“If not us, who?”: Polish postal workers risk their lives to bring aid to Ukraine
Polish postal worker Janusz Zwaanski and three colleagues are preparing to head to Ukraine again to provide soldiers and civilians with much-needed aid, including military equipment, diapers and food. Last weekend, a father-of-four and his friends traveled to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, and this weekend, they plan to head east to the capital, Kyiv.
‘Someone has to do that.’ If not, who? During their time in Ukraine, they want to do everything they can to help.
Janusz Zwanski colleagues at the supermarket to buy much-needed items for Ukrainians. © Janusz Zwanski At first, we thought about going to the border, but there is already a lot of humanitarian support there, so we decided to provide help where it is most needed: inside Ukraine.
We connect with people on the ground through Facebook to find out what they need and give it to them. Last weekend we took military boots, uniforms, walkie-talkies, binoculars for Ukrainian soldiers, and basic necessities for civilians like diapers, tampons, and food. We also take in a lot of fuel.
The situation is very difficult in Ukraine at the moment – it is a war. There is also very bad weather and it is very cold, especially at night. When you talk to people over there, when you look in their eyes and see women with children in their arms…it leaves us no choice. My kids, wife and family are worried about me, but I can’t worry, I have to focus on helping. Someone has to do that. If not us who?
On our way out we also help people who are waiting at the border or those who are walking to the border by driving them there and then back for more people. Getting into Ukraine is easy, but getting out of it is difficult because there are long queues. Checkout can sometimes take up to two days.
Janusz Zwanski and colleagues © Janusz Zwanski “It’s incredible to see how many people want to help” More than 1.2 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia began its invasion, more than half of them entering Poland. Communities across Poland, particularly along the borders, are gathering to help them.
Hundreds of Poles were welcoming refugees into their homes. Large amounts of food and clothing have been donated, while businesses are providing work opportunities to refugees.
In my city, Loché, near Warsaw, about 80 percent of people welcome Ukrainians into their homes. They take them from the border and give them food and jobs. I’m amazed, it’s incredible to see how many people want to help. We all try to help in one way or another.
“If Poland doesn’t help Ukraine today, it could be next,” Zwansky says. Memories of dictatorship and oppression are still fresh in Poland, a country that Russia has repeatedly invaded over the centuries. As fighting continues in Ukraine, many Poles fear a disaster of their own.
People in Poland are afraid because they are afraid that they will be next and that Putin will attack Poland as well. We have people in Poland who know what war is. The memories of communism are still fresh. I think this is one of the reasons why the Poles help the Ukrainians so much. We know that if Poland does not help Ukraine today, it could be next.
We have historically had some tensions with Ukraine, but that is all in the past now. The moment Russia invaded Ukraine, we knew what we had to do. We knew we had to help the Ukrainians.
A poll finally showed that 78 percent of Poles now fear war, and 64 percent also fear Poland’s territorial integrity.
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