So grateful for ‘avalanche’ of aid from a supportive community

THE HUMAN tragedy unfolding in war-torn Ukraine has seen one Woking woman leading an outpouring of support to help people seeking refuge in Poland and those still living under the Russian bombardment.

Sylwia Wityńska, president of the Polish Saturday School in Woking, set up an Aid Ukraine and Refugee campaign – and in just one week saw an overwhelming response to her campaign with collection points at three locations, including St John the Baptist School in Elmbridge Lane, Old Woking, where the Saturday school has been run since October.

Volunteers at the Polish Saturday School loading up boxes of vital supplies for those in need in Poland and Ukraine

Sylwia put out a notice on the school’s Facebook page. No sooner had she posted it, she says it spread “like a virus” throughout Surrey.

“Donations have been flowing like an avalanche,” said Sylwia, who was assisted by her friends Anna, Agnieszka and Józef.

On Saturday alone, so many people came to donate items that they had to turn people away after 10am because there was no more storage space. More than 150 cars had to turn back.

Volunteers heft boxes into one of the waiting lorries

“Helping others probably lies in the nature of us Poles, and in the face of human tragedies, decisions about the need to help are made immediately,” says Sylwia. “In this case it was seeing the tragedies of people who suddenly, hour by hour, lose their belongings, who witness the killing of their loved ones. Probably none of us really believed that Russia would attack Ukraine in such a brutal and barbaric way.

“Ukraine has a direct border with Poland and, although I don’t have a family in Ukraine, I have friends who live there. But it doesn’t matter at this point whether you have a family there or not. The important thing is that these are human beings. It is natural that in such circumstances that there is an enormous willingness to support and help as seen by the general commotion in the UK and around the world.”

In a real show of a community pulling together, she said that in addition to the help she received from the Polish School headteacher, Beata, as well as Polish school parents, they were helped by SJB employees and parents of pupils at the Woking Chinese School, which also uses the SJB campus on Saturdays.

Donations have been flowing in ever since ord of the project was announced on social media

“Seeing how much work there was, they immediately started to help us without hesitation,” said Sylwia. “Another member of the Polish community, Mr. Wojtek, lent his van, and my husband Sebastian was loaned the use of a large van by the company where he works – I am very grateful to all these people!”

The deliveries are being made to Bydgoszcz in Poland, where they will be handed over to the “Thanks to you” Association.

Sylwia said: “Some donations will remain there so that they can be distributed by the Association among the refugees who found refuge in Poland while fleeing the war. The rest will be taken on into Ukraine.

“We will continue to follow the situation in Ukraine and on the border with Poland. If there is such a need, we will organize more help.”

Meanwhile, Sylwia is also planning to set up a Polish Diaspora Center at the school, aimed at people, not only Poles, who have been forced to leave their homeland.

For more articles on local efforts to aid Ukraine, see the 10 March edition of the News & Mail – in shops now

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