On 22 and 23 March 2023, IOM Poland welcomed His Royal Highness, William, Prince of Wales.
Prince William visited an IOM-supported shelter located on Woloska street. The shelter, run by IOM’s implementing partner, Warszawskie Centrum Pomocy Rodzinie (Warsaw Centre Family Support), is home to more than 700 residents, all of whom fled Ukraine after the full-scale invasion by the Russian Federation on 24 February 2022. Woloska is one of 55 shelters across Poland that IOM supports, housing Ukrainians and third country nationals, people of various nationalities who used to live in Ukraine.
These shelters play an important role in supporting communities and families through a variety of activities, such as art workshops, and group and individual counselling sessions. During his visit, the Prince received a gift: a painting done by children staying in the Woloska shelter, who were thrilled to welcome him. The painting featured elements of British culture around a large, Ukrainian flag in the centre. His Royal Highness was then challenged to a match of table tennis match by residents and the President of Warsaw.
Prince William then visited Hala Koszyki in the centre of Poland’s capital. Here, he met with 12 Ukrainian and Polish youth. The group spoke openly, sharing their personal accounts of fleeing Ukraine and the war, arriving in Poland, and starting a new life in Warsaw.
“Where do you get the strength to cope with all of this?” Prince William asked, in order to understand the impact of having to leave behind their friends, families, and lives to start again.
Many of them said they had felt very welcomed by Poland and the people of Warsaw, and would like to continue their careers and lives in Warsaw. Some planned to go back to Ukraine when the war ends.
The conversation was facilitated by Oleksandra Dermanska, IOM Protection Coordinator for Rzeszow. Oleksandra herself has experienced displacement, having also escaped the war in Ukraine in March 2022 with her two-year-old son. After living in a shelter in Krakow for one month, Oleksandra found a job within IOM as a Protection Coordinator. Before leaving Ukraine, she had worked as a lawyer in Ukraine’s Supreme Court.
“The discussions with Prince William focused on the various experiences we have lived since leaving Ukraine,” said Oleksandra. “Although there have been many challenges along the way, we remain hopeful for our future – here in Poland, and hopefully, someday back in a peaceful Ukraine.”
Thank you to William, Prince of Wales, for standing with those who fled Ukraine, and taking the time to learn about the work of IOM Poland.
By Ewelina Kawczynska, Public Information Coordinator, IOM Poland.