Ukraine Response: Wycliffe Poland

As of this week, more than 60 percent of the people fleeing Ukraine have come to Poland — more than all other European countries combined. That is 1.7 million refugees and counting, coming to a neighboring country of 38 million.

Agnieszka Domagala

Across Poland, this means a constant flow of people into every city or town, with every church and NGO part of the effort.

“Any church, any organization that has any capacity to host refugees, they do it,” said Agnieszka Domagala, director of Biblijne Stowarzyszenie Misyjne (BSM), also known as Wycliffe Poland. “It’s everyone. Every town is coordinating and trying to coordinate help. But there are also a lot of bottom-up initiatives. People are just volunteering. Giving clothing, shelter. Warm meals. Picking up people from railway stations. So it is an amazing, amazing volunteer movement.”

Speaking via Zoom from her church in Wroclaw, Agnieszka’s internet connection was unstable because it is being used by so many people staying there. Her attention is necessarily split right now between her part-time role as Wycliffe Poland’s director and serving at the church where her husband is a pastor. The church initially thought it could offer 20 beds. That quickly grew to 60 families or singles now under their care at the church, plus about the same number who have stayed there temporarily and then settled around town or in nearby villages.

For Ukrainian kids in Poland: backpacks filled with activities.

“We have a crisis center, so people can stay in the church and live here and we coordinate everything — food, clothing, schooling, medical help,” she said. “Everything you can think of. The church is used as a place to stay, and also as a transit place because there is a constant stream of refugees. They stay for one or two days, or even for a few hours to have a warm meal, and then they go further, like to Germany or to other places in Poland. Or some stay longer.

“It’s not only us, but other churches we know in Poland are doing the same,” she said. “And different organizations are doing the same. So it is a united movement. People think, Where can I give my hand? And then we just do it.

“This is how the situation more or less looks everywhere in Poland. We are trying to find accommodations for people and then connect them with their food supplies, medical supplies, doctors and any help they need. We are very busy. Our days are long.”

Supplies for Ukraine

Only five people work in the small office. There is no space to house refugees. So they came up with another plan, based on a need they knew about from their connections with Roma people groups across Ukraine, Slovakia and Poland. Women with children are crossing from Ukraine into bordering countries. But man of fighting age (18-60) have to stay behind. Once they deliver their families to the border, they have no place to go. So they become homeless wanderers in Ukraine, largely in the Transcarpathia (Zakarpatska) cities of Mukachevo, Uzhhorod and Beregov.

That is only part of the crisis in that region. Internal refugees from other parts of Ukraine have been arriving by the thousands. Local residents are hurting, too, as supermarkets run out of groceries. And the pandemic left many residents, particularly Roma people, unemployed and impoverished.

“These people need urgent help,” Agnieszka said. “We decided we will go toward transporting humanitarian aid—simple food and toiletries.”

Loading supplies bound for western Ukraine.

BSM is purchasing bulk supplies in Poland and then transporting them in vehicles that weigh less than 3.5 tons, because they can get through the border more quickly. Four transport convoys have delivered supplies successfully to Ukraine since 11 March. BSM is partnering with the Evangelical Church of the Living God in Mukachevo, whose members are distributing the supplies once they arrive. Former Director Jerzy Marcol is leading this effort for BSM.

The cost of each transport is $3,500 US, Agnieszka said. BSM is raising funds to support the effort. Click here to contribute.

“Refugees in Poland, we see they are constantly and steadily taken care of,” she said. But for the people who stay in Ukraine, after two weeks of war, the work is not normal and shops are empty. So we decided to go this way.”

Long-Term Pain

BSM is also thinking beyond people’s immediate needs for food and shelter to the staggering emotional toll the war is taking on Ukrainians and those caring for them.

Front and back of the card directing Ukrainian refugees to Bible apps in their languages, along with an image of the phone screen the QR code brings them to.

“We already have noticed, in our church, people staying here for two weeks have signs of depression,” Agnieszka said. “So there definitely will be a need to work in this area.”

SIL produces a trauma-healing resource booklet called Beyond Disaster, which is available in Russian and Ukrainian but not Polish. So, BSM translators hope to translate it soon so it can be ready as a resource for Polish churches.

Also, Faith Comes by Hearing offered cards with a QR code directing refugees in numerous European countries to a Bible app with Ukrainian and Russian versions available. BSM is printing and distributing the cards among Polish churches, where they are already being used to help Ukrainian people find Scripture in their languages.

Prayer needs

Agnieszka listed these points for prayer support for Poland and BSM:

  • For emotional strength and comfort on both sides—refugees and volunteers.
  • For the good coordination of our efforts, safe transportation and good use of the supplies which flow through our hands.
  • For more volunteers (long distance), plus energy and stamina for all volunteers already involved in any form of help.

 

Biblijne Stowarzyszenie Misyjne / Wycliffe Poland: bsm.org.pl

Story: Jim Killam, Wycliffe Global Alliance

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