Thankfully, through our growing local partner network of churches and local initiatives, GAiN is supporting Ukrainian families who find themselves in rural villages and small towns in Poland. Here in Bielawa, a town with less than 30,000 inhabitants which is hosting more than a 1,000 refugees, the partnership was already established before the war started.
During our visit to Bielawa, we met a man named Jarek. He is in charge at our partner’s office, which is located next to one of their two rehabilitation centres that host up to 70 people with addiction to alcohol and drugs. Running rehabilitation centres is an important part of the work they do here, yet the Ukrainian refugee crisis is now taking up most of the time of their staff and volunteers.
‘So far, we are helping 300 people – 200 of them children,’ Jarek explained. ‘We use two containers to store, and if there is a need elsewhere, we send it. We also send directly to Ukraine. At the end of this week, we will send our third truck.’ They even receive trucks from Amazon on a weekly basis with goods that are unable to be sold anymore on Amazon, but are still in good condition.
Jarek believes God was preparing them even before there were any rumours of war. For instance, they were finally able to open their social supermarket in November last year. They also unexpectedly received 1,000 mattresses in January that they have been able to use and distribute to refugees. It all started 7 years ago, when they brought in a refugee family from Donbas.
‘They live here in town, and he (he husband)‘ is the one arranging everything,’ Jarek said. ‘He calls to Ukraine, organizes and brings people here. He knows how to deal with this.’
We met Tania, who is about 30 years old, at the storage and distribution building that the city hall provided for Jarek’s foundation when the war started. Her oldest child, eight-year-old Anata, had come with her to gather clothes and hygiene products. Tania explained that she had left her hometown, Tarnopil, with her husband and three children on February 28, but the rest of her family members were still there.
‘We have no plans, we will see later what we will do,’ she said. Her husband is an electrician, while she worked as a hairdresser. It would be easier for them to find jobs here as they had studied the Polish language in Ukraine. Still, their hearts long to return to their home country.
‘Because my mother and father are in Ukraine, brother, grandmother . . . My family could not come.’
So far, the family’s needs are being met. ‘We have everything we need,’ she declared happily. They go to Jarek’s supermarket for food, while at the storage and distribution building, they can find other basic essentials. Some of these products clearly come from GAiN, as shown by the logo on the boxes.
‘We have received so many things from GAiN,’ Jarek said. ‘I lost count. Maybe 10 to 15 vans. Many shoes, and many hygiene and cleaning products.‘ About 180 children have received new high-quality shoes from GAiN.
Adrian, a volunteer, stepped up to say, ‘They have very little, but they have the best shoes in [all of] Poland!’
Jarek also clarified the current and future needs of the refugees. ‘We need food and clothes,’ Jarek stated. ‘The winter is coming to an end, [so] for spring and summer they do not have proper shoes.‘ His daughter Eva, who manages the distribution centre, added that milk and cots are also ongoing needs.