Catholic bishop questions lack of EU support as Poland aids millions of Ukrainian refugees

By Justyna Galant for CNA


Bishop Krzysztof Zadarko, chairman of the Polish bishops’ council for migration, tourism, and pilgrimages. / Episkopat News.

Koszalin, Poland, May 16, 2022 / 05:08 am (CNA).

A Catholic bishop has questioned why Poland is not receiving more support from the European Union and other countries as it aids millions of Ukrainian refugees.

Bishop Krzysztof Zadarko, chairman of the Polish bishops’ council for migration, tourism, and pilgrimages, noted that thousands of refugees continued to cross into Poland from Ukraine every day.

“It is necessary to establish systemic and long-term assistance,” he told CNA. “I do not completely understand why there is no support from the European Union and other countries.”

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, over six million people have fled the fighting. More than half of them have sought sanctuary in Poland amid Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

Poland, a Central European country of 38 million people, joined the EU, a political and economic union of 27 member states, in 2004.

Zadarko, the auxiliary bishop of Koszalin-Kołobrzeg, northwestern Poland, said: “The scale of humanitarian aid provided by the Catholic Church in Poland is enormous. There is no parish that would not join in the aid — whether by accepting refugees or organizing collections of money and in-kind donations.”

“As the Church, we strive to understand and fulfill the words of Jesus: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’”

He went on: “The whole society is involved in helping. We all feel the same desire to help the poor and the needy. It is important to note the very large participation of volunteers from all over the world, especially at the reception points.”

The chairman of the bishops’ migration council stressed that everyone had become a volunteer in Poland since February. But he underlined that the country still lacked a professionally organized volunteer network almost three months after the outbreak of war.

“Spontaneous help, which has become today a formula, even a brand of our form of assistance, is good for a short time,” he said. “We can appeal for solidarity and perseverance in this help, which is very much needed today, because the natural condition of society is weakening and exhausting, it encounters the obstacle of burnout and fatigue.”

The 61-year-old bishop stressed the need for long-term support for Ukrainian refugees living in Poland.

“It is necessary to create a systemic, long-term, and structural aid secured legally and financially — a program based on a coherent migration policy,” he said.

“We will continue to appeal not to forget about those who are already among us today, but also about the thousands of people who reach us every day from Ukraine.”

He added: “The Polish state is trying better and better, week by week, to cope with an extremely difficult situation. A government plenipotentiary for assistance to refugees from Ukraine was appointed and a special law adopted by the government, facilitating access of Ukrainian migrants to the labor market, health care, and education.”

Speaking at an international conference in the Polish capital Warsaw earlier this month, Paweł Szefernaker underlined that Poland needed help to provide for refugees’ long-term needs.

“We need a fund that adds up to billions of euros to assist not Poland, but the refugees who reach our country. We don’t want the fund for ourselves, we want the fund to help refugees,” the deputy minister at Poland’s interior ministry said.

Szefernaker told CNA: “Many representatives of governments and international organizations come to Poland for study visits, but so far this has not translated into tangible material aid.”

“I think that the Polish postulate to convene a summit of the European Union as soon as possible in order to discuss additional funds has a lot of support in our part of Europe, especially among those countries that border Ukraine.”

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