South London’s Polish community has come together in a massive outpouring of generosity and unity with displaced families from Ukraine with a collection of items to provide relief for refugees escaping the Russian invasion of their country.
The queue of people wanting to make donations to an emergency appeal stretched half a mile down Balham High Road from the White Eagle Club, the long-standing Polish community centre, yesterday.
The venue, which normally hosts wedding receptions, chess clubs and dance lessons, is this week being used to coordinate relief efforts for refugees arriving in Poland, who have often fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs or what they could carry in a small suitcase.
Many of the donors were from Polish families who had themselves been refugees to this country, both during the Second World War and the era of Communist rule.
Such was the scale of the donations that the White Eagle Club appealed for extra volunteers to assist with the sorting, ahead of further collection days this week before the goods are trucked across Europe to refugee camps on the Polish border.
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, the Labour MP for Tooting, responded to the scenes being posted on social media: “Am always so proud of our community.”
And a London lawyer who responded to the initial appeal for goods tweeted: “Just been to the Polish White Eagle Club in Balham to donate bedding and warm clothing.
“There are hundreds queueing down the road to hand in their donations. Incredibly moving.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said more than 200,000 people have arrived in the countries surrounding Ukraine.
The Polish community’s donation efforts are being focused on Balham. The Polish Club in South Norwood confirmed this morning that anyone wishing to help the appeal should go to Balham.
No food is being collected in this appeal.
The items requested are batteries, torches, clothing, shoes, nappies, dry sanitary clothes, thermal clothing, gloves, and painkillers.
Other necessities are duvets, blankets, sleeping bags and pillows.
Meanwhile, the British government’s response to the refugee crisis emerging from the Russian invasion has been, as you might expect, lukewarm.
There are mounting calls for the government to waive visa requirements and to offer asylum to people forced out of Ukraine.
Ukrainian families have reported being turned back by British officials at Gare du Nord, the Eurostar station in Paris, because of the strict UK visa requirements.
Tory MPs have been embarrassed and fiercely criticised after maintaining that UK visa requirements allow migrants from Ukraine, if they come to this country to pick fruit…
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