Community packs vans with donations for Ukrainians
Our New Europeans UK board member Michal Siewniak tells me he has never been busier and more tired in his life. Alongside his community in Welwyn Garden City, Michal has been instrumental in organising vans filled with donations for Ukrainians. Two of his fellow residents recently returned from Poland after completing a 2,360 miles (3,798km) journey taking 50 hours. In Poland the donations were reloaded and taken by truck to Ukraine. Three more vans have been filled by volunteers in his community and sent to distribution centres in Luton and London.
Michal said: “The generosity of people is staggering, some people are working non-stop to sort out all donated goods. Others are helping to label and prepare goods.”
Homes have been used for storage space. But Michal was relieved to tell me that they had just managed to secure a warehouse through their local Chamber of Commerce.
Describing his emotions, as another van was sent off, Michal said it has been a rollercoaster of emotions, filled with both happiness and sadness.
“There were tears of sadness, but also a huge sense of pride,” Michal said.
For Michal, who is originally from Poland, the war in Ukraine feels very close to home, as the Ukrainian city of Lviv is about 200km from his hometown Lublin.
“It’s literally happening on my doorstep. People from the East European community have been unable to sleep and detach themselves from watching the news. It’s affecting people’s ability to concentrate and to work.”
Michal explained that the focus of what is needed has shifted, as they are no longer able to accept clothing.
“People in Ukraine don’t need clothes that much. They need long life food such as pasta, coffee, tea, sleeping bags, toiletries, baby food, and nappies; and last but not least medicine.”
Offering advice to others trying to organise support for Ukrainians, Michal said it is worth checking out grants available in your area. He recently became aware that every county councillor in Hertfordshire has a total of £10,000 to distribute from their locality budget scheme. Michal is therefore applying for a grant for £500 to £1,000 to help his community in continuing their support for Ukraine.
However, Michal emphasised that is also important to help Ukrainians, who have fled to the UK.
Read Michal’s blog on the government’s Homes for Ukrainians scheme.
As part of his local activism, Michal has also helped organise vigils bringing the community together and a fundraising dinner in support of Ukraine. They are expecting the dinner and other donations to raise up to a £1,000.
By Else Kvist
Press and Communications Officer, New Europeans UK