Observations While Volunteering with Ukrainian Refugees in Poland

The following is being shared by GoAbroad’s Founder, Troy Peden, as he actively volunteers in Poland to help Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. To read Troy’s statement about the conflict.

Additional resources from GoAbroad:

Ukrainian refugees boarding a bus in Poland
Ukrainian refugees boarding a bus in Poland.

Troy’s Reflections from Poland on March 6, 2022

The media gravitates to the most tragic stories, clips and sound bites. I witnessed this first hand while guiding the media following [Typhoon] Haiyan. If the story is not horrific enough they will not run it. Yet the media does not seem to be portraying the magnitude of the Ukraine crisis. A million people walking for days, a million people sleeping in subways and sewers, a million children who went from the playground one week to absolute fear the next.

The Polish people are incredible. The entire country has mobilized in support of the Ukrainians. From the college students handing the shellshocked children stuffed animals, to the food trucks set up for free at the refugee camps, to the people opening their homes to strangers. Poland is running this operation with the organization level of hosting the Olympics.

Europe is united in its support. Germans, Italians, Estonians, Swedes and so many more have driven to the border to accept families and take them home. Additionally, volunteer soldiers from across Europe are crossing the border in the opposite direction. Trucks bearing weapons from private donors to national contributions are also heading east (towards Ukraine). A Greek convoy traveled across the border and halfway into Ukraine—when it arrived at a warehouse to unload, it was struck with a precision missile, suggesting that Russia was watching their entire journey.

Ukrainians are in disbelief that in this day, in this time of prosperity, in this united world, one man could make decisions to kill so many without many obstacles.

We took a Ukrainian woman back to Ukraine this morning. She had brought her three children and six neighborhood children to Warsaw for safety and was heading back to be by her husband’s side.

We met four Pakistani medical students whose university was shelled and surrounded by Russian military for five days. The negotiation creating the Humanitarian Corridor allowed them a window to escape. They drove their car half way across the country then abandoned it following the targeting of cars on the highway. They had not slept for four days.

My son Diego is with me and he has put aside the hedonistic life of a 20-something in a Colorado ski town to pull up his sleeves and do whatever he can. He will not stand idle and wants to help everyone. I am very proud of him.

Most of the refugees are women and children. They have been through hell on earth. They have described their home towns as being completely destroyed and when we see them on the map they are nowhere near Russian areas of control. Some have come with a suitcase and some come carrying a picture or a small grocery store bag with some food and a change of clothes. Some had to decide between their suitcases and a place on a bus. One woman and her son had ridden for 11 hours in a car meant for 6 people but carrying 26 people. Others have walked, for days.

While it is heartening to see how the world has united in its condemnation of this invasion, and the communities have moved quickly to lend whatever they can, it is hard to ignore the fact that there are generations of suffering and pain that will come from this—so much human loss, devastation and mental anguish—for what end?

Makeshift shelter for Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

If you have resources that you would like to share or if you find information on GoAbroad that is no longer accurate, please reach out to us at content@goabroad.com. If you are a GoAbroad partner or client that has been impacted by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, please consider filling out our Impact Survey.

Additional resources from GoAbroad:

Leave a Reply