Volunteers from France, Latvia, Spain and Italy got down to this task. They came to Poland under a European Voluntary Service project.
The volunteers worked with refugees – mainly from Chechnya – ata centre in Czerwony Bór and at the Centre for Refugee Integration in Białystok. They organised arts, sports and language classes for the refugees from the Caucasus to which the latter would normally have no access. They also worked in a nursery accepting refugee children – all that in order to prepare them for further and possibly pain-free education at Polish schools.
Meetings between refugees and Polish young persons were just as important. In the course of workshops and discussions young Poles became aware of who the inhabitants of the centre in Czerwony Bór were, why they came here and which values they brought with them. The refugees from the Caucasus were able to tell stories about their countries and traditions and the participation of foreign volunteers put these meetings in a European context: it made everybody aware that the problem of refugees concerns the whole community of the Old Continent.
The project was coordinated by the Foundation for Education and Creativity from Białystok, whose purpose is to educate children and young people. The project was funded under the “Youth in Action” programme.
Dorota Parzymies – founder of the Foundation “Ocalenie” – evaluates the project:
The way in which we treat refugees speaks volumes about us as citizens. It is a pity that the Poles have forgotten so soon what a big debt we owe to the countries of Western Europe. They hosted is for years and now we are unable to be hospitable towards refugees from other countries. What’s worse, we often fail to distinguish between refugees and immigrants and we accuse them of stealing workplaces from us. Such projects as the one in Białystok are needed. We have to combat social indifference and hypocrisy, educate young people to show them that there is no reason to be afraid.