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Report: The Polish School of Assistance

May 10, 2023 | Reports
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  • After February 24, 2022, just in the first two weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, one million people crossed the Polish border.
  • This was a major challenge for a country that until then had been on the periphery of the main migration routes for various groups of forced migrants.
  • The “Polish School of Assistance” report shows how Polish society and the Polish state have found their way through this challenge.

The report is based on an analysis of activities carried out in selected local communities from three types of cities: large (Krakow, Lublin, Poznan, Rzeszow, Warsaw), medium (Lomza, Plock, Swinoujscie) and small (Bolechowko-Potasze, Hrubieszow, Wronki). While it is based on these examples, their analysis has made it possible to show broader trends and draw conclusions for Poland as a whole.

The report shows the tremendous mobilization of a large part of Polish society involved in helping those fleeing war. It shows what we can feel proud of as Poles. But it also highlights help that goes unnoticed – help to refugees from the Ukrainian community itself, which had previously lived in Poland – and from people with migration experience as well as the Ukrainian national minority.

The subject of the analysis are two key moments of providing assistance to those fleeing the military and Russian bombardment. The authors and authors of the report look at how these people were received in the first weeks after fleeing – what they call reception – and how the process of their integration, meaning support in arranging their lives (if only temporarily) in Poland, proceeded thereafter.

“The challenge for us is how to help wisely and when we no longer act on the first impulse. So that people feel they are a part of Poland, not a statistic.” – A representative of one of the large companies involved in the effort to help refugees from Ukraine told our researchers.

The current refugee migration from Ukraine is highly feminized – mainly women with children and the elderly come to Poland. To emphasize this process, the report mainly uses feminatives at the level of language. However, the term “refugee women” includes, in the intention of the authors and authors, all people fleeing war, not just women.

In addition to the problems identified, the report also includes recommendations to the authorities:

  • The government should withdraw from the obligation to contribute to refugee women’s living expenses in collective housing.
  • It is necessary to prepare and implement consistent local integration policies at the level of local governments at various levels. Long-term measures are a priority.
  • Improvements in refugees’ access to services should be planned and carried out as soon as possible: quality medical and social care, education and labor market, housing and integration support offerings.
  • It is necessary to improve intersectoral cooperation in assistance and integration activities, to make communication channels more consistent, and to share knowledge and good practices. This cooperation must be based on trust, simplified procedures and the inclusion of migrant people in decision-making processes.
  • It is necessary to support community organizations and their activities aimed at helping and integrating refugee women. This should take place at various levels, including financially, and should be offered by public institutions and international organizations.
  • The government’s plans and work to carry out internal relocations should be intensified, which should be based on cooperation with local governments and the voluntariness of the move on the part of refugee women.
  • It is imperative that those working with refugee women be provided with substantive and, above all, psychological support. This is especially important for those with migration experience, including those who fled the war in Ukraine. Support in the form of psychological assistance and related to combating professional burnout should also be offered to any other person working directly with refugee women, including those working in public institutions.

“The huge scale of migration of people fleeing the war is an unprecedented event. It has left its mark on Polish society at various levels. However, solidarity with the defending Ukrainian people was a great driving force behind the aid to refugees. There is much we can learn from this period. It is important to take advantage of the good practices and mistakes made now, because we have an important moment ahead of us to introduce further long-term measures,” Prof. Witold Klaus, Migration Consortium

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