“There was somebody out there thinking about us that December night in 1981. Today we want to show solidarity with those who need help,” Minister Grzegorz Schetyna has told at a press conference with Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz in Warsaw on Wednesday. They both visited a place where a humanitarian convoy leaving for Ukraine was being loaded.
Made up of 34 State Fire Service lorries, the convoy is carrying over 150 tonnes of the most urgent material aid. It was dispatched by the Polish government in response to Ukraine authorities’ appeals for support to Ukrainians who are in need and face the onset of winter.
The chief of Polish diplomacy thanked all who were involved in organizing the transport, including the non-governmental organizations: the Polish Red Cross, Caritas Poland, and the Polish Centre for International Aid Foundation. “All the organizations have worked together well, showing how to solve problems, build good relationships, and be effective. I should also thank firefighters from across Poland and the Chief Commandant of State Fire Service,” said Minister Schetyna.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz highlighted the importance of our solidarity with the people of eastern Ukraine whom the conflict has hit especially hard. “These lorries are just the beginning of what we are capable of and what we want to do for our neighbours in the east,” said the Polish prime minister. To the Ukrainians, she addressed the following words: “Remember that Poland feels for you, and that you can always count on us.” On 28 November 2014, Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz decided to release over PLN 3 million from the state budget’s general reserve. The money has gone towards bilateral humanitarian relief for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Ukraine. According to estimates by Ukraine authorities, hostilities have forced over half a million people to change their place of residence.
The convoy of in-kind assistance has been organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Headquarters of State Fire Service, and the Polish NGOs: the Polish Red Cross, Caritas Poland, and the Polish Centre for International Aid Foundation. The relief includes food parcels, parcels for children and babies, hygiene items, clothes, sleeping bags for winter, beds, blankets, and heaters. Polish aid is heading for the Kharkiv Oblast, which is home to the largest group of refugees, i.e. close on 118,000 people. At the same time, Polish funds help renovate and winterize an IDP centre near Kharkiv. In addition, over 600 families will benefit from financial help.
Since the start of the Ukraine conflict, Poland has provided PLN 10 million worth of humanitarian aid to the people who have suffered most or have been forced to flee their homes. The assistance included hospitalization of those wounded in clashes with the Berkut police, as well as summer camps for children and youth. At the same time, Ukraine receives help from local governments and NGO volunteers, hundreds of whom are engaged in clothes and food collections.