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Families from Ukraine to Poland, one year on

Published on 22.02.2023

On 27 February 2022, the first group of foster families from SOS Children’s Villages in Ukraine crossed the border into Poland. Humanitarian action teams in both countries worked around the clock to organize the evacuation. A year later, 124 children and 42 foster parents are living in SOS Children’s Villages across Poland.

Over 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine are in Poland, according to UNHCR. Forty percent of them are children, 45% are women. The majority arrived at the beginning of the war, in February and March 20221. Among them, there were foster families and children living in other forms of alternative care – groups that need special protection and targeted support in humanitarian crises.

des familles qui traversent la frontiere polono-ukrainienne
Many families crossed the border to Poland © Katerina Ilievska

When the war broke out, SOS Children’s Villages in Poland partnered with local organizations to support nearly 500 children and foster parents from Ukraine to relocate, find accommodations and access medical care.

At the same time, foster families from the SOS Children’s Villages in Ukraine and children from a children’s home in Kyiv were welcomed in programmes across Poland.

 “When the war started, it was all hands on deck. […] When we heard about the families at the border, tired and cold, we rolled up our sleeves. The empty houses in the village, completely unprepared before, were ready in no time.”  

Eliza Potomska, director of the SOS Children’s Village in Karlino

To support children and families in Ukraine, make a donation via CCPL IBAN LU65 1111 0050 0053 0000 (mention « Urgence Ukraine 2023 ») or via www.sosve.lu

A year in the SOS Children’s Village in Karlino

“Luckily, the children escaped early enough not see the bombings and destruction,” says Natalia, a family support coordinator in the SOS Children’s Village in Karlino.“Still, the experience of the evacuation has affected them. They were exhausted and scared. What gives me hope and joy is seeing them smile today.”

Natalia, a Polish-Ukrainian musician, used to teach children in the village to play piano. When foster families from Ukraine arrived, she dedicated her time to them. As time passes, less and less support is needed, but Natalia is still there for both children and parents. She says: “At first, the families were under a huge emotional distress, unable to cope psychologically with the new situation. The language barrier was a problem, especially for adults. After a year, I can say we are all somehow used to this reality. We are happy that the children are well. We are doing what we can – pushing forward.”

Foster mothers from Ukraine have created a stable everyday routine for their children to regain the feeling of security and settle into the new environment. The children have made great progress learning Polish. Younger ones go to a local kindergarten and school, where they have a Ukrainian-speaking assistant. Some of the teenagers continue to learn online in their Ukrainian schools. After classes, there is time for hobbies and friends.

“They all have one wish – peace”

Foster mother Nataliya moved to Karlino with her seven children from Brovary, a satellite town of Kyiv. She misses the fast-paced life in the capital of Ukraine but lightens up speaking about her children making new friends and following their passions. “They have all kinds of hobbies: the one who loves singing goes to a music class, the sporty ones play basketball. We also have a lot of paintings and crafts in the house.”

Natalia does her best to help children and parents from Ukraine feel supported in Karlino, in their daily life and in such emotional times as Christmas or New Year’s. She has relatives in Ukraine herself and understands what the families go through, fearing for their loved ones every day and waiting for their country to be safe again.

Portrait de Natalya

« When I talked to children about their New Year’s wishes, even the little ones said their biggest dream was to return home. They added that they will have great memories of Poland and will travel to discover more of it one day. But for now, they all have one wish – peace.”  ».

The needs for support in Poland remain high

At least 2,145 children who lived in alternative care in Ukraine now stay in Poland, according to government data from October 2022. The need for support remains high and the situation keeps changing, with some foster families coming back to Ukraine and others arriving.

Gaining financial stability is difficult, especially for parents – primarily women – who care for children on their own and therefore cannot work. The cost of living in Poland has increased a lot in the past months, with high inflation rate and soaring rental prices. Enrolling children in schools and applying for social services are challenges as well, given the differences in the legal systems and the language barrier. 

Une collaboratrice SOS donne conseil à une bénéficiaire

For the past year, SOS Children’s Villages in Poland and local partner organizations have supported foster families. When their immediate needs after the arrival were met, families received continued financial support and guidance.

The cash and voucher programme reached over 1,400 people last year. It continues in 2023, targeting the most vulnerable foster families and families with children with disabilities. The emergency response team in Poland constantly expands its scope, focusing both on livelihood support and on the mental health needs of children. 

In 2022, many SOS organisations in Europe offered accommodation and services to people from Ukraine. They often worked together with SOS Ukraine to respond to the emergency and accompany Ukrainian refugees, host families and unaccompanied children. At the end of the year, there were 11,300 beneficiaries.

To support children and families in Ukraine, make a donation via CCPL IBAN LU65 1111 0050 0053 0000 (mention « Urgence Ukraine 2023 ») or via www.sosve.lu

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