Everything is new and often unknown to many of the Ukrainians who find themselves on unknown territory, and suddenly as refugees having crossed into Poland where they are now hosted by their neighbours. They arrive from a war zone, having left their homes and escaped danger, bringing only a few items along. With limited resources and networks to rely on, people are looking for means and options to cope with and maneuver in their new situation. Poland may be a safe haven, but Ukrainians here often struggle to adapt and to meet needs for support that extends way beyond a place to stay.
‘The right to seek asylum and to receive emergency aid and assistance is a human right. DRC has an important role to play here in Poland when it comes to creating and facilitating spaces that are safe, inclusive, and offer the critical help and support needed by Ukrainians. We work closely with UNHCR and with the Polish civil society and duty-bearers to make this happen, and to help guide the response spearheaded by local organisations,’ says Helena Lassen, Country Director for DRC Poland, Moldova and Romania.
The community centre in Krakow – known as Open Place Krakow - is the most recent and one of seven across Poland supported by UNHCR. In partnership with UNHCR and jointly with 12 Polish NGOs, DRC is providing inclusive protection services through the community centres and mobile outreach activities in five major urban areas in Poland. The seven community centres are in Warsaw (2), Gdynia (1), Lublin (2), Wroclaw (1) and Krakow (1).
Civil society actors are supported by DRC in the daily management of the centres and get help to facilitate services here – from legal aid, language, and logistics to cooking classes, yoga, and psychological support.
Activities are based on locally identified needs, including group activities aimed at supporting emotional and mental wellbeing and inclusion for children, adults, and the elderly. The daily operation of the community centre in Krakow is facilitated by three Polish non-governmental organisations – namely the Internationaler Bund Polska, Salam Lab, and Zustricz, based on their specific expertise, know-how and the strong networks and relations they have built in the area.
Most of the people making use of the Open Place Krakow are Ukrainian refugees. Services are, however, not exclusive to this group, but also accessible to host communities as well as to other displaced people no matter their nationalities and backgrounds. Among the visitors are not least people from the Roma communities anchored in the region and who are often seen to be in the periphery of aid and public service initiatives.
The new Open Place Krakow community centre was officially inaugurated on 23 May 2023 in the presence of local authorities, representatives of key public institutions, UNHCR and members of Krakow’s active civil society.