Parents in Poland left their baby strollers and baby supplies on the bottom pouches in rail road stations for the Ukrainian moms that fled carrying their children.
Tourism in Poland’s historic city of Lublin was in a deep off-season lull last month when Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine, sending tens of thousands of people fleeing across the country’s eastern border, about 60 miles away. Suddenly, rooms filled up at hotels as busloads of bleary-eyed refugees — mostly women and children — arrived in the town’s center looking for food and shelter. The crisis has local travel workers and companies in Lublin swept up in an effort to supply transportation, accommodation and food to ensure that every refugee is provided with decent living conditions when they arrive. Bus companies are offering free rides, hotels have pledged to provide temporary free housing and workers are rounding up basic necessities for refugees who often had to leave everything behind. Their efforts are part of a huge grassroots movement across Poland — and beyond — as individuals and businesses scramble to raise funds, collect donations and volunteer their time to aid Ukrainians who have fled Russia’s invasion of their country.
“We have a whole army here, a network of hotel connections that works as a crisis team 24 hours a day, communicating fast with each other to check the availability of rooms and sending Ukrainians to one another,” said Marta Koman, the director of the Arche Hotel Lublin. Arche Hotels, a Polish hotel chain, has pledged more than $1 million to provide free temporary housing for Ukrainian refugees across its 16 locations in Poland. “Such help requires a lot of money, but these are special situations. I hope we will not have to escape also,” she said, referring to the prospect of the war spilling over to Poland.
Pitching in as translators and child-care workers The scene at the Arche Hotel is emblematic of the situation at large in Lublin and in other towns and cities along the Polish border. Employees there have been thrust into new roles, working around the clock as translators and child-care workers, handling logistics or simply providing emotional support for the arriving refugees. They say they are unable to think about the war’s impact on their livelihoods.
“I don’t think about tourism, you just have to open the door and help people,” said Anna Kurkowska, a server at the Arche Hotel Lublin. In addition to serving food to incoming Ukrainians, she is also helping to watch their children. Among the refugees who have been staying at the hotel: a group of children from a Ukrainian orphanage. The Arche turned one of its conference rooms into a playroom where they screened fairy tales on the television and played games like hide and seek and tag. Witalij Proszyn, a server of Ukrainian origin, has also been working as a translator. He said many of the people arriving were emotional and under great distress, with the staff scrambling to help.
“I do not know if it is still a hotel, it sure is, but it is also now a single-family house,” he said. “That’s how I feel.” Not all hospitality companies have joined the effort, and some hotels have raised their prices during the crisis. At the Hilton Garden Inn in Rzeszów, ( JB - BOO HISS TO THE HILTON GAREDENS ) not far over the Polish border from the Ukrainian city of Lviv, rooms that were going for about $80 suddenly cost more than $200, according to the hotel’s website; at the Victoria hotel in Lublin, rooms that usually cost between $40 and $60 now cost more than $140, according to its website. Governments have also block-booked hotel rooms and transport services for their staff, who often do not show up, which has caused accommodation shortages and contributed to price hikes.
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JB:= If I was in the area I would willingly open Hamilton Hall free of charge for these people and do and offer whatever I humanly could to help. I CANNOT BELIEVE companies like The Hilton increase their charges at a time when the world is going mad and these refugees need our help. Any company that does this is absolute shit as far as I am concerned