And the Ukrainians met Polish Samaritans along the way
Piotr Bęza cmf
Poland, Provincial Superior
I don’t know how to start… it still seems to me as it was a nightmare… 21st Century and war almost in the heart of Europe… but on the other hand, why not? Are we better than our ancestors? Why do we assume it’s impossible when we are trying to build a world without God and morality in so many places?
OK, it was supposed to be about everyday life in Poland, which since 24 February hasn’t been the same.
Since the day of the Russian attack on Ukraine, over 2.7 M of Refugees have found their shelter in Poland! And what is an absolute phenomenon, much of them have found it in our houses, not in refugee centers! How could it be? On the one hand, I can’t say why – it’s been said a lot of Polish hospitality, but on the other hand, its scale might be astonishing. INCREDIBLE and UNBELIEVABLE!!! Our hearts are full of pride. Using only the fingers of one hand, I can count the people who do not help the Ukrainian refugees. It was spontaneous in the beginning: It’s a part of our national character – we may act quickly in baffling circumstances, not waiting for “an impulse from above,” i.e. the authorities’ decisions which, as always, must take some time.
There wasn’t enough time, so people started to fix transport for mothers and babies from the border. And just a while later people who were ready to give accommodation appeared, so the whole machine went running… Then, the government institutions joined the action, and the help became more organized. As a result, in the present day, people coming from Ukraine may have all the support they need: legal, medical, educational, spiritual, etc.
But how it looks like in reality?
Dynamically: there is much rotation. Some of the refugees had to have the help only for a few days, and now they can manage on their own or have the support of their families that have lived in Poland for years – there was about 2 M of them in Poland before the war. Today it’s great to support for much of refugees because they have somebody familiar or family members who may help.
We, the Claretians, have opened our houses as well. Actually, each of our communities in Poland is engaged in giving help: providing accommodation, collecting necessary goods, or providing financial support. It’s astonishing; there is no need to push anybody to do something. Everybody knew what to do as it was obvious. It’s hard not to see the invisible hand of God in those strange events…
When I visit my friends, it’s clear that there are guests from Ukraine; it’s awe-inspiring. For example, in a kitchen, people have stickers with a few words in Ukrainian: good morning, thank you, where is…, how are you, etc.
And of course, the stories which can catch your heart: a small woman, who said that her journey to Poland had lasted 48 hours, with two small children, which she had carried in her arms for 10 kilometers because they had lost all the energy. The question arises: Where did this small woman take the strength from? Of course, it’s a strength of a mother´s love. Or another woman said they had had only 10 minutes to decide to leave and to take only the most essential things; children had to choose between pyjamas and medals for sports achievements… what experienced people who had decided to stay home and fall under Russian occupation is out of our capacity to understand.
When we talk with our Ukrainian guests, they almost with one voice say they didn’t expect such welcome and hospitality: when they walk on the street, the Poles hear the Ukrainian then spontaneously greet them, expressing solidarity and support. Of course, it’s possibly just a tiny gesture in our daily lives, but it means a lot in those circumstances.
And all these events take place in the shade of complex common Polish-Ukrainian history, which I will not write about. It’s thought that the current circumstances may do much more in the matter of these relations than the years of talks at many various official levels. Today, increasingly, it’s heard of brother-sister-like ties, which the drama of war helped rebuild.
It’s difficult not to find tender traces of God’s presence in those realities. However, it sounds incredible; maybe somebody would ask, “Where is God”? I do not have any doubts: He is among us!
Piotr Bęza cmf
Poland, Provincial Superior