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First psychological support for Ukrainian refugees in Poland – Global issues

Mlyny is a small town in southeastern Poland, about 8 km from the border with Ukraine. The otherwise quiet village has become one of the main entry and exit points for the more than two million people who have come to the country since the war began.

Ukrainians living abroad, third-country nationals, and local and international volunteers, have flocked to Mlyny, to offer whatever help they can. Among them was Aurang Zeb Khan, a master’s graduate student who had come to Poland at the beginning of the crisis.

Mr. Khan is helping out at a transfer site, a repurposed shopping mall that is populated mainly by women and children, who stay for a few days, or even just a few hours, before moving on. Continue your journey to Warsaw and other cities, in Poland and beyond.

“I am coming to Poland on March 4 to help people fleeing the war in Ukraine, especially third country nationals who do not have Ukrainian passports, but their lives are also affected by life. conflict.

Third-country nationals face additional challenges here. Initially, we saw discrimination because they were not allowed free shipping and other services.

So we focus on helping them transport from the receiving point in the town of Mlyny, on the southeastern border with Ukraine, to get them to Warsaw Central Station, and from there to other countries in Europe.

We also connect them with families in Poland and Germany who want to organize them and with other individuals who have offered help to transport them to their destination. At the beginning of the war, most efforts to assist people fleeing the conflict were led by volunteers.

But despite these efforts, third-country nationals still face difficulties. I remember three boys from India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, they were at the train station because they couldn’t afford train tickets.

I have seen many other people, some of them young people, having trouble registering in their home country.

We now have an information desk in this transit center, where I work with two Polish Foreign Ministry officials who provide assistance with the asylum process to those in need, as well as as other useful information.

Aurang Zeb Khan (r) and other volunteers at the Mlyny transit camp, Poland

© IOM / Jorge Galindo

Aurang Zeb Khan (r) and other volunteers at the Mlyny transit camp, Poland

‘Nobody expected this to happen in Europe’

The IOM training in psychological first aid tailored to the experiences of refugees. For these people, everything happens in a flash. No one expected this to happen in Europe.

As volunteers, we often face stressful situations. I have seen so many women and children cry every day. I remember one time I was at Warsaw Central Station, and I saw someone crying terribly. I want to help her, but I don’t know how.

During our training, we learned to reach people in need without further harm, by simply offering to listen and take their side.

The training also focuses on the health of the volunteers. We learn coping mechanisms and activities to distract ourselves. People like me have been working here nonstop for almost a month, and we often don’t take the time to think about our own mental and physical health.

This training has given me a lot of hope and confidence as a volunteer. It made me feel like we weren’t alone, that someone was building our capacity to do the job.

I think I will now be better equipped to help people fleeing war, even if they may need someone to communicate with who understands their needs and can let them know that someone is in need. stand on their side. “

The drawings show the children's hopes as well as messages of solidarity from other children around the world.  .

© IOM / Jorge Galindo

The drawings show the children’s hopes as well as messages of solidarity from other children around the world. .

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