Ilan Cohn, Director of HIAS Europe, reports on the situation at the Ukraine-Poland border, March 2, 2021, from the Polish town of Przemysl, where a steady stream of refugees are arriving.
As Ukrainian refugees pour over the border into Poland and other neighboring countries, HIAS is on the ground and looking for ways to help them.
Working with the Jewish community in Poland, a HIAS response team is assessing ways it can assist Ukrainians — Jews and others — as they cross into Poland. The Jewish community is doing everything it can to help the people on the move, according to HIAS Europe Director Ilan Cohn.
“The Jewish community in Poland is tiny,” said Cohn, reached by phone as he traveled by car from a refugee reception center in Korczowa at the Poland-Ukraine border, to Warsaw on Wednesday afternoon. “But everybody — individuals, organizations — everybody is mobilizing on this.”
HIAS is coordinating with the Polish Jewish community, and providing funding to develop their response. Right now the community is able to provide some housing and food, and transport from the border, and HIAS is supporting those efforts. In the future there could be a technical role for HIAS to possibly partner with human rights organizations to help provide programs to meet the needs of the refugee population, Cohn said.
Cohn noted that the Korczowa reception center, near Poland’s south-eastern border, had beds, clothes,and medical tents set up. “It was very well organized, and calm and orderly,” he said.
There are lots of Jewish networks and initiatives but it is difficult to coordinate everything, Cohn said. HIAS is examining ways to help link people and programs and keep the positive momentum going.
There are plans for HIAS to go to Moldova at some point and HIAS is looking at how to approach the response in Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary as well.