Ukrainian refugees in Poland: “These children will one day be from Warsaw”

Status: 05/14/2022 06:48

In a very short time, Warsaw grew by 300,000 new inhabitants – people who fled Ukraine and stayed. This poses challenges for the city, not just in terms of accommodation. And then there is inflation.

By Olaf Bock, ARD Studio Warsaw

This can be felt everywhere in the Polish capital of Warsaw: since the beginning of the war, more and more Ukrainians are arriving there. Of the more than three million refugees who crossed the Ukrainian border into Poland, many remained in Warsaw. The city registered more than 300,000 new inhabitants. At first, many found private accommodation with Polish families or with relatives and friends, but office buildings or halls are now increasingly used for accommodation.

The Warsaw city administration always views the changes in the capital with optimism. “Although the population of Warsaw has increased by around 15%, which is a lot, I feel that Warsaw residents have welcomed our Ukrainian neighbors with warmth and solidarity,” said spokeswoman Monika Beuth-Lutyk.

Since many refugees are now also dealing with registrations and work permits, she also sees positive developments in the labor market: “There were and are professions in which we have too few workers. Here I am mainly talking about teachers and also medical staff its workforce – and the labor market is very interested in hiring Ukrainians.” Of course, the Polish language must be learned first, but this is not is obviously not so difficult for many Ukrainians, as the past has shown.

Generating leads: expensive and important

Accompaniment is expensive: 18-month residence permit, access to social benefits and educational opportunities, all of this is the responsibility of the State. At the same time, the war has accelerated inflation, which is expected to exceed 12% in April, mainly due to rising fuel prices. The Polish government currently estimates the cost of managing refugee movements at more than two billion euros.

Despite any willingness to help, housing and caring for refugees is expensive, even for Warsaw. The city administration is therefore not only trying to obtain additional funding from the state, but is also in contact with funds, donors and aid organizations in order to raise the necessary funds.

In particular, creating perspectives costs money, for example in school education: “At the moment, about 17,000 Ukrainian students are studying in our schools and we really can’t take it anymore. We organize online courses to other Ukrainian children so that they can start the school year in the Ukrainian system”, reports Monika Beuth-Lutyk.

Accommodation in institute rooms is fully occupied

Unused office space in a former institute in Warsaw was soon reallocated to accommodation. “We currently have an occupancy rate of 100%, it generally fluctuates between 95 and 100%,” reports coordinator Michalina Wieczorek. “If twelve people leave, we will make up the rooms and take on new people who need our help.”

Michalina Wieczorek, coordinator of a shelter for Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw.

Image: ARD Studio Warsaw

Sometimes people – mostly women with children – have to move into a room with another family. It’s tight, but that can also help, says Wieczorek. “Where there is an adult and two children, it is more practical: if there are two adults in the room, one person can do something, just take a shower or something, while the other is takes care of children.”

Help after a stress breakout

But beyond the basic needs, it is above all the psychological stress caused by the flight that must be treated urgently: “The need for a diagnosis, the need to find a substitute for a drug available in Ukraine, for example . These are things that our Guests, but also our volunteers, coordinators and doctors are most often busy with, ”explains Wieczorek.

But she is also happy about the future prospects for the new arrivals: “It is mainly families with children who come to Poland. These children will one day be from Warsaw, Wrocław or Poznań, and I think that if they are in a growing bilingual environment will definitely be an asset to society.”

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