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POLAND: 60 Ukrainian refugee youth take part in festival

Salesian missionaries held the Without Borders Festival in Różanystok

(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries held the Without Borders Festival in Różanystok, Poland. The annual Salesian event brings together youth from different countries to attend performances and workshops focused on singing, acrobatics, performing arts, percussion, all forms of juggling, puppet theater, beatboxing, rap and breakdancing. This year, 60 Ukrainian refugee youth were a part of the event.

According to UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), more than 7.7 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion with more than 4 million fleeing to Poland. Most are women and children as men between the ages of 18 and 60 have been asked to remain in Ukraine to fight.

A Salesian missionary in Poland noted, “All the refugees have experienced severe hardship during their journey to escape their home country. There are those who have had to flee amid bombings and gunfire, those who have suffered fraud or exploitation, and others who have experienced racism or xenophobia, theft, and attacks. Being able to experience environments of serenity, recreation, beauty, and cultural and artistic richness for them represents so much.”

One young Polish volunteer interacted with Ukrainian refugees, a boy who is 11 and a girl who is 13, during the festival, and he shared his experiences. “I asked if their town had been bombed, and even as the words were leaving my mouth, I realized I shouldn’t have asked. But the girl, again in an incredibly calm tone, said as if it were something quite mundane and ordinary that yes, there was bombing. The boy nodded. After that, I avoided any reference to war. We continued our casual conversation, touching only on topics that school children are usually interested in, schools, the end of classes, and summer vacation. They told us that Polish school is different from Ukrainian school, but it’s getting easier by the day.”

He continued, “They said the festival was wonderful because they could participate in the workshops and learn new things, and have a great time. They loved the final concert when the whole audience came to the stage and danced together to the music, and Polish and Ukrainian flags were unfurled on the stage.”

The Polish volunteer had the opportunity to speak to adult refugees the following day. He said, “They use the international word ‘trauma’ and talk about the artillery shelling, the fighting, and capture of their hometown. They talk about life in the city occupied by Russian troops, the dramatic decision to go abroad, the Russian checkpoints, the long interrogations by armed soldiers, the wreckage of burned and crushed cars by the side of the road, the huge crowds of women and children on the platform of the Lviv train station, the relief after crossing the border and the even greater relief when it was discovered that all Ukrainians are allowed to cross into Poland without any restrictions.”

Refugees are being cared for by Polish charities as well as the local and central government. They are provided housing and education for the children, a job for some mothers, and 100 euros a month for each Ukrainian child. With the start of the school year in September, 600,000 Ukrainian students will be studying in Polish schools.

Salesian centers in Poland have been providing care and support for refugees including the St. John Bosco Oratory in Warsaw, Poland, which started its support for refugees at start of the conflict. Youth and their families have connected with programs and found resources from Salesian missionaries during this difficult time.



ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS)

ANS – Poland – A festival without borders, a chance to hear from Ukrainian refugees

Salesian Missions

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