CORK Penny Dinners volunteers, delivering humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian border in Poland, had another busy day on Thursday, with temperatures again reaching the mid-thirties.
The city of Tarnów, in south-eastern Poland, is home to 107,000 people and it dates back to at least the mid-ninth century.
Tarnów has Poland’s highest long-term mean annual temperature, a statistic validated in this week’s sweltering heat.
For all of that, though, it was cool enough in Tarnów Station on Thursday morning, with barely a few commuters to be seen in its beautifully tiled halls.
Three months ago, when Penny Dinners made its first humanitarian mission to the Ukrainian border, Tarnów Station was thronged with refugees fleeing the Russian invasion.
Tarnów is a major station on the Lviv to Kraków rail line, and, in March, thousands of refugees passed through the station every day. On Thursday morning, Tarnów Station had a ghostly atmosphere.
Pastor Jan Skarbek, a friend of Penny Dinners, said patterns of migration have shifted, with few refugees stopping now at Tarnów on their way to Kraków and other, bigger cities. The numbers of people fleeing Ukraine have slowed too, although the border crossing at Medyka is still busy.
According to the UN, some 12 million people have fled their homes, a quarter of Ukraine’s population. More than five million have gone to other countries, while seven million are displaced inside Ukraine.
Poland is the main country of arrival for refugees, with more than 3.5 million entering the country since the invasion on February 24. While official numbers support anecdotal reports that fewer refugees are coming through now in comparison to March, when over 100,000 people were arriving every day, recent figures show over 20,000 daily arrivals in Poland.
Whether renewed Russian shelling of Kyiv and other population centres will affect refugee numbers remains to be seen, but it seems likely.
Penny Dinners volunteers travelled in rented vans from Tarnów to the Catholic charity Caritas’s warehouse in Leżajsk, unloading tonnes of humanitarian aid from a lorry and into vans in 34C heat.
In the coming days they will distribute that aid to refugee centres along the Ukrainian border.
Penny Dinners’ travel to Poland was arranged by Blackpool Travel, which waived all fees, and made a €200 donation.
- Echo reporter Donal O’Keeffe is travelling to the Ukrainian border with the Cork Penny Dinners humanitarian mission. Read his daily diary reports on www.echolive.ie