INDIAN-ORIGIN VOLUNTEERS HELPING REFUGEES FLEEING UKRAINE
An international cadre of volunteers of Indian-origin is on the frontlines of the refugee crisis in Poland helping people fleeing the destruction raining on Ukraine
NEW YORK: An international cadre of volunteers of Indian-origin is on the frontlines of the refugee crisis in Poland helping people fleeing the destruction raining on Ukraine. Speaking to IANS from Rzeszow in Poland, volunteer Yogi Trivedi said that they welcome the refugees coming across the border, help them with settling in and provide hot vegetarian meals, but more than all that, offer them emotional support for their trauma. The mission organised by BAPS, as the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha is popularly known by its acronym, has about 25 volunteers from the US, Britain, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria and Poland.
At the request of the Indian government, they worked initially with Indian students evacuating from Ukraine but their work has metamorphosed into a programme helping everyone fleeing the Russian onslaught. India has repatriated most of the estimated 20,000 Indians who had been in Ukraine. Once most of the students had been helped, “we realised that there were a tremendous number of Ukrainians (and) other immigrants coming in from that side and they didn’t have basic things that were necessary” like warm clothes while it was snowing in Poland, and proper food, he said. UN Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo said in March that the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine had reached 2.5 million.
So, the team wearing their yellow vests with a sketch of the Akshardham temple in Gujarat moved on to help refugees of all nationalities at three border points, Budomierz, Korczowa and Medyka, said Trivedi, who is from New Jersey. While the volunteers provided the refugees with essentials like warm clothes, gloves, sanitary supplies and hot meals, the volunteers found that what they needed the most was the “love and warmth that is necessary to recover from that trauma” of their wartime exodus, he said.