'If not us, then who?': Polish postal workers risk their lives to bring aid into Ukraine
Polish postal worker Janusz Zwanski and three of his colleagues are getting ready to head into Ukraine once again to provide soldiers and civilians with much needed aid, including military gear, pampers and food. Last weekend, the father of four and his friends drove to Ukraine’s western city of Lviv and this weekend, they plan on heading further east to the capital, Kyiv.
'Someone must do it. If not us, then who?'
Janusz Zwanski told the FRANCE 24 Observers team that he and his colleagues plan on heading into Ukraine after work every Friday evening and driving back on Sunday, so they can log into their day jobs on Monday. During their time in Ukraine, they want to do everything they can to help.
At first, we thought of going to the border, but there is already a lot of humanitarian support there, so we decided to bring help where it is most needed: inside Ukraine.
We contact people on the ground through Facebook to find out what they need and we bring it to them. Last weekend, we took military boots, uniforms, walkie talkies and binoculars for Ukrainian soldiers and basic necessities for civilians like pampers, tampons, and food. We also take a lot of fuel.
It is very difficult in Ukraine at the moment – it’s a war. There is also very bad weather and it gets very cold, especially at night. When you speak to the people there, when you look into their eyes and see women with children in their arms … it leaves us with no choice. My children, my wife and my family are worried about me, but I can’t be worried, I must focus on helping. Someone must do it. If not us, then who?
On our way out, we also help the people who are waiting at the border or those who are walking to the border by driving them there and then going back for more people. Getting into Ukraine is easy, but getting out is difficult as there are long lines. Sometimes it can take up to two days to get out.
'It’s incredible to see how many people want to help'
More than 1.2 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia began its invasion, with more than half of them entering Poland. Communities across Poland, and particularly along the border, have been rallying to help them.
Absolutely amazing and inspiring solidarity by #Poland with #Ukrainians.— Democracy Bug (@DemocracyBug) March 1, 2022
4 days into Russia’s war, 600K refugees crossed border with Poland seeking shelter.
Poles are using gmaps to indicate they have free safe space at homes for Putin’s warcrimes victims.https://t.co/dRLUGwm33v pic.twitter.com/wvD43opySg
Hundreds of Poles have been welcoming refugees into their homes. Vast amounts of food and clothing have been donated, while businesses have been offering refugees work.
That’s my country 🙏🏽 that’s the one way we can help 🇺🇦#poland for #ukraine sending everything for refugees , soldiers & to the border. Small help, from many people, that’s what matters ! pic.twitter.com/gtmYkBdY1T— maya 🇺🇦 (@mayagypsea) February 26, 2022
In my city, Wlochy, near Warsaw, about 80 percent of people are welcoming Ukrainians into their houses. They pick them up from the border, they give them food and jobs. I am amazed, it’s incredible to see how many people want to help. We are all trying to help in one way or another.
'If Poland does not help Ukraine today, it may be next'
Zvanski says memories of dictatorship and oppression are still fresh in Poland, a nation repeatedly invaded by Russia over the centuries. As fighting continues in Ukraine, many Poles fear a catastrophe of their own could be in the making.
People in Poland are afraid because they are scared that they will be next and that Putin will also attack Poland. We, in Poland, have people who know what war is. Memories of communism are still fresh. I think that this is one of the reasons why Poles are helping Ukrainians so much. We know that if Poland does not help Ukraine today, it may be next.
We have historically had some tensions with Ukraine, but that is all in the past now. The moment that Russia invaded Ukraine, we knew what we had to do. We knew that we had to help Ukrainians.
A recent poll showed that 78 percent of Poles are now afraid of war, with 64 percent also fearing Poland’s own territorial integrity.