Local government officials on the first line of aid for refugees from Ukraine

The Russian invasion of Ukraine caused a crisis with which local governments have not struggled so far. So far, Polish borders have been crossed by 2.6 million refugees from Ukraine. During the European Congress of Local Governments, local leaders shared their experiences from the first days of providing aid.

In the panel “How to effectively help refugees? The role of local governments in the crisis”, local government officials from Poland, Ukraine and Moldova, talked about how they established the first aid centers immediately after the Russian invasion.

– We have not experienced anything similar so far – said Waldemar Paluch, the mayor of Jarosław. – We were not prepared for such activities, but we did our best to help.

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According to Paluch’s account, in accordance with central regulations, Jarosławiec became a transit hub. The local government immediately had to arrange transport from the border in Korczowa to reception points.

Local governments and volunteers to help refugees

– Overnight, we had to remove the buses that remain in our control from public use – said the mayor of Jarosław during the panel in Mikołajki. – Our drivers took refugees for many days, 24 hours a day.

Another passed exam was the creation of a transit center where refugees from Ukraine could wait for transport to their final place of stay, in Poland or abroad.

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Waldemar Paluch recalled that the point organized by the local government near the border could serve as many as 8 and a half thousand refugees at a time.


– Refugees from Ukraine could sleep, eat and wash there. We organized a playroom for children – recalls Paluch. – After resting, they continued their journey by bus or train.

Local governments would not be able to cope with the enormous challenges if it were not for the help of citizens and volunteers.

– Thanks to the internet platform “yourwasilkow” you can find or publish job offers for Ukrainians, register a place for refugees, you can also find or announce a place – said Adrian Łuckiewicz, mayor of Wasilków, during the panel at the European Congress of Local Governments.

Local governments are counting on reimbursement

Łuckiewicz said that the government promised to reimburse any costs that local governments had to bear in connection with accepting refugees from Ukraine. – So far we have not received anything, and we have spent 180,000 zlotys. – he summed up.

For some refugees, the first border towns were only a stage in their escape from Ukraine. However, some, due to the proximity to Ukraine, decided to stay in Polish border towns.

According to the mayor of Paluch, 1,110 refugees from Ukraine applied for PESEL in Jarosław.

Visitors from Ukraine in Mikołajki

– Today, Ukrainians no longer need only psychological support, but also help in matters such as getting a job or sending their children to school, said Yuilia Vusenko from the Volyn Regional Council. – Putin took away our children a chance for a normal childhood.

Vasenko added that the central and local government of Ukraine are aware that not all war refugees will return to Ukraine. Some of them will stay in the West forever.

– Those who will be in the West, even for a while, will most likely find a job – said Vusenko during the panel discussion. – For Ukraine, for the local self-government, it will be a challenge to provide returnees with a job comparable to the one they had in the West.

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The challenges faced by local governments since the end of February are not only a test for Polish local government officials.

– According to the UN, Moldova took over 600,000 refugees from February 24 to April 9. – said in Mikołajki, Pancho Valchanov, president of the Moldavian Institute of Business and Human Rights in Moldova. – Now there are nearly 800,000 of them.

Valachnov noted that more than half of the refugees to Moldova are children.

– On February 24, our life has changed and I have the impression that everything that was before will never come back. – concluded Pancho Valachnov.

PP

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