War Diaries, March 13, 2022

We have convinced Marina not to go to the Netherlands, so for the moment she is safe with us as we draft a new plan.

The UK has opened up their borders with fewer restrictions; we have family and friends there, so we could place her with a known sponsor.  She speaks English which would make finding work easier.  I would only place her with a person I know and trust; preferably a woman and a mother who has heretofore had to deal with difficult kids and would be willing to commit to seeing her through to a settled status.

The other English-speaking Ukrainian women in the house who advise me on this matter would rather see her remain here for another month as they are convinced the war will be over soon and everyone will return.

I have no idea if the war will be over in a month.  I have my doubts.  And besides, as I told them this morning, the entire infrastructure will have to be rebuilt, so what kind of life would she have there?

The train stations in Poznań, Warsaw, Wrocław and Kraków (at least these I know for a fact, but likely in Łódż and Lublin too) are jam packed with refugees.  There are volunteers who bring food and blankets, but these refugees are stacked high and hygiene is a problem; disease spreads easily.  Altogether, it’s yet another disaster in the making.

The Polish government had originally offered the hotels and spa resorts 120 PLN per day per refugee for shelter and food.  Now, they have reduced that rate to 40 PLN a day, and hotels, as a result, will not participate.  They can’t.  It’s not enough to shelter and feed and care for the needs of those in such a situation.  I don’t have an ax to grind with the hotels, but the government is downright shameful and disgraceful in their decision to cut the per diem rate below sustainability.

We are now at thirty-two refugees and will likely have more coming.  When the weather is warm, we can pitch tents and feed them in the common area and see to their medical needs.

However, this is of no value to those trapped inside train stations all across Poland.  The United States (from what I’ve heard) has given the Polish government 1,000,000 USD to house these refugees, but their solution is to put them on the floors of abandoned schools and other large community spaces providing only beds.

The fragility of this crisis is no different from any other humanitarian crisis of this kind except that the Polish government could mobilize and steward their funds to create a more humane atmosphere.  If nothing else, at least a practical one; providing beds alone is not enough.

To add insult to injury, there is one place only in the whole of Poland that will exchange Ukrainian money, and that’s in Warsaw.  The exchange rate is poor.  To say that the Hryvnia is not worth the paper it’s printed on is probably the truth.

We are going to turn the heat on in the Dwór and start accepting more refugees there.  Stefan is going to Warsaw in about five days and will be volunteering at the train station.  I’m sure he will return with a family. 

Today, we have a zoom call with a family friend from London who has a good situation there and can help host a few.

As the day closes on Day 18, we have a stable plan for Marina.  She has relatives in Zurich who are willing to shelter and care for her until she can get on her feet.  She will have to take a few courses in German, but we ‘vetted’ the situation this morning, and after a long conversation with the auntie who lives in Zurich and is prepared to receive her, we feel confident that Marina’s best interest is at heart here.

We will put her on the most direct train or bus to Zurich within the next few days.  We will make sure she has some pocket money and, of course, kanapki.

We will go to the eye doctor tomorrow.  Maria needs new glasses.  And we will have a doctor make a house call for the new woman who arrived from Kyiv last night in a wheelchair.  She is eighty-seven years old and travelled with her daughter.  They had no running water and no electricity in Kyiv.  It was like that for five days before they decided they had best at least try to make it to the border.

Paul’s cousin, Henry, and his dear wife, Yulia, belong to this family, and because of their tireless efforts, were not only able to bring grandma and auntie through but also the grandchildren.

This is how we work at Sichów; this is what your donations support.

A million thanks.