Prawa autorskie: Przemyśl-Medyka-Korczowa-Hrebenne. Granica Polski z Ukrainą. Uchodźcy i punkty pomocowe fot.: Agata Kubis/OKO.pressPrzemyśl-Medyka-Korc...

Publikujemy angielskie tłumaczenie tekstu Dalii Mikulskiej „Tak mi tu dobrze, że aż czuję się winna”. Opowieść ukraińskiej uchodźczyni.


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].

‘Two ladies from Kherson arrived a month ago, a 60- and a 70-year-old woman with seven children, the youngest of whom was 5 and the oldest 15,’ says Juliana from Lviv. ‘These children’s parents stayed in Ukraine because men aged under 60 are not allowed to leave, and their wives did not want to leave them alone there. While the support here has already ended; the state no longer subsidizes people who take in Ukrainians under their roof, and you have to pay for rent normally. And how am I supposed to help them? I said: “you need to go to Germany.” What will they do here to support all these children?’

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

A little like Singapore

Juliana came to Poland on 24 February, the day of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Her daughter persuaded her to go.

‘Of course, no one expected there would be a war. But my daughter is a doctor of social sciences at a university in Sweden. She specializes in Eastern European conflicts, and her doctorate was about the war in Donbass in 2014. And she must have been telling me for three months: “Mum, there will be a war.”

She asked me to be prepared, to keep the car filled with petrol at all times. No one wanted to believe in such things, but she set us up mentally. She asked us to leave immediately, the same day. Because we don’t have a family in Ukraine. If the borders were closed, a new Iron Curtain would arise and then we would be left there alone.

We left that same day, even before queues of cars started to build up at the border. A friend from Kharkiv called at six o’clock in the morning and we started to pack. I don’t know what I was thinking then, I was probably afraid that Poland would not want to let us in, because I took some table cloths, bedding, and almost no clothes with me. And only one set of underwear. It was a shock. Everyone thought it would be over quickly, but only later did terrible things start to happen.’

Przeczytaj także:

‘We came to Izabelin because my mother has a sister here, who worked for the Kampinos National Park management. Well, where should she have gone? To family!

And besides, I speak Polish, because my mother’s whole family left for Poland years ago and I had been visiting them since I was a child. So I think it was easier for me than for people who came from Kharkiv or Kryvyi Rih, who only speak Russian and have never been abroad.’

For them, Poland is a bit like Singapore for me, a completely foreign place, a foreign language – all they have is ‘sz’, ‘cz’ and ‘ż’ [pronounced ‘ʂ’, ‘t͡ʂ’ and ‘ʐ’].

‘Mum stayed with her sister in a twenty-square-metre bedsit, and we were accommodated by the Kampinos management in their employee hotel. We were able to live there free of charge until last August. This was very helpful, and after that we were already earning and could pay.’

It was embarrassing to take

‘On the third day after I arrived, I reported in as a volunteer. I immediately felt fidgety, I couldn’t sit still. I quickly saw that people were organizing themselves and helping each other, so I started too.

It was a huge amount of help in the beginning – from nappies for children to groceries. Izabelin is an affluent municipality, so people brought not only basic products, but also higher-end ones, such as coconut milk etc. There was rather no such thing as someone demanding something – in our country, people are not used to the state or any organizations taking care of them. That is why the Ukrainians were very grateful.

But you know how it is – if something is for free, many people will gladly take it. Polish volunteers felt out of place saying something, because, after all, they were refugees; but I could, so I said: well, you took five cartons of milk yesterday, so why do you need so much?

On the other hand, I also remember this woman who never took anything, although I know she had two children and was in need. I said to her: “take it, after all, people are sharing out of sincerity, and you are in need.” She said she never wanted to take anything from anyone. I packed her a whole bag, and she burst into tears.’

She felt bitter because she had always worked and was independent, but now suddenly she was dependent on relief.

‘I had a bit of the same thing. While I was volunteering, I worked in the storage area, unpacking donations. But somehow I was ashamed to take things myself. A colleague once said to me: “listen, don’t you want to take something for yourself? At least take some butter!” And I somehow felt uneasy, although the truth is that, at that time, we were not earning money, we were being fed by my aunt, a pensioner who lives off a modest pension.

It was difficult for us at first, but the director of the Cultural Centre in Izabelin noticed me and thought I would be useful, because I speak Polish, Ukrainian and Russian. They needed someone to coordinate activities and contacts with the newly arriving Ukrainians. Because people were coming to the municipality for help, while the Polish workers couldn’t communicate with them.

I had my own business in Ukraine, I was a fashion designer, whereas here in Izabelin I handled the coordination of aid. My husband, on the other hand, is a ceramicist; he also got a job at the Cultural Centre, where he holds workshops. Poles come to them. Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t speak Polish, it’s hard for him to learn. But somehow they get along, a little with signs and a little in our language.

There was a lot of work throughout the year, a lot of projects for Ukrainian refugees – learning Polish, trips for children so they could have some pleasant moments. Children ... it’s amazing how quickly they learned the language. Although there were also those who could not; they stayed at home because they were tired by the trauma. They cried because they remembered the bombings and those terrible basements where they had to sit. It’s only now that I see how they have recovered, how they integrated with Polish children.’

‘I was shocked at how much the municipality did for the refugees! Every now and then there were some grants, from Germany, from the European Union. Now, everything is slowly coming to an end. People have somehow got back on their feet. Or they have left.’


‘Poles sometimes say about the Ukrainians that they came in good cars, live in expensive hotels, eat at restaurants.... And I think to myself – even if there are such people, so what? If they spend money here, after all, Poland only benefits from it!

One lady came here in a mink coat. She looked funny, but she only had this mink coat, she didn’t even have any documents, because they destroyed their house, they lost everything they had. She took maybe one suitcase and came like that with her daughter. She told me later that she had a huge warehouse in Ukraine, everything was destroyed, and she has loans. She was in a horrific mental state.

Some 500 refugees came to Izabelin from Ukraine. Now perhaps 200 or 150 are left. The rest have either returned home or have gone further, to the West. Most returned to Ukraine. They have flats there, for which they are still paying rent, or repaying loans and, after all, you have to pay here too.

At the end of the 40+ programme, the government subsidy programme for Poles who took in Ukrainians under their roof, there was a choice – either leave or go out onto the street. Those who have children still get 500+, but is that enough to live on? And after all, a single mother with children will not find it easy to go to work.’

‘After all, a person will not find manual work immediately. And most can only dream of other types of work, even if they were teachers, accountants, lawyers or journalists in our country. Not everyone can work manually if they have been sitting in an office all their lives. Maybe they can learn, but that too takes physical strength and skills.

I think it’s most difficult for people who have to wash floors, even though they have specialized training – such as an accountant or lawyer. What is she to do here? The law is different, she doesn’t know the language. They managed to learn a little of the language over a year, but not enough to work in the profession.

Some went to Germany, France or Canada. These countries already have experience with refugees, not Ukrainians, but from various countries. And they simply shifted money from one budget to another and relief could be obtained right away.

I received 300 zlotys from the Polish state when I arrived. And nothing more, and I pay a lot of taxes here. The rest is help from good people and NGOs. In the West, it is compulsory for refugees to learn languages and, in the beginning, they don’t have to work, because they receive support from the state. They are mainly younger women – 40-, 50-year-olds, they can still learn the language. If someone doesn’t speak Polish, what difference does it make?’

Frankly speaking, I urge everyone to leave Poland, because it’s difficult here if you don’t know the language.

‘It’s not easy to find a job, make a living. But people were afraid to go further; they preferred to be close to the border. Most are thinking of going back and are just waiting for this war to end.’

‘Did I think about going to my daughter? I considered it. We would have had accommodation there and some money from the state; but the problem is that we would have been isolated, because we don’t speak English. We would only have her. I couldn’t stand it. Here I have a job, lots of acquaintances. The point is not to live off the state and sit locked up in a flat. It’s always positive if you work, you get out. Because, after all, the benefits are not big enough to go out to the theatre, for example.’

Only sometimes someone will remind me of Volhynia

‘I decided to return to Lviv. My whole life is there – my friends, my acquaintances. A lot of people stayed because someone has a son and doesn’t want to leave him. We only have a daughter abroad, and my husband is over sixty, so we were able to leave.

If I were 40 years old, I might have stayed in Poland, because I’m fine here. I fell in love with Warsaw. I’ve made many friends here, people are so wonderful to me that it brings tears to my eyes. The Poles I met while volunteering invite me to their children’s communions. Someone helped us find accommodation, someone helped with the laundry.

The flat we rent is very small and there is no washing machine in it. So I asked one lady in Izabelin if I could wash our things at the senior citizen’s home. The next day, a councillor called me and said: “What do you mean, you don’t have a washing machine? You can wash your things at my place!” Three more people called me with a similar proposal. But I felt uneasy washing my underwear like that at someone’s house; I preferred to do it at the senior citizen’s home, because, after all, it is an institution. And the director had agreed.

We wondered how to repay her, but they didn’t even want to accept chocolates from us. So we came up with the idea that my husband would hold painting lessons for senior citizens. And do you know how much joy this is for these elderly people?

What are Poles like towards Ukrainians? Largely very good. Of course, there were also negative situations – someone was treated unkindly, someone didn’t pay for the work done. I, too, am sometimes reminded of Volhynia, although perhaps it’s not out of spite, perhaps they are just curious as to how I would respond?’

I also once heard from some woman that it is not known what the war is about. Perhaps the Ukrainians are attacking themselves? This was like a smack in the face for me. I burst into tears.

‘The simpler the people, the poorer they are, the more reasons they probably have for looking for someone to blame, and sometimes blame the refugees for their situation. This is normal and it happens everywhere. It’s just the way it is; people sometimes have to think badly of someone else to make them feel better themselves.

But the people are largely so supportive that it brings tears to my eyes. When I said I was leaving, many tried to convince me to stay. “What do you mean, with your health?” they ask me. Because I had a heart attack here. Luckily, I quickly noticed the worrying symptoms and went to the hospital. Doctors reacted quickly, implanted a stent and managed to keep my heart undamaged.’


‘There was also one girl who the landlord threw out of the house with a small child at night,’ recalls Juliana. ‘Because there are all sorts of people – he probably got drunk and all his anger came out. After all, it wasn’t easy for many people, as they lived with strangers, at someone’s mercy. A person walks around tense all the time, feeling some kind of pressure and fear of what will happen tomorrow.

I think it’s wonderful that people took refugees into their homes. I, myself, don’t know how I would feel about that, no matter what kind of person it was. After all, everyone has their own habits, someone will put something down differently or leave dirty plates. Such little things, but people could have become tired.

Even my mother returned after a while, even though she had been living with her own sister. They couldn’t stand it for long in a small bedsit, it’s hard to live together in such a small space. And now, in Ukraine, my mother jumps up twice a day when she hears an air raid warning, hides between the thicker walls and prays there that nothing will happen. If I had to wake up like that every night, I think I would go crazy.

Compared to what’s going on in the east, there’s not such a terrible war in Lviv. But there are air raid sirens; bombings also take place. People live in tension. But I live in peace and, somehow, that makes me feel uneasy. While there was work here, there were a lot of Ukrainians in Izabelin; somehow, it inspired me, I felt I was here for a purpose. And now the projects are ending.... and I sometimes think to myself why am I here? I decided to leave at the end of the summer, when my employment contract ends. Only they bombed Lviv again tonight, in the city centre; someone’s windows were blown out near my home. And I’m a little afraid.

My daughter asks me: why do you want to go back so badly? So I started thinking about it, and I think it’s probably because of the feeling of guilt.

I feel good here. And it is probably because I feel so good here that sometimes something hurts, I feel guilty that others are suffering, and I’m not experiencing what they are going through.’

The interview was held as part of the ‘Welcome Neighbour! Integration of migrants in local communities’ project. It is financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway with EEA Funds in the Active Citizens – Regional Fund Programme. It is implemented jointly by the Polish Migration Forum Foundation, the Foundation for Freedom, the Municipality of Izabelin, the Municipality of Marki and the Municipality of Podkowa Leśna.



Dalia Mikulska

Studiowała prawa człowieka w świecie arabskim (Arab Master's in Human Rights and Democratization) w Bejrucie, prawo i pomoc humanitarną, ukończyła także Polską Szkołę Reportażu i Szkołę Letnią Międzynarodowego Prawa Humanitarnego na Okupowanych Terytoriach Palestyny. Z zawodu pracowniczka humanitarna i reporterka. Stypendystka Fundacji Współpracy Polsko-Niemieckiej, nominowana do nagrody dziennikarskiej Człowiek z Pasją za reportaż o zbrodniach dokonywanych w syryjskich aresztach, finalistka konkursu Wydawnictwa Poznańskiego.