Refugees from Ukraine flood Windsor’s Polish sister city


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Thousands of Ukrainians fleeing Russian invasion have found refuge in Lublin, Poland, one of Windsor’s sister cities.

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In a letter to Windsor’s international relations committee last week, Lublin Mayor Krzysztof Zuk said the city was ready to accommodate 15,000 people in schools, dormitories, and other facilities recently adapted for refugees. Several thousand have already arrived.

“In the face of unprecedented military aggression against Ukraine, the City of Lublin stands side by side with neighboring Ukraine and offers support,” Zuk wrote. “As a matter of urgency, we are preparing a comprehensive package of aid measures for people who have fled war.”

Residents and businesses have “eagerly” volunteered to host Ukrainian citizens under their roofs, he said. Restaurants are offering free hot meals to those in need, schools are opening their doors to children from Ukraine, and a day care has been launched for refugee kids with absent guardians.

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In the end, we know that we have done something, at least what we can do

Jerry Barycki, a member of Windsor’s international relations committee and president of the Polish-Canadian Business and Professionals Association, told the Star it’s all hands on deck for his counterparts in Lublin.

“This is the movement. This is what the entire world is doing,” he said. “They are united against… evil.”

Laura Gusba of Windsor gets a closer look at a fountain donated to Windsor by her sister city Lublin, Poland in August, 2009.
Laura Gusba of Windsor gets a closer look at a fountain donated to Windsor by her sister city Lublin, Poland in August, 2009. Photo by Paula Trotter /Windsor Star

People from Lublin and across Poland have been driving to the border in empty vehicles, picking up as many Ukrainians as they can and bringing them back to stay in their homes for the foreseeable future, Barycki said. The city’s airport, which is relatively new, is likely welcoming plans containing supplies for Ukraine.

Since Feb. 28, Lublin has offered free public transportation to citizens of Ukraine seeking refuge.

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The Polish community in Windsor-Essex has been providing support from afar, raising money for and donating to agencies providing relief to Ukraine and those displaced by the violent invasion.

On March 3, the board of directors for Poland Center (Windsor) Inc. and its subsidiary, Global Maintenance Company, elected to send $20,000 to the Canadian Red Cross for Ukraine. In addition, a weekend pasta fundraiser held by the Polish Club of Windsor had raised more than $29,000 as of Monday for the town of Lubycza Królewska in Poland — in Lublin province near the Ukrainian border that is receiving hundreds of refugees daily. More donations are still coming in days later.

People who fled from Ukraine because of Russian invasion rest at the sports hall of an elementary school in the town of Lubycza Krolewska, in Lublin province, Poland March 1, 2022.
People who fled from Ukraine because of Russian invasion rest at the sports hall of an elementary school in the town of Lubycza Krolewska, in Lublin province, Poland March 1, 2022. Photo by Jakub Orzechowski/AGENCJA WYBORC /Agencja Wyborcza.pl via REUTERS

“Very emotional day for everybody, it was,” said Margaret Holec, the club’s president, of Saturday’s fundraiser. “In the end, we know that we have done something, at least what we can do. There’s much more to do, but at least at this time, (it’s something).”

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More than two million people are estimated to have fled Ukraine since Russia began its invasion on Feb. 24.

Located less than 100 kilometers from Poland’s border with Ukraine, Lublin has a population of about 330,000, making it Poland’s ninth-largest city.

Lublin became Windsor’s twin city in the year 2000 under former Windsor mayor Mike Hurst. In the decades since, the cities’ mayors have and other representatives — Barycki included — paid each other numerous visits.

In 2008, Lublin gave the City of Windsor a bronze fountain similar to one found in the Polish city. thefountain, Billy Goat Springstill stands adorned by a billy goat and Lublin coat of arms in Centennial Park at Windsor’s waterfront.

Lublin is one of Windsor’s 12 twin cities.

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People who fled from Ukraine because of Russian invasion rest at the sports hall of an elementary school in the town of Lubycza Krolewska, in Lublin province, Poland March 1, 2022.
People who fled from Ukraine because of Russian invasion rest at the sports hall of an elementary school in the town of Lubycza Krolewska, in Lublin province, Poland March 1, 2022. Photo by Jakub Orzechowski/AGENCJA WYBORC /Agencja Wyborcza.pl via REUTERS

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