Almost 300,000 refugees from Ukraine are being sheltered in Warsaw, increasing the capital’s population by around 17%. It and other Polish cities have recently warned that they have reached the limits of how many people they can help, and have called on the government to seek international support.
Those calls were backed by President Andrzej Duda yesterday, who also “appealed to the international community to help Poland” deal with the refugee crisis.
As of this morning, 1.95 million people have entered Poland from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion three weeks ago. The figure is today likely to pass two million.
The government has not set up camps or other large-scale housing facilities and, as a result, those crossing the border have often moved on to large cities, which they see as the best places to find aid, accommodation and work.
A spokesman for Warsaw city hall, Monika Beuth-Lutyk, told RDC on Tuesday that 200 trains and over 800 buses with refugees have arrived in Warsaw since the Russian invasion. Municipal agencies and over 10,000 volunteers have provided support to more than 160,000 people.
With many refugees arriving by other means – especially car – and in some cases not seeking help from the local authorities – for example if they already have friends or relatives in the city – the total number staying in Warsaw has reached almost 300,000, city hall announced yesterday.
“That means the number of Warsaw residents has increased by about 17% since the start of the invasion,” it said in a statement.
The city authorities have themselves provided over 25,000 people with places to sleep for at least one night. Other accommodation has been provided by the provincial authorities, NGOs, businesses, religious organisations and other groups, while many Poles have hosted refugees in their homes.
With around half of the refugees fleeing into Poland being children, Warsaw schools are accepting around 800-1000 new students a day. Twelve babies of Ukrainian refugees have been born in Warsaw hospitals.
The city has received support in its efforts from Paris, Vienna and Zagreb. Warsaw’s mayor, Rafał Trzaskowski, thanked them for their help. But he has also repeatedly called for more support from the national government and for an international system of help to be put in place.
Other cities – including Kraków, which estimated on Sunday that it is hosing around 70,000-90,000 refugees, or around 9-12% of its previous population – have made similar appeals.
Speaking yesterday during a visit to meet Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Duda likewise suggested that international support is necessary.
“We have a refugee crisis in our country,” he said, quoted by the Polish Press Agency (PAP). “I appeal to the entire international community for help for Poland…If we do not receive international support we will be in a very difficult situation.”
— PAP (@PAPinformacje) March 16, 2022
Main image credit: Jacek Marczewski / Agencja Wyborcza.pl
Agnieszka Wądołowska is managing editor of Notes from Poland. She has previously worked for Gazeta.pl and Tokfm.pl and contributed to Gazeta Wyborcza, Wysokie Obcasy, Duży Format, Midrasz and Kultura Liberalna