Offering hope in ongoing uncertainty

Two years after the invasion of Ukraine, the OM team in Poland remains committed to supporting the ongoing needs of Ukrainians crossing the border.

Two years ago, in February 2022, the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. Immediately, the people of Poland and the global community rose up and responded to the needs of their neighbours.

Although some of those who fled across the border have since returned to Ukraine or moved on to other countries, statistics from the Polish Government show that 1.7 million Ukrainians have requested protection to stay in Poland*, unsure if or when they will return to their homes and family members that they left behind. Many have found jobs in Poland, and their children attend local schools.

The initial wave of people fleeing across the border has subsided, but with no end to the war in sight, the OM team in Poland continue to respond to the long-term needs of those living in a state of uncertainty. Meeting people’s practical needs is still vital, as demonstrated every week when around 100 people receive items of clothing, food and toiletries. In total, over 1,200 people have received such help from the OM team, including elderly refugees over 80 years old, relatives caring for multiple children, people with disabilities or injuries and war widows. For some, their only income is the Ukrainian pension which cannot meet even the most basic costs of life in the European Union, not to mention pay for medical attention and other unanticipated costs.

A community of hope and healing

Some of the biggest needs the team sees are the psychological, social and spiritual needs of those who have been tragically impacted by their experiences over the last two years. Many who are looking for a place to belong have found a welcoming space at OM’s community centre for all nations in Warsaw, where they participate enthusiastically in many different activities. Not only is it a safe and welcoming space to meet with others in similar circumstances, but the centre provides an opportunity to learn and develop skills, such as languages, fitness, art and dance, or to join a support group, pray and discuss the Bible and other topics. Such a variety of activities builds deep and meaningful relationships.

Oksana, an OM team member who fled Ukraine because of the war, helps organise a support group for women. “During the meeting, women share openly and honestly. They encourage each other and give helpful advice. One woman explained she is thankful that we’ve encouraged her openly to trust God, otherwise she cannot imagine how she would keep going, given her circumstances. Another lady said that this meeting helps her with some respite and comfort in the middle of the week when at work she feels very burdened and not understood by other people.”

The psychological impact of the war affects all ages and, to meet this need, the OM team has overseen the establishment of the OpSAFE programme in Poland, which provides children with psychological first aid and support for trauma through five days of fun activities rooted in the message that God cares for them. Training and equipping volunteers to organise and lead the programme has enabled over 3,000 children to participate across Poland. The message of God’s love and peace for them has a hugely transformational impact.

The OM team in Poland continues to work in the areas of protection and education, helping the most vulnerable groups while supporting a medical programme for Ukrainian orphans, delivering aid into Ukraine (over 300 tonnes in total) and creating a comprehensive programme for teenagers which includes education, emotional support and outreach.

From the beginning of the war, the evangelical church in Poland played a huge role in meeting the needs of their neighbours. In central Poland, a church led by OM team members now has a thriving Ukrainian congregation alongside Polish believers. When the war began, the church hosted and relocated large numbers of refugees. Now the focus has shifted to building long-term connections and growing a vibrant community of hope and support.

A continuing presence of love

As people fled Ukraine, the OM team in Poland responded quickly to the needs at the border, establishing teams of volunteers from all over the world to serve for days, weeks or months. As the flood of refugees slowed, these teams continue to serve, although in a different location and form. Now in Warsaw, teams of international short-term volunteers serve Ukrainians living in accommodation centres at three locations every week. Over the past two years, hundreds of volunteers have been a part of such teams and brought love, fun and education to children and tangible help to their mothers in these difficult circumstances.

One volunteer, Marijke, shared, “The children have many behavioural problems, but we celebrate small victories. Developing patience to finish a craft or playing a game without crying. We feel very satisfied when we can offer attention to each child and see them become increasingly secure.”

Time passes and the needs remain great, but the love of God is greater. Two years on, the OM team continues to pray for peace in Ukraine and that all who have left their homes and families will be able to return, but until that moment, however long, the team remains committed to supporting their needs. All these projects are contributing to the formation of various vibrant groups, where discipleship takes place and people discover the love, hope and peace of God. Pray for God’s wisdom, strength and perseverance in this important task.

*https://dane.gov.pl/en/dataset/2715,zarejestrowane-wnioski-o-nadanie-statusu-ukr

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