KRAKOW, POLAND – Our team in Poland have met with people who opened their doors to refugees, temporarily housing them after they fled from the war in Ukraine.
“They drove to the border to pick up the three girls that made it to the border and this is how it all started,” said Aleksandra Sieradzka. She goes by Ola. She’s a former intern for the Erie-based company Logistics Plus. She lives an hour south of Krakow, Poland with her husband and their eight-month-old baby.
When the war in Ukraine began, many women and children fled into neighboring Poland. They left behind family, husbands, brothers, fathers and others. But most of them didn’t have contacts or a place to stay. Ola told us when Jim Berlin, the owner of Logistics Plus, called her and asked for her help housing Logistics Plus employees fleeing Ukraine, Ola, her family, her parents and even her aunt, didn’t hesitate.
“There were 14 people including children that passed through our house,” recalled Ola. “We were able to relocate the girls to a new apartment but 14 people, yes.”
For their safety, we’re blurring the Ukrainian refugees’ faces. Ola shared photos of how they prepared their rooms with us. After they stayed with her, she’s since helped find housing for the refugees in cities near Krakow and Rzeszow, which is near the Ukraine border.
“So the first group, six girls were there for a week and a half in our home,” recalled Ola. “We were able to relocate them and then another group arrived then another six arrived. I have to give huge kudos to my mom and dad because they did all the work basically. They gave away their whole house, my house is tiny so we only had three girls in my home. The rest of the girls were with my mom and dad and they took care of them. My aunt gave her apartment, she took her mom and her five-year-old daughter, so we’re trying to find a job for her right now.”
Most of the refugees Ola took in are current Logistics Plus employees. Some fled with their moms, their babies, and even their pets. Logistics Plus has nearly 50 employees in Ukraine. Most of them are younger than 35 years old.
Ola said the women that stayed with her and her family, they wanted to help those still in Ukraine by collecting humanitarian supplies for the soldiers and sending it back to their home country.
We asked Ola what it means to her by helping these refugees:
“It’s going to sound a little selfish is the worst thing is you can’t do anything,” said Ola. “There’s a war and people are hurting and you sit there and do nothing. So it makes us feel a little bit better this little thing we did by opening our house, we were able to help the girls.”
Turning strangers into family.
“The most important thing was when the girls said you are our family right now,” said Ola. “’Your mom is our mom, your father is our father’, it will be for a lifetime. It’s sad we will meet in such bad circumstances but it’s amazing that we did and we will cherish that forever.”
About half of the Logistics Plus employees are men, who are still in Ukraine. We’re told they’re fighting the Russians or staying with family.