Prawa autorskie: fot. Mariusz Cieszewskifot. Mariusz Cieszew...


Powoli wyczerpują się zasoby dobrej woli i możliwości pomocy ukraińskim rodzinom, które ratując się przed rosyjską agresją, próbują w Polsce mieszkać, pracować i uczyć się. Państwo nie wspiera już Polek i Polaków, którzy przyjmują uchodźców. Czas na nowo ułożyć relacje i szukać rozwiązań. Chcemy w OKO.press opisywać historie gości z Ukrainy, usłyszeć je od was. Czekamy też na listy polskich pracodawców, gospodarzy, wszystkich osób, które chcą napisać komentarz lub zgłosić pomysł. Piszcie na adres [email protected].


Поволі вичерпуються ресурси доброї волі та можливості допомоги українським родинам, які, рятуючись від російської агресії, намагаються жити, працювати та навчатися в Польщі. Держава більше не підтримує польок та поляків, які приймають біженців. Настав час заново формувати стосунки та шукати рішення. В OKO.press ми хочемо описати історії гостей з України, почути їх від вас. Також чекаємо на листи від польських роботодавців, господарів та всіх, хто бажає написати коментар чи подати ідею. Пишіть на [email protected].

A friend calls on 24 February in the morning:

‘Olena, tell all the parents we’re closing the school!’

‘What’s happened?’

‘Didn't you hear the explosions this morning?! War has broken out!’

I didn’t yet believe it then. What war? I lived in a modern district of Kyiv on the 15th floor. I had a job, a family, plans for life. We never thought there would be a war. The 21st century, Europe and what? A war? So suddenly, so openly, we didn’t believe this was possible. Russians had been coming to Ukraine on vacation. We received them with open arms. They were like brothers to us.

I couldn’t understand it.

It was terrible when the tanks drove past the house, diversionary groups appeared. Shops were closed in Kyiv; there was a shortage of food and clean water. There was no electricity. I went down fifteen floors every day for water. There were constant air raid warnings. I have an elderly mother. She didn’t have the strength to go down to the shelter. We covered the walls with mattresses and waited out every alarm as if we were locked in a cage.

The OKO.press series ‘We are here together’ about Ukrainians in Poland can be found here.

The road to Warsaw

My brother called on 5 March.

‘Olena, you have to get away, save your children and mother! Please, leave!’

It was terrible. I was crying. I didn’t know where to go. We knew no one abroad. It was difficult to leave the flat, our belongings, our friends, our whole life, and go out into the unknown. We went to the railway station in Kyiv, which was under fire at that time. The station building was darkened; there was a terrible crowd inside, hysteria and panic. It didn’t matter which train you got on, as long as it was going west! My son was the first to get on the train, then my mother. I stood on the platform with my daughter. Then, they said the train was full and was leaving. I have never shouted like that! I didn't even know where that train was going! They’re going, and I’m staying?! The shouting helped. They also took me and my daughter. The train was full. Children were in the compartments, adults with luggage in the corridor. We were afraid of the gunfire.

We rode sixteen hours to the Slovakian border. There were already volunteers at the border. There were blankets, food, sweets and toys. The Red Cross was there.

A friend wrote to me that she was in Warsaw, so we should go there.

We all got off at the Central Station in Warsaw on 7 March. Here, they directed us to a hotel. Finally, a normal night’s stay in a safe place.

The next day we went for a walk, to see Warsaw. I had never been here before. People were smiling on the streets, with flowers. It was Women’s Day. Normal life, a holiday, while people were dying there! An ambulance drove by with the siren and lights switched on. The children’s reaction was to throw themselves onto the ground. Passers-by helped us. I then realized for the first time that we are not alone in this misfortune, that there is support from our neighbours.

On the third day after arriving, I enrolled my children in school and registered my mother with a doctor. Then, I was able to go about looking for a job.

I tell them my story and they know I’m one of them

At first, I was a cleaner in a hotel, learning Polish in the afternoons. A fellow student showed me an advert on the web. Someone in Warsaw was looking for a psychologist who speaks Ukrainian. That’s how I ended up at the children’s day care centre at the Polish Center for International Aid (PCPM). This was my life! I have always worked with children. I could feel needed again, I could help others. Life started to return to normal. I could rent a flat.

Several months later – in September – the PCPM Foundation offered me a job at the MEDEVAC medical evacuation centre in Jasionka near Rzeszów, where patients from Ukraine, wounded in the war, and oncology patients for whom there are not enough medicines and no opportunities for treatment, arrive.

Initially, there were more soldiers in the evacuation hub, but now there are more oncology patients. Soldiers from zone zero are locked up. They’re not always willing to talk to a psychologist.

There was a boy who had been fighting since 2014. Nine years on the front! He was brought wounded to our hub in Rzeszów. He couldn’t understand for a long time that he was safe here and there’s no threat to him. It’s difficult to return to a normal life after so many years at war without a psychologist’s help. It will not pass on its own’ it will come back again and again.

The soldiers have more symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while depression prevails in cancer patients. I recently spoke to a cancer patient whose son was lost in the Bahmut area and has had no contact with him since the middle of May. He initially thought his son was dead because there was no one left from his squad. However, someone sent a text message stating that he was alive and was extensively and severely wounded.

Uśmiechnięta kobieta. W tle ściana przystrojona kolorowymi balonami i napis PCPM
Photo Mariusz Cieszewski

Oncology patients sometimes ask questions themselves. Where are you from? How did you get here?

I tell them my story and they know I’m one of them. They start talking, they trust me and then I know I can help them. They’re very grateful for any help they get. This is an opportunity of a second life for them. They frequently say they didn’t expect such a reception and what is being done for them. Here, everyone is treated individually. This is how I treated the children when I was working in Kyiv. A great deal has changed since then. I needed help several months ago, but now I’m helping others.

I cannot imagine a different life

When we were in Slovakia, a journalist asked me what I am planning to do in Poland. What do you mean, what? Work. I cannot imagine a different life. This is where I belong now. My daughter is preparing for her baccalaureate at a Polish school; my son is going into the eighth grade.

Poland is currently the only place where I can live.

Written by Mariusz Cieszewski



Mariusz Cieszewski

Fotograf, reporter, freelancer współpracujący z Fundacją PCPM