How do our donations for Ukraine help?
The war in Ukraine continues to cause suffering and hardship. The Polish and the German Red Cross – also supported by donations from us – help to the best of their ability. During a recent visit to the Polish-Ukrainian border, we learned firsthand how diverse the support for the people from Ukraine is, and why the winter causes the helpers great concern.
It's the second night in a row that Kateryna Afanasenko doesn't get any sleep. Sirens wail, her three children cry non-stop. When another detonation occurs, her two youngest sons tremble with fear all over their bodies. For Kateryna it is clear: It cannot go on like this. The next morning, it's the 26th of February, the young mother packs up the essentials for herself and her children and boards a train to the West with her offspring. They are fleeing the war in Ukraine. Their destination: Rzeszów in Eastern Poland, not far from the Ukrainian-Polish border.
"There lived distant relatives of ours, with whom we stayed the first nights," says Kateryna today, a good ten months after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The first few days in a new place were difficult, she remembers. They have missed their home, their friends and their neighbors. And above all, their four-year-old dog, which they had to leave behind. Her voice breaks, she turns away as she thinks back to the first days of the war.
Meanwhile, Kateryna lives with her three children in their own small apartment in Zamość, 250 kilometers southeast of Warsaw, Poland. We meet her in an integration center run by the Polish Red Cross; her Polish lessons have just ended. Her language skills would be enough to ask for directions or go shopping, she says. "But I still have to improve further.”
Since August, the local branch of the Polish Red Cross has been offering daily language courses for refugees – and is thus constantly expanding its range of help. "Providing humanitarian aid to refugees at the border is still one of our main tasks," says Viktoria Krasun, coordinator of the Integration Center. In addition, there are more and more Ukrainians who have settled in Poland and need to be integrated into society. "The ultimate goal is that the refugees feel safe and comfortable with us – and that they stand on their own two feet in the future, also with our help." Therefore, the Polish Red Cross offers language courses, arranges accommodation and helps with job searches.
Boehringer Ingelheim has been supporting the Red Cross’s efforts since March 2022 with a monthly donation (see info below). In this way, the Ukrainians are helped in their great need – sustainably and in the long-term. Because the war and the suffering are far from over.
There are refugees like Kateryna and her family who are in the process of building a new life for themselves in Poland. But also new arrivals fresh from the war zone.
Border station Przemyśl, on Wednesday, November 9th, at 3:40pm. With a delay of almost 30 minutes, the train from Zaporizhia (Eastern Ukraine) arrives on the completely fenced platform 5. More than 250 refugees are led into an unadorned, yellow building for passport and customs control. Minutes later, they are officially in Poland, and safe.
Relatives are waiting for some of the refugees with colourful balloons and flowers. There are embraces, tears of joy. For others – like Natalia and Alexander – it goes further West. The two young adults, just 21 years old, are wearing red tracksuits and sneakers. "The fighting in the East became more and more threatening. Finally, we lost power. We don't want to live in fear anymore, we continue to travel to friends in Katowice," they explain.
The majority of new arrivals, however, have no point of contact; Polish Red Cross volunteers and staff are waiting for them – and guiding them to Anna Miśniak. She manages the so-called Transit Center run by the Polish Red Cross, ten minutes from the train station. Up to 1200 camp beds are available here in a former warehouse. In addition, hot meals are provided in a café. Patients with headaches or high blood pressure are treated in a doctor's room. Children and young people play in a games room; in one corner, two children paint colorful pictures. "For many refugees, our transit centers are the first stop on their journey," says Anna. "We give them a place to sleep, take care of them – and place them in other cities and communities within 48 hours." In Przemyśl there has long been a lack of housing. Anna estimates that more than 10,000 Ukrainians have now settled in the small town with a former population of 60,000. The capacities are more than exhausted.
And yet several hundred Ukrainians continue to arrive at this Polish border town every day. Anna and the Polish Red Cross fear that there will be many more arriving throughout the winter. "In many places in Ukraine, infrastructure is damaged or destroyed. Many households can no longer heat, there is a lack of basic necessities." The Polish Red Cross predicts that up to 750,000 people from Ukraine could leave their country in the coming weeks and months.
In order to be prepared, Maciej Budka tries everything to fill the warehouses of the Polish Red Cross. He asks food distributors to send food, tries to buy tents and mattresses, and asks his international colleagues for hygiene kits. While walking through the 5000 square meter building on the outskirts of the city of Lublin, Maciej critically examines the inventory. "We got a large shipment of sleeping bags," he says, pointing to big blue bags. One aisle further, Maciej cuts open a brown cardboard box with a carpet knife and takes out soap dispensers. He nods thoughtfully. Overall, the stock is better than at the beginning of the war. But is it enough? Maciej is skeptical. "There is never enough. The need is simply immense." Currently, there is a lack of generators. Also, the willingness to donate has decreased." After ten months of war, attention to the conflict is declining."
Maciej is all the more grateful for every donation and every helper. "There is a lot to do, the next few months will be tough – on both sides of the border," he says.
Among those who volunteer is Kateryna, the refugee mother of three. She is a trained hairdresser – and cuts the hair of her fellow students from the language course after class in the rooms of the Polish Red Cross free of charge. Why? "I have received a lot of help and I know how great the need is. I feel better today. Now I can help. Every gesture counts."
Info: Our Help for Ukraine
The ongoing war in Ukraine touches all of us at Boehringer Ingelheim very much. Our thoughts are with our colleagues, their families and all Ukrainians. We are committed to helping those in need and supporting those who help. In the first days of the war, we as a company made our first financial donation of 2.5 million euros to emergency relief organizations. Knowing that not only initial support is needed, we have also decided to make twelve monthly payments of one million each to the Polish Red Cross and the German Red Cross, starting in March.
Solidarity with Ukraine
humanitarian relief funds for Ukraine.