Strona główna/[ENG] HUMANITARIAN AID. Success Story: Narratives of Lublin Assistance to Refugees from Ukraine

[ENG] HUMANITARIAN AID. Success Story: Narratives of Lublin Assistance to Refugees from Ukraine

Marcin Skrzypek

Humanitarian aid for Ukraine in Lublin described by its organisers. Where did it come from and how did it start? First hours, days, and weeks. Joys and sorrows. Previous circumstances that helped us to take effective action. Facts from reports and personal reflections.
What worked?

Beginnings are always difficult. They are also difficult to describe, because there is too much happening then at once on a small scale than we are used to. Our idea of the normal sequence of events is built by facts, significant and permanent changes. Beginnings, on the other hand, consist of small, seemingly unimportant episodes, fast sequences of uncertain temporary states that often result from previous actions or favourable circumstances… Although, as a matter of fact, it is them that decide about everything that happens next, the first steps always hide in the shadow of milestones.

On Thursday, February 24, I was in Austria skiing with my children. On Saturday, my wife—who stayed behind in Lublin—texted me that we would be hosting refugees. When I came home on Sunday I found our living room occupied by Irina, her daughters Vika and Katya and her grandson Tymoshka. They were brought to us by a Ukrainian volunteer assistant, on whose further help we could count if needed. This was my personal milestone that was preceded by a sequence of smaller but more important events.

This was all possible first, because my wife knew she could count on our family’s full acceptance of her decisions, and second, due to the fact that within two days of the outbreak of the war against Ukraine the local NGO Homo Faber had organised the Social Committee to Aid Ukraine which published an entry form made in Google Forms and set up the whole support system of home-sharing for people willing to host refugees.
This was only one small part of the aid system of the Committee and there were more such institutional and private centres in Lublin, like the one at 5 Lilac Street, Liliowa 5, which helped refugees to find shelter in other European countries. Hundreds of other people who acted individually on social media or organised help on a larger scale among their friends and relatives.

By April 2022, 1,200,000 Ukrainian citizens had arrived at Lublin, of which 138,000 had spent there at least one night. At the end of March they accounted for 17% of the population of the city (68,000 people). The Committee itself accommodated 1668 people (531 families) for three months, and answered 14,670 calls made to the municipal helpline. In addition, it ran fourteen intervention accommodation points with around 1,500 beds, which during this time provided more than 102 500 overnight stays as well as served 150,000 meals and issued 39,500 food parcels. Eighty truckloads and 68 other transports of humanitarian aid were dispatched. With the Committee’s support, 1,196 Ukrainian citizens found employment, including sixty-four pedagogues in forty-one Lublin schools.

These are the facts but how did it all happen? I conducted the following conversations in order to preserve these first steps, to document this very moment of the dawn of social humanitarian aid for Ukrainians in Lublin. But there was another more important reason. I wanted to analyse these actions as an example of grassroots efforts to aid people in need can be more effective than those that have to go through official channels.

It therefore behoves us to closely examine what was done, in order to learn from it so that it may be replicated when the need arises in the future. My interlocutors were: Rafał “Koza” Koziński, director of the Centre for Culture in Lublin, Piotr Skrzypczak from the Homo Faber Association, which co-created the Lublin Social Committee to Aid Ukraine, and Olga, Łukasz and Marcin from a grassroots, informal assistance-centre for refugees at Liliowa 5. Conversations took place respectively on April 12, 14, and 26 2022, i.e. about one and a half months after the outbreak of the war.

At first, I wanted those interviews to be only the source of quotations for a press article I planned to write, but it turned out that narrative is preserves knowledge that an article could not impart. It is a kind of knowledge that appears through storytelling, living narrative, and only in this form can it be properly assimilated. Ultimately, two texts were created out of this material: the oral relations below and an article How Lublin’s social capital paid a dividend to Ukrainian, in which I analyse this collective experience using notions of modern management and economic development.

Why did it work?
Rafał “Koza” Koziński (director of the Centre for Culture in Lublin): For a banal reason: Lublin has always had some connections with Ukraine so the social groundwork is great here. Different cultural and social circles, institutions and NGOs have been doing projects with or for Ukrainians for years. Besides, a lot of active people are of Ukrainian origin or are Ukrainians, including workers in the City Office. My wife has Ukrainian roots and I spent so many days in Ukraine that if I had gathered them together, it would have been almost a year.
That’s reason number one. Two, one of such NGOs, the Homo Faber Association, which has been operating in Lublin in the interest of immigrants and foreigners in general for at least ten years, has played a crucial role in the organisation of help for refugees. On the eve of the war, they had just returned from the Polish-Belarusian border, so they were familiar with the needs of refugees and how to organise themselves immediately.

The third spark, when it comes to the Centre for Culture, was provided by an event called Lublin Cultural Euromaidan, When in January 2014 the demonstrations started to gather in the Independence Square [Maidan] in Kyiv – and then the war truly began – in front of the Centre for Culture we organised concerts and the collection of medicines and other donations, which we took afterwards by lorry to Kyiv.
So, when the war broke out at 5:00 in the morning on February 24, as early as 11.00 am I got a phone call from Homo Faber asking whether the Centre for Culture could be the local hub for humanitarian aid . After 2014, the Centre seemed a natural choice for everybody. There were people who wanted to help; there were people who knew how to do it, because they had experience working with refugees; and there was a place for all of them.

Piotr Skrzypczak (Homo Faber Association): This model of [the Lublin Social Committee to Aid Ukraine] is transferable to other cities, but in order to implement it, you would have to travel back in time. For us, for example, it was helpful that one week before the outbreak of the war we organised a meeting of the Commission for Civil Dialogue on how to organise city’s integration support system for immigrants. At that time, we had been creating it for a year and a half along with other institutions linked to Lublin City Office. We invited the voivode ((a rough equivalent of governor) and the mayor to join us in a discussion about what would happen if war broke out. In this way we came to know the authorities’ assumptions and principles, what they would do when refugees showed up at the border. So, this topic was already known to us.
I spoke to people who were occupied with social humanitarian aid in other cities. Something that they were missing, and which of course doesn’t work perfectly for us either, is mutual trust and mutual complementarity. This refers to relationships that are not about competition. This is about taking actions in good faith that if you already do something, then we won’t do the same thing, but something parallel, and as a result we will strengthen each other. When the municipal office does something, then we don’t do not copy their actions. We just send people to their bureau to help and vice versa. It’s not uncommon for there to be tension between municipal authorities and community organisations. We put ours aside to take care of what is most important. Thanks to that, we don’t have separate headquarters. Which means that there is only one, large general staff managed by the municipal office, and community organisations are doing their job on the side. The Lublin Social Committee to Aid Ukraine is where it complements one another.

Since mid-August 2021, we have been involved around the clock in activities on the Polish-Belarusian border, where we tried to prevent a humanitarian crisis caused by the Lukashenko regime and the Polish government. We created an informal Grupa Granica [Border Group], which included activists from dozens of organisations as well as individuals. We helped people who were treated inhumanely by border guards and frequently saved their lives. We gathered a lot of experience in organising grassroots, spontaneous actions regarding humanitarian aid. This allowed us to make decisions very quickly, which, as we noticed later, took more time in other cities.

From the Homo Faber Association’s website: Homo faber (Latin for: man the maker). Mission: small steps, big changes. The vision of Homo Faber is to create a Lublin, in which every person feels free and safe, fully enjoys their rights, regardless of gender, physical health, national and ethnic origin, “race”, skin colour, psychosexual orientation, religious beliefs, worldview, political opinion, level of wealth, age or any other feature. […] Homo Faber is a team of people specialised in various fields, jointly trying to use their potential in work for human rights. The principle of the team’s work relies on democratic decision-making, respect for individualism of its members, as well as continuous and systematic self-improvement.

Rafał “Koza” Koziński: In Europe, it was noticed that after the outbreak of the war, Poles behaved phenomenally. If I were to say why, I would say in general that to some extent it was Jurek Owsiak and his Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity that taught us how to help and give our free time to others. After all, an entire generation of today’s thirty-year-olds grew up seeing how beautiful it is to help each other, how easy it is to leave home and be a volunteer. That is why, in my opinion, when a real-life emergency situation came, people, regardless of their political preferences, stood shoulder to shoulder to help. In some way, it fixed us as a society.

Olga (Liliowa 5): I am Belarusian. I came here to study, and I stayed. I feel a bond with the East. I have plenty of friends from Ukraine. I studied with Ukrainians, so I couldn’t imagine making a different decision than to help refugees. If I helped one, two, three people, then why not help hundreds of them? Before the war, I was occupied with international trade with Russia and Ukraine. In Belarus, I was a girl scout and helping always felt good for me. I also benefited a lot from my upbringing. My mother has been with us in all this from the very beginning. Łukasz’s parents also took some refugees to their summer house. They’re helping all the time and we’re in touch. There is a war going on, people are losing their homes and their lives. It was fourteen degrees below zero then, I just couldn’t make a different decision.
Marcin (Liliowa 5): I’m a professional poker player, but I used to be a boy scout, too. I always liked to help. I did a lot of charity work on my own. I organised charity poker tournaments, fundraising for animals. If something is needed, I simply act. We raised money for wheelchairs, for nursery schools, for a school for mentally disabled children. When a friend’s wife was pregnant with their daughter, who had to undergo a heart operation right after birth, and for that reason had to collect 200-300 thousand euros, I organized a poker tournament among poker players and all the entry money went to this cause. When I met Olga and figured out that she wanted to give her house to refugees in need, I thought why not, I would do likewise.

Łukasz (Liliowa 5): I am a lawyer by profession. I have a company with my father, we work with aluminium. My motivations were Olga and helping. We have known each other for five years. We have a similar way of thinking. It is possible that our professions somehow helped us find ourselves in this situation. We concluded that Olga’s house was useful and that we could help. Then we were happy that it started to work out. Such an adrenaline surge! We are responsible for these people, and yet there is also personal satisfaction.

24 February
Piotr Skrzypczak: On February 24, around 4:00 in the morning, we were on a train to Berlin, just approaching Warsaw. Not far away sat three Ukrainian girls. At first, they were joking with each other, but at some point, they got silent. They started to look at their phones and listed names of Ukrainian towns. It turned out that there was a missile attack. We immediately decided to come back and started contacting other organisations operating in similar areas as well as with the Lublin City Office in order to meet as soon as possible and prepare for what was to come.

Because we knew exactly what was going to happen: on the border and in Lublin very disoriented people were going to be showing up needing immediate help. We knew that the sooner we could get together and divide the work, the more calmly and professionally we’d be able to assist them. We also started calling friends who had access to some larger groups of people. For instance, Maria Mazur, Dean of University College of Enterprise and Administration in Lublin, where I teach classes. We told her that we would need all the help she could provide.

At 10:00 am we met in Krzysztof Stanowski’s office, in the Centre for International Cooperation of the Lublin City Hall, with Nastia Kinzerska and with Ania Szadkowska from Lublin’s City Office for Social Participation. We immediately started talking about the areas in which we would have to work and about the place where we would organise meetings of our “committee”. Because, from the very start, it was supposed to be a social committee complementing the systematic actions of the City Office, the Marshal Office and the Lubelskie Province Governor’s Office. It was a grassroots initiative organised primarily with the support of the municipality.

On the same day, in the afternoon, about seventy people came to the first open meeting for volunteers. We announced the tasks and teams we would need people for. The first subgroups were quickly created. It was very helpful for us that immediately, within the first hours, the Centre for Culture in Lublin gave us access to their space and that the Centre’s whole team that was at our disposal. If anybody needed space, technical support, specific people for work, the staff and resources of the Centre were at our disposal. Thanks to that, we were able to arrange a support system very quickly, which consisted of around twenty working groups. These groups shortly started working on specific challenges on their own. Basic humanitarian aid was needed ASAP to help these people understand what was happening, where they were and what options they had at that time. It was crucial to help them live through the very first hours in a dignified manner.

Olga: On the morning of February 24, my brother texted me saying that I could expect three families that week. Because he had Ukrainian trading partners and he simply had known that their families would be running away. I said that there was no problem. In the end, only one family came from my brother. And my friend from Warsaw brought me the first person, a girl. He went on the border as a volunteer to take people out from there, and nobody knew where to accommodate them after checking in at the reception desk. Three other cars went there with him but they brought only one girl that first night, because people on the border were very afraid of those private transports. A father was already coming from Berlin to take this girl, so she only slept at our house for one night and drove on. All that time, my one hundred-metre heated garage was standing unnecessarily empty. Then I made up my mind to fully invlove in the help for the refugees and I knew that it was only the beginning.

Rafał “Koza” Koziński: We immediately decided to open a common room where women with children were staying with us on the first day so that they could leave their kids there for a few hours to handle their affairs. After one week, it turned out that it was difficult to look after the children with our staff resources, so we appealed for babysitters to come forward. And in this way, Ukrainian women started to do the shifts in the common room, and the Ukrainian and Polish kids played together.

The first days
Rafał “Koza” Koziński: During the first few days we experienced chaos in here. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We were following our instincts, we really wanted to help. We asked our parents to look after our own children, because we were constantly busy. First, we allocated one room for refugees, which normally is used by a dance theatre, because we knew that we would be going to the border to bring more people. At midday there were several dozen people in it, and by 3:00 pm already over a hundred and fifty. So, it turned out that one room was not enough. We felt that the situation was unfolding and that the work would have to be reorganised. In the Centre for Culture, there were hundreds of people who really wanted to do something. Homo Faber split them into over a dozen task teams, and we located them depending on their needs if, for example, their tasks needed a cosy place or perhaps one closer to the entrance to the Centre.
On the outside we flagged the building in yellow and blue, Ukrainian national colours, in order to indicate to people lost in a foreign city that here they could feel safe here. At the entrance to the Centre for Culture there was also an information desk operated by Ukrainian-speaking people informing guests, where and how they could get support, as well as detailing the kinds of support available. It was important for people to know that when they approached the Centre and saw their flag, inside they would find somebody who would immediately take care of them.
Initially, we put the auxiliary staff in the basements because they weren’t used on an ongoing basis. But within two days, we had to move the majority of the Centre’s main activities to other rooms, because more and more the refugees showed up who didn’t have anywhere to go. We also quickly vacated offices, because the Committee asked us to organise an emergency call centre. It turned out that there wasn’t another appropriate place, except for our offices, in which the operators could be available 24 hours a day. After a couple of days 75% of the space in the Centre was dedicated to the needs of the Committee.

The first technical obstacles appeared quickly. For example, already on the second day too many cell phone conversations were being conducted simultaneously in the Centre so we had to intensify the Internet signal in the entire building and buy more cellphone signal amplifiers. Before long, it emerged that the bigger office was needed. So, we relocated printers and other equipment to the Committee headquarters and to other places that were organising help at that time.

Everything happened so fast and was so intuitive that only after a few days I started to wonder whether we even had the right to do it, i.e. whether, as a municipal cultural institution, we could commit ourselves so much to humanitarian aid instead of cultural activity. So, I read our statute and now I can be proud of the fact that when we wrote it in 2019, we also added social actions to our mission statements as a culture institution.

Łukasz: At the beginning, my goal was to go to the Ukrainian border and help as many people as my age was—that is, forty-one. But then I came and thought: why not help 410 people? And Olga added: let’s help 4100 then. After two months we haven’t yet reached this number, but we’re close.

Marcin: I met Olga only on February 27 this year. On one of several Facebook groups, I saw a notice that a mother with a child was looking for accommodations. It turned out that there were also two other women who didn’t have a place to sleep. That mother was their priority, so I agreed to take all four of them. When they got lost in Lublin and I went to pick them up, it turned out that there was yet another car with three people. They met somewhere along the way and the other car followed them to Lublin. I took everyone in and started looking for different accommodation for them on my own. A friend who also knew Olga saw my Facebook post, so he gave me her phone number. I called. She said OK. And that’s how it started.

Olga: After the first family with children and after another seven people, I had started sleeping in my older son’s room with my younger son instead of sleeping in my own bedroom. The kids cried at night and we couldn’t sleep. So, our neighbour offered to take my boys in for the time of helping the refugees, so that they could get enough sleep, do their homework, and go to school.

Marcin: That was the beginning of the war, chaos on the border. A lot of my friends went there to pick up people every day. Helping became a kind of “fashion.” There were hundreds of cars on the border, but Ukrainians, often with only one bag in hand, were afraid to get into strangers’ cars. This changed when reception points on the border started to register drivers by their id documents and give them badges.

Łukasz: The moment came when the first coaches with refugees arrived at the bus station. Helpless people got off them and simply said that they wanted to stay in Lublin, but they had nowhere specific to go. We check if there was a free seat in the car and if there was a place to sleep and brought them here. So we no longer had to go to the border.

Rafał “Koza” Koziński: Eventually, we simply suspended our art and cultural activities. Nobody objected. This decision was quickly consulted with our curatorial council and discussed with all staff members: that for the time being we would suspend everything, because it was necessary to help people, mothers with children, to provide them with warmth and safety. How were we supposed to carry on with our programmes and plays when people were dying? It came to us very naturally. It wasn’t a big deal.

Rafał “Koza” Koziński: Amongst those dealing with accommodations were our stage technicians, full-time employees of the Centre for Culture, who every day for 20-30 years had been handling the technical side of staging wonderful performances of artists from around the world. And then they started to accommodate Ukrainians in our theatre hall. One of those staff members was Piotr Szamryk, who speaks Russian, and who turned out to be an incredible logistician in terms of lodging. Every day I saw him smiling and happy, because he could help and give something of himself to others. That was a truly remarkable experience.

Marcin: The first two weeks were hard for us. We cried often. People arrived in a variety of physical and mental states. And those kids… My heart hurt. We saw a family arrive, sit down, look at the wall and cry. They showed us photographs of their ruined homes, or of someone dead… We cried a lot. Then we got used to it, although it still affects us. It was during those first weeks that you could collect tears in buckets. The things we saw will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Rafał “Koza” Koziński: In the room where we are talking now, the word “war” had not come up even once. There were no conversations about it, there was no aggression. After three weeks since the outbreak of the war, I noticed that the contents shown in the media are generating negative emotions in people. I hadn’t had a TV for twenty-five years, but when the war broke out I paid my TV subscription fee to keep up to date. When I started watching TV I noticed why at some point people got overwhelmed by this aggression, by this suffering. This had a great impact on our relationships. Arguments started, behaviour on the verge of acceptability began to emerge. I advised the workers to stop watching TV.

Piotr Skrzypczak: What is still needed is affection, chill, and some withdrawal. At our meetings we laugh, joke, and reduce tension. We know that we’re doing an important job, but in order not to go crazy, we support each other against this enormity of difficulties, we show that we’re in the same team.

Rafał “Koza” Koziński: At the general staff meeting, in the Centre for Culture, I thanked everyone who was involved in helping. But I also told the others who couldn’t, didn’t want to or didn’t feel like helping, not to feel remorse about it, to not feel that they had to engage in the aid. Somebody thanked me afterwards for saying that, because he was experiencing it differently and he just didn’t know how to get involved.

Infrastructure management
Marcin: We dedicated a whole house to refugees, plus we installed over 30 beds in our garage. In practice, there were fifty to sixty people, because when mothers with small children arrived, they fit together on one mattress. Everything in manual mode, everything goes through our three phones. It is Olga who mainly works, because she knows the language. I was responsible for all social media contacts of Liliowa 5, so I spent my time on Lublin aid groups, then also on Polish nationwide ones.
I followed the situation on an ongoing basis. During the day there were many announcements from people looking for accommodations and a lot of responses from families who took them in. So, we started opening in the afternoon, when the new people arrived and there was a smaller response from inhabitants. Then there was a shortage of places, so we would put in the announcements that we had, for example, thirty free spots . In addition, the Multi Frigo company and the Volunteer Centre, two of our partners, reported that they had a group planned, but couldn’t accommodate them. On such occasions they used to call us and asked if we had anything available. We worked simultaneously with how the refugees functioned. Twenty-four hours a day. Sometimes we were able to work for sixteen hours and sleep for three hours.

Olga: When it comes to how many people came through Liliowa 5, we provided over 4,000 nights’ sleep, hotel days, whereas when it comes to people physically it was about 2,000.

Marcin: That initiative was like a snowball. Firstly, Olga wanted to take in ten people, then we helped twenty, thirty, forty, and then one thing led to another: garage, transport, collecting everyday items and food. We also helped hundreds of people by giving them things out of the store, and not all the people who went through our emergency hotline slept at our place. We immediately contacted some people remotely from other places.

Olga: In business, it’s called “dropshipping”.

Rafał “Koza” Koziński: The Centre for Culture in Lublin had its own office supplies for the first half-year, reams of paper, printer cartridges, photocopier toners, and various cleaning materials. But when we began to help refugees our supplies ran out within ten days. We weren’t thinking about that, though, we gave anything that was needed. It also shows the scale of the demand for this kind of stuff.
At some point, the Centre for Culture was open 24/7. We only improved our security, because hostile emails had already started to come through. All the rehearsal and workshop rooms, theatre and dance halls were changed into offices , because that was the pressing need. The building was open and working twenty-four hours a day. I was happy that the Centre for Culture was so accessible for people, because closed institutions always irritated me. Contrary to what one might expect, departments taking care of the building, administration, etc. didn’t have a problem with it. We knew we were working on trust and nothing bad could come out of this.
A summary of a report on the support offered by the Centre for Culture to the Lublin Social Committee to Aid Ukraine:
1. Rooms made available (90% of workshop rooms, theatre halls, auditoriums, rehearsal studios and art rooms were used by the Social Committee and for the sake of helping Ukrainians (for almost 100 days):

Two rooms in the basement of the Centre for Culture (headquarters, everyday meetings of coordinators at 4 pm)
Rehearsal studios no. 1, 2, 3 + corridors (round-the-clock call centre)
The whole wing of the Little Art Studio (childcare, everyday)
Room no. 20 (accommodations for drivers going to the border, in emergency cases also for families with kids)
Room no. 19 (relaxation area for mothers with small children)
Rehearsal studio no. 5 and 6 + corridor (waiting room for people in the process of finding accommodations)
Rehearsal studio no. 5 and 6 at night + corridor (relaxation area for people in an emergency at night)
Black Room (9 beds)
Dressing Room I in the Black Room and a corridor (room to work in silence for people on staff)
Dressing Room II in the Black Room and a corridor (collections’ hub)
Centre for Culture’s main entrance (the first information desk for refugees)
Hotel II floor (for lodging)
Yurt (space for children)
Exhibition halls of the Biała (White) Gallery (lodging reserve)
Cinema (Ukrainian cinema)
Main Auditorium (cultural activities for refugees)

2. Types of involvement:
Logistic and organisational: rooms, Internet, amplified telephone signals, furniture, furnishings and necessary equipment, car, transports to the border and back
Personnnel: over a dozen people on duty 24/7 + logistic staff service, intensified security, service for people with disabilities
financial: costs of sanitation and hygienic supplies, office supplies, office equipment (computers, printers, access points, signal amplifier, power, heating, water, coffee, tea, fuel, current acquisition, etc.)
Communication and information activities: promotion and communication department

3. Coordinating team, working practically 24/7: seventeen people (management, communication with headquarters, coordination of the team’s work, coordination and securing of space and orders (materials, equipment, etc.), equipment coordination, support services, securing of property, equipment, and computer network, provision of equipment, coordination of consistent outside communication, providing visual communication in the building), ensuring the functioning of space for Ukrainian children.

Volunteer management
Rafał “Koza” Koziński: What surprised me was the change between 2014 and 2022 in the number of volunteers from Ukraine. The time of the year was similar. When we organised aid for the participants of Maidan 2014, there were literally a handful Ukrainians who helped us with staging the Lublin Cultural Euromaidan, and now suddenly several dozen of them appeared, and then hundreds. They gave their time and their energy. What’s interesting is that their main core now consisted of the same people that were also active in 2014.
At first, everybody was full of enthusiasm, but after a week it turned out that despite the former promises one volonteer didn’t come to the information desk another one didn’t show up in the accommodation team, or the call centre. At the beginning, for a few days, it worked well, but then started to empty out. The situation was saved by municipal office workers who came here at 8 am and left at 8 pm. They took on responsibility and didn’t think how long they were here but only that they were there to help. I don’t know what they told their bosses at work, but they came here in the morning and didn’t leave at 3:00 pm, but stayed longer. They also showed up on Saturdays and Sundays. They worked as much as was necessary. This was one of the links in the chain which help on such a massive scale possible. When it comes to volunteers, the biggest support was from the Ukrainians in Lublin who didn’t go to war. Thanks to that they could help their compatriots in Lublin.

Officials and employees of institutions put everything together, because they knew how the system should work and they also provided a good example of dutifulness and proficiency. The volunteers had to be clearly told that if they decided to help, they would get proper training on how to behave, where to call, what to say, what feedback to convey, and that they would have to come for a minimum of four hours a day and sign in on the calendar so that there would be no unoccupied hours. They had to switch from running on emotions to taking responsibility because at that time we had to work 12-14 hour days and we just couldn’t take our feet off the gas.

A lot was done just by dividing our duties according to what suited each person. If somebody felt good at finding accomodations for people, then they took care of that. Someone else was comfortable with babysitting, so they became a babysitter. It was the Homo Faber Association that taught us how to do all this. In practice, the organisational structure looked like that there were, let’s say, 3-5 people from the Association, then over a dozen municipal office clerks, over a dozen employees of the institution, and only then dozens of volunteers and great numbers of Lublin residents.

It was marvellous for me, for instance, that for over a month for four hours a day two city councilwomen, Maja Zaborowska and Monika Kwiatkowska, would come to the accommodation office in the Centre for Culture. They sat and accommodated people day after day. Because they committed themselves to it and took responsibility for it, even though they had their own work and council duties.
Thanks to Owsiak’s Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, everyone could follow live on TV for many years, what helping other people really was all about. We saw how pleasant that was, that it’s good and that it bore fruit. I think that’s why people were able to go out now, go to the station and say: “I’m here, I have time, I want to be a volunteer”. But once there are volunteers, someone has to organise them, so first there is a need for leaders whom people will follow. But one person can’t handle any situation in its entirety. There is a need for three or four leaders and creators, who would know what to do and how to manage people well.

Organizational structure
Piotr Skrzypczak: At its busiest period, the Committee consisted of forty coordinators working every day and 250 volunteers in twenty-two groups with a specific thing to do, but not necessarily every day. The volunteers were mainly people from Ukraine and Belarus and only a small group from Poland. Of course, the number, composition, and intensity of activities has changed over time as needs appeared, evolved, and disappeared. I will try to point out at least some of the groups and briefly describe them:
Most of the Ukrainian and Russian-speaking volunteers worked in lodging centres, at bus and railway stations, and operated our hotline. They staffed our accommodation points (up to a certain moment in time) and reception points as well, and worked in logistics, i.e., driving people or transporting products. The hotline was created thanks to the help of the Lublin City Hall and the Lublin Regional Tourist Organisation. We hired over a dozen people who, in four languages (Ukrainian, Russian, English and Polish), helped refugees solve their problems. Those teams worked twenty-four hours a day. Accommodations were based on offers sent via Google Forms and registrations that came in through other means. Those groups cooperated with our assistance task group whose members visited families who took refugees in and supported them in various individual matters.

A different team took care of the volunteers. There was also a separate group that provided psychological support for children, adults, and volunteers.

Medical aid, i.e. sending medical supplies to Ukraine, was handled by Krzysztof Łątka’s team from the Foundation for the Development of Central and Eastern Europe, which later developed its own contacts with Ukrainian partners. As a result, there were two separate departments: medical aid in Lublin and the second one, which sent medical aid directly to Ukraine.

Another group handled employment: helping with finding a job for a particular person, creating a general pool of job vacancies or finding employees for a business with specific needs. A system combining all those things was created, and it was handled by Wiktoria Herun from the Lublin City Office. In general, many people from these groups are municipal office clerks and officials.

Legal aid is another and of course a very broad topic about which a separate book could be written. Part of that was the team that dealt with advanced translations, e.g., translating legal documents and official texts.

Of course, food aid was of essential importance, when there were no systemic solutions yet and hungry people were still arriving. We didn’t buy food, but we acted as an intermediary between restaurants willing to give out meals for free and people in need of food. So, it was just a huge job of connecting different threads. That’s where Justyna Domaszewicz was a great help. She used her experience organising the “Calling for Reinforcements” campaign that supported health service workers during the pandemic. The food aid also involved providing better quality products, such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy from farmers in an orderly manner. The refugees were provided pasta and oil from the city’s resources, but you can’t feed a child with pasta and oil alone.

Similarly, a separate and basic issue was childcare: common rooms and activities, daily cultural animation. On this occasion, I can also mention collecting books, not only for children, because all the refugees wanted to read books. So, we imported books from Ukraine and passed them on. We succeeded in convincing libraries to register them, because before the war they only agreed to book-sharing of books in different languages.

We started a scholarship programme for people who, for example, went to a music school in Ukraine and played the piano, so that they could continue to do so in Lublin. Nobody could accept them into a music school overnight, but we could hire someone to provide them with daily music lessons.

We also coordinated donations and collections, but we didn’t do the collections ourselves. There are people in this team who know who collects what and where. .

The reception group oversaw the reception desk in the Centre for Culture. One of its aims was to provide refugees with the most up-to-date information. We also had an information department that issued guides, leaflets, posters etc. because at the beginning, nobody knew where, what, and how to find information packets. Those materials went to reception desks and stations. We provided the Border Guards with information packets and small leaflets to be put in the refugees’ passports regarding human trafficking, how not to fall into the hands of criminals who, for example, offered fake jobs in factories.

We also have a group for contacting large outside entities—both national and global organisations dealing with humanitarian aid, as well as media, such as La Strada or the BBC. Thanks to this system of communication, we were able to gain all kinds of support quite quickly. As part of these activities, the Lublin City Hall dealt with foreign transfers of money separately.

Finally, the team responsible for buildings and infrastructure must be mentioned, which was needed to organise meetings and workshops e.g. for Polish and Ukrainian language lessons. Ukrainian courses involved classes twice a week and were attended by some of the people coordinating activities so that they could communicate better. Polish courses were open for any Ukrainian. Some were basic and elementary, others professional and work-related, e.g. for psychologists or for children, so that they could express their feelings, or for school assistants, so that they could have contact not only with Ukrainian kids, but also with the Polish-speaking teaching staff. For the same reason, we organised two sections of an intensive monthly course for Ukrainian teachers working in schools who were hired, but didn’t know Polish.
We followed what was happening the whole time. We tried to stay in touch with those who needed help. We were present in all areas and thanks to our daily meetings, we were constantly exchanging information. We were able to catch what was happening and observe what the dynamic was. During a certain period, new refugee service points were opening every day, but there came a week when three of them closed at once.
It is good that fewer people needed basic emergency assistance, but then the others began to have more sophisticated needs. Because people need not only to eat, to drink and sleep, but they also need work, equipment and education for their children. They need to get to know the city, to look out for a permanent place to live, etc. Recently, we started talking about support from Polish families who have been hosting refugees for over six weeks.
An abstract from the report of the Centre for Culture in Lublin on the support provided to the Lublin Social Committee to Aid Ukraine concerning Homo Faber Association’s task groups:
Working groups (35 coordinators: 14 people from Lublin City Office + Centre for Culture in Lublin, Homo Faber Association, Foundation of Spiritual Culture of Borderland, Medimost, the Grodzka Gate–NN Theater Center, St. Albert’s Brotherhood of Mercy, the Rule of Law Institute Foundation, the Lublin University of Technology, and others):
1. Coordination
2. Around-the-clock telephone information desk
3. Accommodations
4. Schools / preschools
5. Childcare (individual care, playing with children in collective accommodation centres, translations in institutions)
6. Nutrition
7. Legal aid
8. Material aid, collections
9. Transport, logistics
10. Coordination of needs of lodging points and coordination with the City Hall
11. Coordination of volunteers’ work + translators’ database
12. Information desk / reception in the Centre of Culture
13. Database
14. Psychological care
15. Public Relations, social media, media, NGOs from Poland
16. Translations (oral translations, sign language)
17. Medical aid
18. Contacts with Ukraine
19. Contact with other entities (NGOs, institutions, companies)
20. Military support
21. Building of the Centre for Culture in Lublin (technical and IT, maintenance, liaison with the management, cross-linking and networking with staff members)
22. Business / work contacts

Cross-sectoral networking
Piotr Skrzypczak: Municipal office clerks, working in many groups of the Committee, use their professional experience. This cross-sectoral cooperation is one of the most important things, which worked out here, but not necessarily in other cities. For example, in other cities grassroots support centres worked independently of the municipal and voivodship helpdesks, resulting in two different hotlines, etc. Here, we were able to combine everything. We had meetings at 4:00 pm every day. For one hour – it was important not to prolong it – we discussed key challenges, connected the threads, and supported teams that were having a hard time at the moment. From time to time, mayor of Lublin, Krzysztof Żuk, showed up to our briefings to stay up to date with current problems.
The Lublin Social Committee to Aid Ukraine was co-founded by our association as an initiator of many solutions and as an entity well-prepared for those measures after months on the Belarusian border. We worked in partnership with the Centre for Culture in Lublin and the Lublin City Hall. The roots of the committee consist of the Foundation of Spiritual Culture of Borderland, the Rule of Law Institute Foundation, the Foundation for the Development of Central and Eastern Europe, Kultura Enter internet magazine, Polish Scouting and Guiding Association (ZHP), and Ukrainian Płast, also a scouting organisation. Furthermore, there are many supporting organisations, which operate in specific areas and carry out their own initiatives. For example, a lot is being done by cultural institutions with whom we do not cooperate directly. We know what they’re doing, we’ve got it mapped out and we’re in touch, even though they don’t participate in our meetings.

Marcin: I remember us working for eighteen hours a day. One time, I got home at 1:00 am and I received a message from a person from Germany, saying that they found us on Facebook and could send us donations. I thought I was too tired to deal with that and I didn’t know who that person was, but then I noticed we had a mutual friend on Facebook. Then it became obvious that this contact from Germany was a real, credible person. It turned out that this person and my friend got to know each other through our post.
Thanks to our friend sharing my post, this person from Germany found out about us, went to a local donation drop point and announced that there was a place called Liliowa 5 in Lublin, Poland, where they arrange support and it was possible to send a contribution. It was important because Germans had inconsistent information, too. They didn’t know where to send help, whether directly to the border or to some other place, so as it wouldn’t go to waste. Finally, our friend hooked us up and gave me Ilka’s phone number. And she said they wanted to come with two buses full of supplies and could take 12 people on their way back. She sent me a photo of the place where they were to be individually accommodated.

Olga: We started by tracking humanitarian aid convoys and lorries that headed to our area. Europeans arranged it in such a way that they collected donations for Ukrainians and people who raised those donations at the same time offered accommodation for refugees.

Piotr Skrzypczak: Talking with people from other big cities, who know that Lublin did a pretty good job, I keep saying it all came down to trust and complementing one another. But not everything went smoothly. There is one administration body, which structures we could not fit into regardless of attempts, conversations, and negotiations. No one knew who was responsible for what. We looked even at an aspect of time differently. When we work and we have something to do, we sit down, talk and everything is set after 15 minutes. Whereas in case of this office, we had a four hour long meeting, and nothing came out of it. There were many speeches, preliminaries, but nothing specific in the end. So, we didn’t get into any deep partnership, however, we do have a working relationship with them, and we cooperate. That’s, by the way, an advantage of being an NGO: we don’t have to do anything. But we can. We work freely. Obviously, if we do something and it turns out to be a flop, we must take full responsibility, but if something does not feel right to us, nobody can force us to continue such a relationship.
In administration offices, the pace of work is often different in general. When it comes to us, if something is urgent, then for us it is a matter of an hour or two. Once I was told that some things were to be done promptly. So, I asked what the deadline was, that day or the next morning, and a woman from that office told me that it was for the next week. Naturally, we had and still have a circle of office clerks around us who work much faster.
A few months in Grupa Granica taught us that during interventions of humanitarian aid, horizontal system of organisation does not really work, because it leads to conflicts, to inefficient decisiveness. In such work, quick decision-making counts. So what really works is a well-organised structure, task-oriented and hierarchical, in a good way. Deliberating is OK, when there is time for it. Each person should know what their role is and who they can consult when necessary.
So, we did not conduct any extensive process of co-decision making. Instead, we organised quick consultations and relied on mutual trust. If someone gets a well-explained task, we believe that they are going to do it well and if anything goes wrong, they will talk it over with us. As leaders, we try to be in touch, but not to engage, not to micromanage. If I see that there is something wrong in a team, I will go to the coordinator to discuss it. After a few weeks, there were more “big players” around us, national and international organisations which slowly but surely were joining the initiative. It is OK with all their deliberation, procedures, and meetings,, but in the first weeks we did not have time for all that because people awaited our quick decisions.

Marcin: We are our own bosses and if we were to consult everything with somebody else, we would not have accomplished even half of what we have done by now. We tried to team up with other official entities, but it just was not possible. Too much paperwork and politics. For example, there was one politician who came to us and took a selfie with refugees, as if he was super helpful, when in reality he did nothing.
There were times when we hit a “formal” wall. We had a chance to send huge transports to verified and reliable places abroad. People would go there safely, get help, insurance, social allowance. We wanted to offer that to people from a night shelter, but we were not even let in because we weren’t legitimised in an official way. Some forms were supposed to be filled in “from Monday to Friday till 3:00 pm”, while the transport was scheduled for the next day, not within office hours.

Łukasz: After one of the meetings with a crisis team, I was added to a group of clerks on WhatsApp, because they were organising to transport a group abroad and I was terrified of the number of messages that popped up there. Within two days seven new members joined to help fifteen people cross a border, while at the same time we ourselves managed to transport 200. And those messages were like “Did I use the correct font in the form?” or “What’s the breed of the cat?”

Marcin: I remember that at the beginning of our activities I announced that we had a room for a dozen or so individuals, and that room was occupied within an hour. Meanwhile, it took five days for someone from an official crisis team to call me and ask about that room. But then I did not even know anymore what he was talking about. I had moved on.

Łukasz: I called some accommodation facility and asked how much space they had. It was forty beds, so I wanted to send them people right away, and they told me it was not possible at that moment, because “final acceptance” was still pending and we had to wait. It was finally done by Friday, and I called on Monday. Four days of pointless wasting of empty beds.

Marcin: In the meantime, we helped 200 people in our place.

Łukasz: At some point, things kind of reversed and started to work backwards: official institutions started calling us, sending us buses to pack with food and essentials. We wondered how it was possible. Where was the state that was supposed to be helping us, rather than the other way round?

Marcin: We sent loads of stuff to Ukraine, but we also helped families who accommodated Ukrainians in their houses. We were, and still are, running a warehouse, to which ten to fifty families come every day. However, we could not provide supplies to official, public facilities. The entire time we had contact with other private institutions and volunteers and cooperated with them.

Łukasz: We have had no problem cooperating with NGOs or companies. From the very beginning we have worked with the We Change Life Foundation that brought people to us. And for example, when the woman from the Multi Frigo company stopped providing assistance, she gave us their racks, duvets, pillows, etc.
When it comes to the Lublin Social Committee to Aid Ukraine, we were at a meeting and got in touch with their representatives, but we could not really work things out. We tried to cooperate, but nothing really came out of it in the end.

Different priorities
Piotr Skrzypczak: Last thing: not everybody stayed with us, and we did not get on well with everybody. There were people who wanted more, successively adding things not approved previously, so we said: “If you want to do that, then go ahead, but on your own”. Sometimes we said “goodbye” peacefully, sometimes not, some farewells were more formal. However, although we were different, there were never any kind of open arguments.
According to the authorities’ primary assumptions, Lublin and the whole region was supposed to be a transit area, through which the refugees from Ukraine were only to pass through. However, it quickly became clear that a lot of people wanted to be as close to the border as possible, and hardly anyone wanted to move on farther. So, the places that were initially designated only for a temporary stay, were being filled up in the first few weeks. The idea that we tell them where they have to go next is not what we call humanitarian aid. Because people decide about it by themselves. Most of them wanted to go back to Ukraine, and they did.
For us, treating a person as an independent, autonomous being was crucial. We never forced, pressured, or talked anyone into making a particular decision. If a refugee wanted to stay in the night shelter for another week, it was their decision. And even if somewhere else there are better conditions, for example abroad, it is only our opinion, not theirs. People are not bags to throw around. Time has shown that many people who had been persuaded to go somewhere further, came back, often also to a night shelter. And the vast majority of those who got to Lublin are already back in Ukraine.

Olga: The needs were changing all the time. For instance, after the first two months we realised that what we needed the most was steady access to night shelters because that was where the most helpless people gathered. Those were all the same faces, all the time. They did not know what to do with themselves. They did not know that there were organised transfers to other countries and they didn’t know why such a move why it would be worth the effort. Instead, they were persuaded to apply for a social security number, which made them stay here and prevented from moving somewhere else.

Marcin: Olga talked only with those who came to us, because the majority of them did not want to travel farther. They wanted to be as near to the border as it was viable, so they could get back to Ukraine right away. So, it was necessary to explain to them that relocation outside of Lublin would be better for them e.g. because there were no more employment opportunities in the city and those who took them in were not able to support them for a year or so, and the situation might turn uncomfortable. Tourist resorts offered them accommodations, but the holiday season was just round the corner. At some point, we had so many contacts and transports that we simply could not fill them all. That would have been possible had we had access to all refugee contact lists or had we been able to enter shelters to talk to the refugees without restrictions.

The architecture of safety
Łukasz: It must be said that the City Guard and Fire Fighters were always very helpful. They transported people and were very amiable and kind. There came a time when vigilance and control were increased, as there were cases of missing refugees. That is when the police used to come to us investigating human trafficking, but we never had any problem showing our proof of identity and explaing what we were doing.

Olga: They would say: we know you, we see you, we have mutual friends and we know what you are working on, but there are people who offer transport for 300 refugees, for example, to Portugal, but nobody knows who they are and on whose recommendation they came here. After one such police control, there was a rumour, either from someone from the outside or from the refugees themselves, that we had been shut down by the police. But such cases can always happen.
Another time, border guards came to us during some bigger shipment and started questioning me in a rather unappealing manner, asking why I had not been granted Polish citizenship. I said that the President does not provide justification for this kind of decision. I was told I was refused and that is it. So he asked why I applied to the President and not to the voivode? That is self-evident: citizenship from the President is free, while the voivode stamp duty costs 900 zlotys. In the end, everything was clarified, but I needed to refute such groundlessly distrustful questions.

Marcin: After some time the City Guard received an order to transport people from railway and bus stations only to official facilities. And so sometimes twenty people came to us by train, and we had to organise a cab for them, while Guard’s cars were waiting empty.

Olga: Everyone who comes here receives a form to fill in, detailing from when they stayed with us and where they went. You can help two thousand people but, God forbid, one of them gets hurt and then things get nasty. Thankfully, nothing like that has happened here.

Łukasz: At one point, there was a rumour that someone had been selling people for organs. Everyone was talking about it, but it was misinformation spread by Russians. Obviously, organised crime never sleeps, but those cases are really rare. But because we cared about security, we installed cameras, took photos of drivers and of their licences and number plates. Later, transport services started to send us information by themselves on an ongoing basis, so we could be certain that everything was OK, because obviously we worried about those people as well. And we want them to reach their destinations and to feel safe and comfortable there.

Marcin: We also had direct contact with refugees independently, and they gave us feedback that everything was OK.

Olga: Once, some Asians, who had no clue what was going on here, saw huge buses and called the police and reported suspected trafficking of women. One can say they followed their civic duty. Of course, everything was eventually clarified.
We also had another stressful situation. It was about the transport confirmed from the other side by German and Dutch authorities. So, we sent them two groups and later received information that they were in a women’s prison! The truth is we do not have any form of influence on where Germans or Dutch authorities prepared temporary shelter points. And this time it was indeed a women’s prison behind barbed wires with former cells as sleeping rooms. Now, let’s imagine women with children arriving in the middle of the night to this kind of place! Obviosuly, these are the kinds of mistakes that everybody learns from.

Łukasz: One morning we received photos that the Dutch did not give our refugees anything to eat, generally everything was described in dark coloursi. Eventually, I got a message that the fridges were full and everything was fine. Only the building itself was not friendly-looking. The Dutch are super-organised and have organised central reception points in each province. But this time they simply had an empty space and used it. There were kitchens, bathrooms, etc, but it did not look nice and that was the fact.

Marcin: In Germany, one mayor took all refugees to a hotel in a similar situation.

Olga: A group of sixteen people was also “put in a prison” there and called me, saying there was barbed wire and asking what they were supposed to do. Later, the mayor came to this place and within an hour he took them all to a hotel. He stated that if it was so stressful and people did not want to stay there, so they had to be placed in a hotel as a form of intervention.

Marcin: We did have one critical situation, though. There was a bus to the Netherlands, and we were supposed to pick up twenty people who were to leave Chełm at 6:00 pm. We waited for a few hours, but they were nowhere to be seen. We called our associate and everything seemed to be fine, but they still were not here. It turned out that nobody took a phone number to the driver in Chełm, nor did he note down our number or anybody else’s. We simply lost contact and the driver forgot where he was supposed to go. It was around 5:00 am when I received a phone call from a volunteer at a train station, that there was a group of about twenty people, who wanted to go to Germany. So I told him that I had lost a similar group. It turned out that the driver went to the hotel nearby in the Willowa Street instead to Liliowa Street. He dropped off mothers with children at night, the hotel was closed, they were crying, it was cold. Somebody called the police, and they ended up in a city bus, warming up all night. Finally, the guy at the railway station found our number on Facebook. We took them in, provided them with food, and ultimately they travelled to Germany.

Who Paid for All This?
Piotr Skrzypczak: By the time the organising situation stabilised, the existing forty team coordinators were already employed under a contract, and 250 volunteers under a volunteer agreement. It became clear from the get go that it would not be possible for everyone to quit their regular jobs and abandon their family duties and work for dozens of hours a day for no one knew how long. So, we adopted a system whereby those who were not on a volunteer agreement and were performing important tasks (managing others and having to be involved daily) got a salary, just to make everything fair.

We paid around 20 zlotys per hour net, so around 3,000 per month. At the beginning, it was the same wage for everyone because we had neither the time nor the resources to calculate and differentiate one job from another. We did not know each other either. We did not know what was going to happen next, so the only idea at the time was to treat everyone equally.

We spent about 100,000 zlotys on volunteers within the first three weeks, which covered allowance, transport, nutrition and materials. Each volunteer received a food coupon worth fifty zlotys for a daily shift. So, we spent about 1,500 zlotys a month per a full-time volunteer. They were our biggest asset, so we did everything to treat them right. Looking back, I would say it was worth it, because even with a smaller number of tasks, most of these people are still with us.

We took a risk as an organisation without having money. I mean, there were other big organisations and institutions which promised to give us something, but we did not have anything yet. Only later did we start receiving donations directly, and also the Lublin City Office was getting offers of financial help, but they did not have a separate bank account into which the money could be transferred, so they redirected transfers to other organisations, including ones involved in the Committee. After a few weeks, applying for refugee-specific grants became possible. This process continues, but that is another story, which concerns mainly what the future holds.

Łukasz: People asked us who paid Liliowa 5? Money came from fundraising and it wasn’t for us. We had a lot of expenses, such as bills, transport, cabs, the kinds of things needed to help people. Many times we gave people money for fuel or had to moved out of our house, and stayed in a hotel.

Olga: At one point, our public donations got blocked and we were behind with some payments, and financial problems emerged. Plenty of people were put up in this building, and it needs to be renovated. Here, a switch is missing. There, the closet was flooded and God knows what state the clothes are in.

Marcin: This building was occupied 24/7: four washing machines, food, electricity, dryer, oven, five fridges, trash. Donations covered all that, but expenses never ended: fuel, transport, pocket money.

Łukasz: Eventually, the situation stabilised a bit, especially when it came to nutrition. Some restaurants helped us individually and in March we started to receive meals thanks to Justyna Domaszewicz, who took care of that and saved us thousands of times. However, with the last days of March, this action came to an end. After that, some restaurants continued to help us and still do, on their own initiative, for example Zona 31. They still bring us large meals twice a week. There is also Bożenka, a woman who has been cooking for us up until this day. Obviously, not daily, because everyone has their own life, job, and responsibilities. However, many neighbours helped us and still do so, in any way they can.

Rafał “Koza” Koziński: We lived in a country where there was peace, we had hot water, you could not die from hunger, and small dreams did come true, everything worked out one way or another – some had it better, some had it worse, but everything was rather fine. We lived in that state of things and suddenly it turned out that things could be different, that people suffer, run away with children, having only one plastic bag between themselves. On the other hand, we lived in a world of sick divisions, aggression, uncertainty, angry with the Church, political parties, and other people, in a world without enough empathy.

It turns out however, that as we can see, there is still space for altruism and sensitivity in this divided society. People took advantage of the opportunity to help, gave up their free time and opened their hearts. Because of what was happening in Poland, people wanted to help others to separate themselves from permanent hate. To feel that they can win this war. But even though we are surrounded by hate and political war in social media, we were not prepared for the real one at all.

Within the first two weeks after the outbreak of the war, I had a meeting with workers of cultural instututions in other cities, who asked me whether I would be interested in inviting here some Ukrainian artist, who happened to be with them at the time. So, I said to them that I could invite them today to Lublin, but to repack goods or to spend time on the phone and organise accommodation for newly arrived people. They did not even know the reality of the situation. In one big city the topic of temporarily giving up private apartments to Ukrainian refugees was not even touched upon at all, because it was assumed that the citizens would not like to host them in their houses. Because the social culture in that city was different, as I was told. People met up in pubs, rather than in their own houses. No one knows if this would work out, but those who could have started this process, rejected this option completely.

We needed to help others to get over the absurdity of our reality but at the same time we were not prepared for the real cannons to shoot. We live in a time where the word “war” was not in use, was not part of any discussion, and suddenly in the Centre of Culture we have people who experienced suffering and death.

The original version of the article in Polish:
“Dlaczego się udało? Relacje o lubelskiej pomocy uchodźcom z Ukrainy”[]

Translation: Wiktoria Nowak, Beata Zielonka, Michalina Żydek, Marcin Skrzypek
Contact to the author:

Translation realised as part of student internship (90 hours, October – February 2022-23) in the second year of Applied Linguistics (Faculty of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, UMCS) at the “Grodzka Gate – NN Theater Center” under the direction of Marcin Skrzypek.

Kultura Enter 2023/24
nr 108-109

Piwnice Centrum Kultury. Zebranie w sztabie Lubelskiego Społecznego Komitetu Pomocy Ukrainie. Fot. Bartłomiej Żurawski.

Cellars of the Cultural Centre in Lublin. Meeting at the headquarters of the Lublin Social Committee to Aid Ukraine. Photo: Bartłomiej Żórawski.