They are hundreds under blankets or under their coats. In Krakow station, women, children, old people, dogs and cats all sleep together in the large hall. These Ukrainian refugees took several days to reach here, more than 200 km from the border of their country at war.
Upon their arrival, dozens of Polish volunteers, scouts, tell them where to sign administrative papers, how to get a free ticket or get hot tea or food for their animals. Alongside them, dozens of European volunteers roam the station with signs: “Netherlands”, “Sweden”, “Norway”.
Member of the NGO Nordic SOS Ukraine, Jan Helge Vassbo, eyes red with fatigue, organizes the transport of refugees to Scandinavia. “Since Wednesday, we have already embarked 500 people. Our goal is to manage 2,000 per day. Apartments await them there. » Originally from kyiv, Olga Krisztapovich is leaving for Malmö (Sweden), with her two children aged 11 and 14. For her, Poland is only a stage. But many want to settle there, with friends, relatives or in the accommodation centers offered by the town hall.
Krakow, a city of 750,000 inhabitants, has already received around 100,000 refugees, Warsaw 200,000. There is a shortage of places. The smaller municipalities offer them, but the refugees prefer to stay in the big cities, in the hope of finding work more quickly. The mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski, recently confided on the American channel MSNBC: “We are overwhelmed. We need a relocation system in Europe and worldwide. We can no longer improvise. (…) Of course, we will welcome everyone, we will not refuse anyone. »
The Krakow City Hall supports the accommodation of 5,000 people in 60 hotels in the city. It also runs reception centers with folding beds, providing food and clothing. According to Andrzej Kulig, the vice-mayor of Krakow, the municipality spent almost all of its crisis reserves (3 million euros) in two weeks, pending the exceptional allocation promised by the government.
Already, faced with the influx of refugees, food, sheets, towels and hygienic products are running out. NGOs and individuals are trying to deal with the most urgent matters. “Thanks to my contacts, I managed to provide blankets, sleeping bags, find accommodation and even free up €1,000 for Ukrainian friends”, says Jędrzej Majka, a writer from Krakow. In his small apartment, he hosts a family of six. “We sleep on the mattresses. I can not complain “he laughs.
On March 12, the Polish President signed a special law on “aid to Ukrainians”. Refugees will be able to have Polish identity papers, enroll their children in schools and benefit from health insurance. Their stay will be authorized for a period of eighteen months, with the possibility of extending up to three years.
Can the country count on support from Europeans? “It is already the case on the medical levelnotes Róża Thun, opposition member of the European Parliament. Cancer patients are transferred to other hospitals within the EU. I have never seen such solidarity at the community level. »