Retired Polish Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz of Krakow speaking to volunteers Retired Polish Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz of Krakow speaking to volunteers 

Cardinal Dziwisz: Poland welcomes Ukrainians as brothers, sisters

Struck by the suffering of millions of Ukrainian refugees, the Archbishop Emeritus of Krakow, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, says Poland has shown a compassionate heart in the face of the ravages of war.

By Luca Collodi - Krakow, Poland

Poland, which has shown generosity and sensitivity towards its neighbours, has opened its doors to desperate Ukrainians fleeing the Russian bombs and missiles.

Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, the Archbishop Emeritus of Krakow, made the comment in an interview with Vatican News.

Poland's solidarity

Poland “is doing a lot, above all, by opening its border,” Cardinal Dziwisz said.

“At the moment, Poland has nearly two million refugees, who are poor and sometimes arrive without shoes, without anything. They are welcomed in Poland by people who show a great heart and this is touching.”

The 82-year-old Cardinal, the longtime personal secretary to Pope Saint John Paul II, said there are Poles who are opening their homes to refugees and offering them everything they have.

“A great solidarity has been created in an unexpected show of fraternity that treats Ukrainians as true brothers," said the Cardinal.

He pointed out that refugees arrive in precarious conditions, and they need help especially because they are greatly tried. There are women with children and those who have left behind their husbands and brothers in their country.

There is great suffering, great misery, and there are also many sick people, he noted. Poland has opened many hospitals to take in those who need treatment, and the Church is also doing all it can to provide moral support for those who are suffering.

The commitment of the Polish nuns

Cardinal Dziwisz pointed out that the Church is also doing its part.

The Council of the Superiors of Congregations of Women Religious reports that in the 924 houses in Poland and 98 in Ukraine, the sisters provide spiritual, psychological, medical and material help.

The sisters also offer their services as Ukrainian language translators and organize lessons for children and mothers from the war-torn country.

Growing number of displaced

Meanwhile, the advancing Russian forces are targeting Ukraine’s western cities and centres bordering Poland. Russian missiles on Sunday pounded a Ukrainian military training base in Yavirov, just 20 km from Poland, killing 35 people. 

The strike has triggered panic among Poles, sending many to passport offices and to stockpile essentials amid fears the war could cut off supplies, or even spill over into Poland. The strike on the training centre appears to be the most westward target of the Russian invasion. 

Poland has sought help from the European Union to deal with the refugee emergency. According to Marlena Malag, Polish Minister of Family, Labour and Social Policy, "Financial support is essential for cooperation based on the solidarity of all the Member States, not just those on the frontline".

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, has urgently appealed for $510 million to assist 2.1 million internally displaced people in Ukraine in the next 3 months, and  2.4 million refugees in neighbouring countries.

UNHCR estimates that over 4 million refugees may flee Ukraine to seek safety in the coming 6 months since the start of the military offensive. Due to the circumstances of the crisis, the majority of refugees are women and children, the agency said.

15 March 2022, 14:50