The Russian invasion of Ukraine has displaced more than 14 million Ukrainians by mid-November, 2022, including almost 7 million within their own country and almost 8 million across Europe. In Poland, which hosts the single largest group, more than 1.5 million have applied for temporary residency, according to the United Nations’ High Commissioner of Refugees.
Thanks to the Polish ties of its founder Joanna Cutts, Ukraine Humanitarian Relief has determined to focus on addressing the urgent and sustained humanitarian needs of Ukrainians through a well-established Polish non-profit organization, KIK (pronounced “keek”) as its partner in the field. View this presentation to learn more about KIK's support after the outbreak of war in Ukraine. KIK works from Warsaw directly with Ukrainian organizations to provide aid not only to refugees, but to those on the front lines and in occupied territories where larger relief organizations have difficulty penetrating. KIK provides medical supplies and aid, food, shelter, and other immediate needs of Ukrainians displaced within their country in conflict-ridden areas. In Poland, KIK supports Ukrainian refugees in their efforts to rebuild their lives.
Founded in 1954 to foster a humane, democratic vision of society in what was then an East-Bloc country, KIK recommends itself not only because of its long engagement in the Ukraine, from the start of the conflict in 2014. KIK has also been at the forefront of providing aid to refugees from Africa and the Middle East who have been crossing Poland's northern and eastern borders to escape conflict and persecution in their home countries. KIK also supports education and support for at-risk groups inside Poland and fosters the development of civil society in neighboring Ukraine and Belarus.
In a piece for HURI, 'A Rake and a Rag: Fighting for People, Mending Broken Lives,' Ukraine Humanitarian Relief's founder Joanna Cutts shared her experiences helping Ukrainian refugees in Poland from June to October 2022.
KIK works to distribute medical supplies, food and other necessities inside Ukraine; thanks to its extensive contacts within the country. With Ukrainian power generation infrastructure under attack, civilian needs are likely to be great during the cold Ukrainian winter.
KIK focuses on supporting groups that have slipped through the cracks in official aid efforts, working flexibly to meet urgent needs as they arise. KIK has helped to evacuate people, such as those with disabilities, who otherwise would be left without help in Ukraine. Before the war, Ukraine itself hosted many refugees; KIK ran a hostel in Warsaw for overlooked non-Ukrainian refugees of the war; now they work to provide them with stable longer-term housing and support. KIK maintains a database of homes to take refugees; in the spring it, on short notice, opened a Ukrainian school operating in Warsaw, and runs camps during vacations. KIK serves the cause of solidarity between Polish and Ukrainian societies, efforts that generate leverage by engaging the energy of polish civil society.
In our youths, we learn our roles in society. Hundreds of thousands of young Ukrainians* have fled to escape war or have had lives disrupted, many without one or both parents. Isolated, struggling among strangers, dealing with death of loved ones – yet this is the rising generation Ukraine will look to after the war with hope for renewal. Joanna has taken a personal role in helping KIK design and launch a program in youth leadership. Experienced professionals will guide an initial group recruited from among young Ukrainian and Polish volunteers. A course of experiential learning will bring youth of both nationalities together to solve problems, learn to trust each other and form connections. These exercises will be coupled with guided discussion, allowing participants to systematize what they have experienced and teach others in turn. Graduates of the pilot group will catalyze social entrepreneurship in the larger circles of need, so that youth of both communities can seize the opportunity to build peace proudly.
*A UNICEF presentation reports 192,393 children over 6 enrolled in Polish schools; more than 100,000 Ukrainian youth in Poland is a reasonable estimate.
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