Soroptimist International - Krakow
Soroptimist International provides charity and aid in every community represented by one of their thousands of clubs around the world. They truly are “women helping women” as their tenants proclaim.
Since the start of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, Poland has been inundated with displaced Ukrainians fleeing their homes and country. To date (March 23), Poland has accepted more than 2 million Ukrainians. For this reason, I expected to find Krakow to be a city in turmoil. After all, I watch the news, I read things on the inter-web. The effects of this humanitarian crisis on Poland look dire. People are sleeping in train stations, buses are full of woman and children, there isn’t enough space and supplies for everyone. The Polish people must be in a panic over the availability of toilet paper and jobs, right?
Walking around Krakow, I get an overwhelming feeling of support and hope for Ukrainians from the Polish people. There isn’t a feeling of fear or anxiety laying over everyone like you might think, considering what is happening both inside Poland and right across their border. Instead, people seem supportive and open.
Today I met with two wonderful women from the Soroptimist International - Krakow club, Anna and Ewa (pronounced Eva). Talking with these women, who have been on the front line of the aid response in Krakow providing assistance to women and children as Soroptimist’s tenants expound (women helping women), was incredibly insightful. Both are local Krakow residents and both are active members of Soroptimist with experience in charity work. The insight they provided about the Ukrainian crisis was fascinating and helpful.
First, Ukrainians are not like typical “refugees” or displaced people. Often times, people displaced by war or violence leave their country with the purpose of starting a new life somewhere else. This simply isn’t true of the Ukrainian people. Of the millions who have fled, the vast majority plan to go back once the Russians leave. Some have already started crossing back over the boarder to help with the Russian insurrection, establish supply chains for food and resources, or to begin rebuilding in less impacted parts of Ukraine.
Second, before the crisis began, approximately 1 million Ukrainians were already living and working in Poland. This means that many of those who have fled their homes are coming into Poland and staying with friends or family. “Culturally,” Ewa tells me, “we are practically the same. Ukrainians are comfortable here and we are comfortable with them.” While plenty of displaced Ukrainians do need shelter and supplies, a hotel room doesn’t appear to be the answer. Long-term solutions need to be found to house a growing population of Ukrainians who view themselves as “guests” or visitors simply waiting to go home.
Third, locals like Anna and Ewa believe a bit of humanitarian tourism might be a positive thing for the city as a whole. Krakow, being a beautiful and historic location, is a popular tourist destination. But since the start of COVID, tourism has nearly ended. “Many of the old restaurants have closed,” observed Anna, “They relied on tourism to stay open.” Ewa, who runs a micro-business focused on guided tours reflected on the “closing of one [her own] business and the slow down of another [her second tourist-based business].” But an increase in aid workers could help boost the local economy.
Additionally, aid of any kind sent directly to organizations supporting humanitarian efforts for Ukraine could help Krakow recover economically from COVID. After all, locals accepting donations (be they money or supplies) spend the donated money locally to provide items needed by Ukrainians, and even physical item donations support the economy through shipping services, petrol purchases, and rentals of warehouse space.
Soroptimist International - Krakow is proud to be supporting displaced refugees any way they can. From organizing the donation of food and supplies from all over Europe to creating care packages that their members handout to Ukrainians at the refugee center set up by the municipality at the local train station. These ladies are proud of their service and are encouraged by the immense outpouring of support from their city and country.
It is the hope of Soroptimist International - Krakow to be able to continue their aid efforts as long as they are needed. Be it 3 months or 3 years, they are ready to respond to the needs of their new neighbors. If you are interested in supporting the aid efforts of Soroptimist International - Krakow you can make a donation directly to them.
To wire a donation direct to Soroptimist International Krakow Club, please use the following bank information:
Polska SA ul. Legnicka 48 bud. C-D 54-202 Wrocław, Polska
Bank account in Euro: PL29194010763232647700000000 BIC AGRIPLPR SWIFT AGRIPLPR
Recipient: Soroptimist International Klub Kraków
Club's address: ul, Pradnicka 47, 31-202 Krakow
Please include the following text when sending money to indicate your donation is in support of Ukrainian aid efforts: Darowizna - POMOC DLA UKRAINY.