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Volunteers work together at a Jewish community crisis center in Warsaw

Inside the Jewish Response to the Mounting Ukrainian Refugee Crisis in Poland

A growing number of Jewish individuals and organizations have been propelled into action by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal attack on Ukraine. With the exception of the Jewish Agency’s emergency fast-tracking of applications for immigration to Israel, which is available only to Jews, most of the help is given regardless of religion. According to the United Nations, 1 to 3 million Ukrainians are likely to leave their country in the coming weeks. Many are coming through Poland.

And Poles, including Jews, are rising to the occasion. Student Kamilla Czesnyk was at a meeting of Limmud Europe, a Jewish learning initiative, in Gdansk when the war broke out. She quickly switched gears to help organize donated medications — like heparin and morphine — for soldiers in Ukraine. “We really need a good doctor who understands the situation,” said Czesnyk.

Also at Limmud, Natalia Czakowska took a midnight phone call and ended up sheltering a Ukrainian woman in her Warsaw apartment for the night. Czakowska has also heard that “people are crossing the Ukrainian border to rescue pets that were abandoned … Maybe the people did not know they could bring their pets.”

Aldona Zawada, an employee of the American Jewish Committee of Central Europe, invited her parents to move in with her so their apartment could be used by refugees. They took in a family that had traveled for three days and then waited in a line at the border for 23 hours.

The Jewish Agency has doubled down its efforts to bring out Jews who had already started the process of emigration to Israel before the war. Warsaw is one of the hubs where Jews are waiting to fly out; the first Ukrainian immigrants are expected to arrive in Israel on Sunday, March 6.

About 300 Ukrainians are expected on three flights from Warsaw, Moldova and Romania, according to the Jewish Agency. A third of them are orphans who were evacuated to Romania under the supervision of Chabad, which ran their Ukrainian orphanage.

That’s a tiny fraction of the Jews who have fled Ukraine over the last week, as part of an abrupt migration of 1 million Ukrainians. To meet their needs, a handful of independent Jewish groups joined forces to create a crisis management center at Warsaw’s Jewish Community Center.

The crisis center, upstairs in the Warsaw Jewish Community Center, has about 30 volunteers so far, Dorosz said. They are taking calls, organizing sleeping bags and food, medical help and counseling, driving to the border and offering transportation westward, and bringing food to refugees in hotels. (TOI / VFI News)

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. - Hebrews 13:16