Vietnamese community in Poland make haste to help Ukraine displaced

By Viet Anh   March 3, 2022 | 01:15 am PT
Different groups of Vietnamese people living in Poland have acted with urgency to help people fleeing the military conflict in Ukraine.

After Russia announced the launch of a "special military operation" in eastern Ukraine on Feb 24, several hundred thousand people fled to neighboring countries.

Poland has been a key destinations in the exodus.

Tran Anh Tuan, President of the Vietnamese Association in Poland, told VnExpress International that there were different groups of Vietnamese nationals who have supported people coming to Poland from Ukraine. Most of the supporters live in Warsaw, which is around 400 km from the Ukraine border.

In the Polish capital city, the Vietnamese community has actively contributed to various campaigns organized by the local authorities, providing food, water, warm clothes, medicine and other necessities including money for the needy in border areas.

"They are also organizing separate trucks to bring goods that they have collected to the border for people entering from Ukraine," Tuan said.

Vietnamese groups are also using their private vehicles and waiting at border gates to transport people from Ukraine to public shelters, including churches or destinations where they can stay temporarily.

Information about these efforts are mainly exchanged and coordinated on social media.

People fleeing Ukraine stand in line at the border crossing, waiting for entry into Poland, in Shehyni, Ukraine February 27, 2022. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

People fleeing Ukraine stand in line at the border crossing, waiting for entry into Poland, in Shehyni, Ukraine, February 27, 2022. Photo by Reuters/Bryan Woolston

Le Huu Cuong, a Vietnamese resident of Poland, said he has participated in collecting relief goods and loading them on to trucks. He also accompanied trucks to the border for delivering the goods to people coming from Ukraine.

On March 1, he reached the Zosin border gates but Polish border guards asked them not to come close because of the security situation. So his team moved to the Hrebenne border gate, which is 80 km from the first gate.

Cuong said he was saddened at seeing women and kids cold, hungry and exhausted after long journeys from different cities in Ukraine. When he gave them bread, many people burst into tears and hugged him. He also felt proud saying "I am Vietnamese" when Ukraine border guards asked where he was from and thanked his team. They were guided by Polish border guards to provide the relief items on Ukraine territory.

Le Huu Cuong poses a photo with a border guard. Photo courtesy of Le Huu Cuong

Le Huu Cuong (L) poses for a photograph with a Ukraine border guard. Photo by Le Huu Cuong

Identifying himself as Kim, another Vietnamese resident said he’d visited different locations near the border, including villages and cities of Medyka, Przemysl, Zamosc and Chelm to assist people entering Poland.

He helped young Vietnamese people to set up camps, find local people living near the border who could provide temporary shelter for supporters to sleep in alternating shifts. Kim said he was worried on seeing people exhausted and in panic on the other side of the border, and felt relieved as more and more people crossed over.

Receiving continuous messages and calls day and night, Kim said he was tired too, but still tried to help as much as he could.

"I hope that we can assist displaced people have the strength to overcome difficulties caused by the war."

Language services

Besides providing food and other necessities at various borders for whoever they met, Kim said his team also helped Vietnamese people who could not speak Polish to complete immigration procedures by interpreting for them in conversations with border guards, guided them to find trains to destinations in Poland and found Vietnamese families who could pick them up and offer short term stays.

Nguyen Duc Thao, 60, said he was not healthy enough to travel and was choosing to stay at home, providing translation and other guidance via social networks for those who contacted him.

Thao said he and his team used their phones to assist Vietnamese people explain their situation to border guards as also information about their places of departure and alternative ways to register if they’d lost personal documents when fleeing from homes in Ukraine.

Thao said Vietnamese requests for help have been increasing since Feb 27, when Russia and Ukraine reached no positive agreement in dialogue to decrease tensions.

Most of the fleeing Vietnamese made their way to Medyka where they could find vehicles to go into Poland more easily than other border gates, he added.

With various apps, Thao received messages and calls for help from Vietnamese people who were in Ukraine. He said he could not remember how many people he'd helped. Some of them informed him that they crossed the border gate and some could not because they did not have sim cards that are active in Poland.

Providing assistance even as he operated his own business for a living, Thao said he tried to stay up till 1 a.m. and wake up early to do what he had to do. There were times he felt exhausted, but continued to try and help people because he had experienced the wretchedness of war when he was in Vietnam late 1970s. He saw himself as just a cog in a "machine of support" operated by the Vietnamese community in Poland.

Thao hoped that displaced people from Ukraine will receive assistance on a larger scale from the Polish government.

"I will keep assisting them as long as needed."

Seeking new home

Cuong said he could not forget one Vietnamese woman who he met at the border gate. She said she’d just bought a house in Kiev after working hard for a long time, but it had been destroyed in the war.

She was 50 and wondering how she would build a new life in a new country.

Cuong felt many people would need assistance in the coming time, and he will continue to participate in the effort to find work for people wanting to settle down in Poland.

Working at the Thien Phuc Temple in Warsaw, Nguyen Quoc Phuong said that after a private trip to the Dorohusk border gate late February to give relief goods, he was now focusing on finding accommodation for Vietnamese people coming from Ukraine.

He has welcomed some at his own house and plans to bring more to the temple.

"I do not have a long term plan yet, but I will arrange accommodation and jobs as much as I can."

Nguyen Quoc Phuong, white T-shirt, welcomes Vietnamese from Uraine in his home in March 2. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Quoc Phuong

Nguyen Quoc Phuong (C) hosts Vietnamese from Ukraine at his home, March 2, 2022. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Quoc Phuong

Tuan said that his association was working closely with various groups to provide additional support and compiling a list to cooperate with the Vietnamese Embassy in Poland for providing legal assistance. They will draw up separate lists of people who need to find jobs in Poland and those who wish to return to Vietnam for submission to the embassy.

"We will need to make a more detailed plan of support as the number of Vietnamese people coming from Ukraine may increase."

On March 2, Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that several hundred Vietnamese citizens in Ukraine have been helped to go to other countries, over 200 came to Moldova (en route Romania), 140 to Poland, 70 to Romania and 30 to Hungary.

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