By Marcin Nowacki, EESC member, Poland

On 8 March 2022, my organisation in Poland (ZPP) and the Kulski Foundation (with which EESC member Małgorzata Bogusz is associated) organised a small but quick humanitarian convoy.

It was the second trip for that week. I went to Lviv, Ukraine, with Małgorzata Bogusz and Tom Palmer, VP of the Atlas Network from the United States. The purpose of the trip was to provide medicine and medical and hygienic materials to Ukraine. Equipped with two full buses, we arrived at the meeting point indicated by our Ukrainian counterparts, who pack and distribute products to places with the greatest needs.

Passenger cars and buses made up a long, continual queue along the Polish-Ukrainian border towards Poland. Unfortunately, the need to evacuate civilians is not diminishing, but is systematically growing. As of 10 March 2022, Poland had already received over 1.5 million Ukrainians.

On the way to Lviv we passed several checkpoints. The largest, secured by the military, was located at the very entrance to the city. It was a very lively place bustling with people. There were several hundred thousand more people in the city than usual. Lviv is currently a transfer and logistics centre supporting central and eastern Ukraine. On the outskirts of the city, we met our guide, who led us to the logistics centre. A team of people was waiting there, and they immediately started unloading. All products were sorted and properly catalogued. Process management was at the highest level, and after our efforts we found time to exchange ideas on the current situation and on the Ukrainians' greatest needs. Lviv residents have opened their homes and offered accommodation, food and transport to refugees from areas under attack by Russia.

During my stay, our Ukrainian counterparts communicated to us their key recommendations and needs. We worked together every day and I feel honoured to convey their message. Their recommendations and needs can be broken down into three fundamental groups: political, military and civilian. The most pressing are:

  • Financial assistance and military equipment provisions, which is a task for governments and large companies.
  • Pressure and deep, wide-ranging sanctions on Russia and Belarus. Sanctions that cannot be evaded. In these there will also be costs for us, and we need to accept that. It is finally time to redefine our energy policy.

From government to employers' and workers' organisations, and to civil society as a whole, these are the concrete actions that are needed:

  • Support by way of medical product supplies.
  • The provision of other necessary supplies specified by our partners.
  • Support for evacuating families. On our way back from Ukraine, we had the honour of transporting those evacuating Ukraine. The other option is to engage on the border and assist with transportation.
  • To receive and accommodate families who come to EU countries. The countries of the region need support by way of places for refugees to stay – spare rooms in your homes, and in your empty apartments. As for Poland, we already have over 2.8 million war refugees.
  • To streamline the job-hunting process for those who can and wish to work.

I would like to emphasise that the ongoing refugee crisis is unprecedented in Europe's modern history. To deal with it we must involve civil society from all Member States.