This February Europe witnessed an unprecedented and unprovoked military attack by the Russian Federation on Ukraine. In the wake of the unjustified invasion, Poland, who is Ukraine’s next door neighbor, immediately extended a helping hand to a friendly nation in need. Since February 24, Poland opened its borders to over 2 million people fleeing Ukraine from the Russian aggression. Although most refugees are obviously Ukrainian, there are also thousands of third country nationals who found shelter in Poland. Polish authorities let in everyone irrespective of nationality, race or creed. Many of those who crossed the Ukrainian-Polish border were African nationals, including Ghanaians.
Poland first to help
The government of Poland went to great lengths and undertook every effort to ensure all refugees received meaningful, effective and comprehensive assistance. Meals were distributed at border crossings, transport was provided to receptive points where further assistance and help were provided by local government authorities. Moreover, country legislation was amended to cater for the needs of refugees and facilitate the provision of assistance. All refugees are guaranteed free of charge medical care. Poland accepts and helps terminally ill refugees, the physically challenged and orphans. Ukrainian children are given the opportunity to resume learning in Polish primary and secondary schools. All Ukrainian citizens can apply for a Polish national identity number which entitles the holder to benefit from social welfare and medical care and many other privileges on a par with Polish citizens.
Poles open their hearts and homes to refugees
Interestingly enough, it is not only the Polish government that has provided immense assistance, but also ordinary Polish citizens contributed in a tremendous bottom-up response. Individuals, families, neighborhoods and local communities started helping on their own. They brought food, provided transport from the border to every corner of the country, set up information platforms linking up those in need with potential providers of accommodation, clothes, medicine, food etc. Accommodation places were created by the government and local governments, but a large number of refugees is hosted in Poles’ private houses. As more and more people arrive the numbers of those willing to help are not decreasing. On the contrary, the assistance given by regular Polish citizens is becoming more effective and structured, sensitive to the changing needs of the refugees. It is worth mentioning that Polish citizens created special assistance platforms dedicated exclusively to assisting African nationals. The support offered includes, for instance, finding accommodation, translation services and free of charge legal assistance for those wishing to remain in Poland.
Humanitarian aid for Ukraine
Apart from helping refugees who crossed the border, Poland is also showing our Ukrainian neighbors solidarity on every level: political, national and human. Poland has become a humanitarian hub coordinating humanitarian assistance flowing via Poland to besieged Ukraine from over 30 countries worldwide. The Polish government has launched a robust and comprehensive system for provision of humanitarian assistance not only in Poland but also in Ukraine. Humanitarian convoys leave Poland for Ukraine on a daily basis transporting medicine, food, clothing and other necessities financed by the Polish government, NGOs and individuals. Poland has contributed 500 000 CHF for humanitarian actions conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross. All assistance sent to Ukraine is coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland and the Office of the Prime Minister. The Polish government remains in contact with Ukrainian partners in order to provide the most effective and needed assistance.
In solidarity with other nations
The spirit of solidarity is not new to Poland and its people. The movement called Solidarity that eventually led to the fall of the iron curtain began in Poland and has shown how united and committed we are as a nation that stands ready to defy oppression and fight for democracy. However, democracy and freedom are never given once and for all – they need to be constantly protected and nurtured. That is why, owing to our historical past, Poland is first to help and stand together with Ukraine at a time of crisis, where democracy, human rights and the values Europe upholds are threatened.
Poland is a proud member state of the European Union and it therefore participates in the longstanding and mutually beneficial cooperation between Ghana and the EU. EU supports Ghana in many areas and remains its credible partner. During the pandemic the EU assisted Ghana with financial help to mitigate adverse economic effects of Covid-19.
Poland and Ghana
Although Poland has no strong historical and political ties with Ghana, as it never colonized any African nation, on a bilateral level, it has maintained friendly diplomatic relations with Ghana for many decades. In 2019, the Polish government supported Ghana through its development cooperation program “Polish Aid”. Two projects were implemented by the Embassy of Poland in cooperation with local institutions: “A new ophthalmological clinic in the rural area of Sunyani” and “Enhancing Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) for Youth Employability and Sustainability (YES) at Don Bosco Technical Institute Ashaiman”.
An ophthalmological clinic belonging to the diocesan hospital in Berekum was established and put into operation. Thanks to this, it will be possible to regularly examine people who need ophthalmic diagnostics and treatment in the coming years. Ophthalmic equipment for eye examination was purchased by the Embassy and Doctors from Poland have trained the ophthalmological staff of the hospital. The clinic serves the local community: about 60,000 students of Catholic kindergartens and schools in the Sunyani diocese, and a total of 130,000 residents of the Berekum district.
Don Bosco Technical Institute in Ashaiman received IT equipment for their new computer laboratory to help strengthen its teaching capacity. The project has benefited a total of 300 Ghanaian students of the technical institute.