'The sound of a plane caused a child to scream in terror': Ukrainians in Poland left traumatised

Caitríona Twomey said many train stations across Poland are filled with refugees, with constant queues of exhausted women, children, elderly and disabled people seeking food, clothes, makeshift beds, and first aid.
'The sound of a plane caused a child to scream in terror': Ukrainians in Poland left traumatised

Penny Dinners volunteers Kieran Coniry, Aaron Feeney Leslie OÕSullivan, Dave Feeney, Catriona Twomey, Michael Relihan, Tomas Kalinaus, John Linehan of DB Schenker and Conal Thomas pictured as they travel to Dublin Airport in a Garda bus. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Volunteers from Cork Penny Dinners had an early start on Day Two of their humanitarian mission to Poland, with a dawn visit to Krakow Train Station, where thousands of Ukrainian refugees arrive every day.

The group of eight volunteers is delivering to refugees fleeing the Russian invasion 50 tonnes of humanitarian aid donated by the people of Cork.

Penny Dinners co-ordinator Caitriona Twomey told The Echo the station has floor after floor of designer shops, restaurants and outlets of every description, with bright lights and a buzz in the air with people out shopping for Easter, which is a big tradition in Poland.

“And then we went down to the train station underneath and were struck quickly by the sadness and pain on the people’s faces, you can see their brokenness and their fear, with many on phones talking to loved ones in Ukraine and crying pitifully,” Ms Twomey said.

“Our youngest volunteer, Aaron, was hit hard by the sight of children sleeping and resting on their belongings, some with only one or two small bags, carrying what is now their home on their backs, reminding us of how delicate and precious our loved ones are.

Cork Penny Dinners volunteers Conal Thomas, Leslie O'Sullivan, Aaron Feeney, Michael Relihan, Tomas Kalinauskas and Dave Feeney in Tarnow in Poland. Picture: Caitriona Twomey.
Cork Penny Dinners volunteers Conal Thomas, Leslie O'Sullivan, Aaron Feeney, Michael Relihan, Tomas Kalinauskas and Dave Feeney in Tarnow in Poland. Picture: Caitriona Twomey.

“All any of us ever want is our family to be safe, free from harm and happy.” 

Ms Twomey said many stations across Poland are filled with refugees, with constant queues of exhausted women, children, elderly and disabled people seeking food, clothes, makeshift beds, and first aid.

“They are traumatised and you see mothers desperately trying to help their children who are sitting or lying, staring blankly at the scenes around them,” she said.

“Our Polish friend Jan Skarbek told us when one of the kids came over the border, the sound of an overhead plane flying out from Rzeszow caused him to scream in terror and his mother was inconsolable trying to comfort him. 

"This had a ripple effect and others began to cry as the journey and the reality of leaving their home and country took its toll.

“Nothing but the sound of sobbing could be heard, and he said it cut through his heart,” Ms Twomey recounted.

She said the Cork volunteers would finish Day Two shopping for more supplies to distribute to refugees at Tarnow Station, work side-by-side with Polish volunteers.

Ms Twomey said they felt they were making a difference to the lives of people fleeing terror.

“We are doing more than the right thing, we are helping the most vulnerable, just like we do at home,” Ms Twomey said.

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