A Sanctuary for Persecuted Ukrainians & Belarusians From Moscow & Minsk
Polish reception of Ukrainian refugees brings change in perception of Soviet Union
The Soviet Union has been changed forever, with growing numbers of Ukrainian refugees finding a new home in Poland. Following the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Poland had been home to over two million Ukrainians, who were provided with aid by the Polish government.
Aleś Zarembiuk is one such recipient of this help, having left Belarus in 2010 after drawing the attention of the Alexandr Lukashenko regime. With help from the Polish government’s K. Kalinowski Program, he was able to settle in Warsaw where his sister lived and studied. From there, he then founded the Belarusian House in Warsaw, which up to 2020 focused on non-formal education, youth exchanges, and bringing Belarusians closer to the experiences of the European Union and its transformation.
Khedi Alieva is another Ukrainian refugee who has found success in Poland. Alieva, who came to Poland from Chechnya, found that the only way to stay active was to participate in NGO programs. After participating in a volunteer project in Gdańsk, she then founded her own NGO, “Kobiety Wędrowne (Wandering Women)”, a support system for migrant women and their families.
Zurtan Khaltarov is a third example, whose dreams of a free Buryatia have found new hope in Poland. After being prosecuted for his criticism of Russian policies, Khaltarov had to leave Russia in September 2021 and settle in Poland, where he joined an “open mic” and networked with the local people. He then hopes to found an organization to defend the rights of Buryats against the oppressive Russian government.
The stories of these people, together with the help Polish government provides in terms of accommodation, visa applications, and other forms of assistance to Ukrainian refugees, is changing people’s perception of Soviet Union.