
In recent weeks, our representative in Poland has worked tirelessly to provide support to Ukrainian refugees in both Olsztyn and Warsaw. Adam is also a liaison between refugees, authorities and the YMCA in various parts of the world, helping people reach their destination.
A special collaboration is with the YMCA Japan through which we have managed to send several families safely. These efforts got appreciation and donations from the Ukrainian embassy in Tokyo.
We also have talks with UNICEF Mission about launching a program on integration in Warsaw (language learning, after school activities, camps).
Last but not least, we have initiated cooperation with the Center for Development of Education Abroad (structure of the Ministry of Education and Culture in Poland) within the adoption of methodology of formal and informal education.
Updates 23 April
Our Secretary General Juan Simoes Iglesias visited the working places used by Adam Rychlik our staff on the ground and the partners that cooperate with YMCA Europe in Warsaw.
The train station is the key meeting point of refugees coming from Ukraine and where Adam serves most of the time. We also had meetings with partners like the Polish Scout movement, YWCA Poland a foundation for senior citizens and a child care centre in Warsaw, all of them willing to strengthen the cooperation with YMCA Europe through programmes for refugees relief and integration.
With a basic infrastructure and limited human resources, YMCA Europe is making a difference in the ground, contributing to evacuate refugees from Ukraine and providing basic orientation and support upon their arrival in Warsaw and other cities in Poland.
Strengthening our network and taking further steps in our cooperation with strategic stakeholders in Warsaw is our priority.
Poland and particularly the capital Warsaw, is still the country in Europe receiving a higher number of Ukrainian refugees and being able to respond effectively to this unprecedented humanitarian crisis is a key objective in our action plan.
Updates May 23
Learn more about the Integration City Camp „Sports & Culture, Days & Nights"
Update May 25-26
YMCA Europe takes one more step in strengthening other civil society networks in Warsaw, Poland. In partnership with YWCA and other organisations, our initiatives already facilitate integration of Ukrainian children among Polish participants, creating also potential safe spaces for their families.
In addition our team on the ground continues supporting refugees arriving in Poland from Ukraine. This daily work is being recognised by other local and international partner organisations as an effective response to the humanitarian crisis.
Update July 2022
The Polish-Ukrainian Integration Sports Camp took place in Zakopane, Poland from 1st to 7th July. The camp was carried out by YMCA Europe Mission in Poland, in partnership with "Monsters" – a sports club for children. The camp was part of a bigger integration program where the focus is on after-school sports.
The campers were offered physical training and educational sessions: presentations on the culture and history of the region, famous sportsmen's stories, visits to the local ethnic museum, and other local places of interest. Among 19 participants there were 8 refugee children who benefited from the collective support of the YMCA. Learn more
YMCAs are caring for refugees fleeing violence in Ukraine by providing shelter, aid items, medical supplies. We need your support. Thank you!