WHEN Glanmire-based baker Izabella Sikora travelled to Poland to visit friends, she was on another mission.
“I had raised over €400 for the Ukrainian refugees through my small business in Cork,” says Izabella, who is mum to Lucca, aged 10, and who runs Funky Cakes by Architect.
“People were so generous and some people donated money without buying any cakes. Even some children donated their savings to help the Ukrainian people who were fleeing their homes. That was so sweet,” says Izabella.
“I decided to take the money directly to Poland and use it to help the refugees. I was glad that I could do something.”
Izabella and her friends got to work.
“We bought food, sandwiches, juices, and baby food with the money raised,” she says.
“We made up food packages and distributed them at the train stations in Warsaw. The stations were packed with mothers and crying children. Some even brought their pets with them. They wanted to save everyone. Some of the scenes were heart-breaking,” says Izabella.
“There was a lot of panicking. Lucca helped us out too; I wanted him to see that.”
When Izabella herself needed help, she reached out.
“I was forced to take sick-leave from my previous job,” she says.
“I was scared both mentally and physically. There were times I had no money to heat the house or to buy food.
“As a proud single mother, I reached out for help. I am so grateful to the charities and to SVP who donated food for me and my son. They didn’t ask any questions. They are nice people. SVP is an amazing organisation. I got help when I needed it.”
Izabella and her friends offered their help to the people who were fleeing their home-land to safety.
“The trains and buses arrived at the borders of Ukraine to bring people to the city,” she says.
“They were all travelling with family and they were all coming hungry. We gave them food before they boarded the buses or the trains for their onward journey. I was able to see where the money I raised went; where it was needed. There were a lot of crowds waiting to be taken to the city.
“Many Polish people offered food and lodgings to the refugees and they opened their homes to them. The organisations work directly with the refugees, like the Order of Malta. They distribute food and money to the refugees. The most important thing is actually money,” says Izabella.
Izabella saw good work being done to alleviate the plight of the Ukrainian refugees.
“Some of my friends there are doing a great job,” she says.
“They are at the borders ready to help the refugees. They meet the mothers and the children and bring them to schools where spaces are created to put down mattresses and get warm after travelling so far. The people are able to rest overnight before they continue their journey.
“Some of the buses and trains have to go further into Poland to accommodate the big numbers of Ukrainian refugees. Escaping Ukraine is made easier for the middle-class because they can afford to escape to the border.
“The refugees choose to travel to Poland because the language is similar,” adds Izabella.
“Many believe that they will return home soon and that the war will not last much longer. Many do not realise that everything is destroyed and that there is nothing to go back to.
“The children who fled Ukraine must try and go to school again in Poland. They need to start that again.”
Izabella met a lot of the refugees on her way back to Cork.
“Coming back to Ireland, half the plane was occupied by Ukrainian refugees,” she says.
“Ireland is welcoming the people too.”
Izabella has made her own generous contribution on behalf of the Ukrainian refugees.
“It started with providing food and drink to those who needed it,” says Izabella.
“That was my contribution. I will continue to try and connect with people in Poland from here.
“I think the war will get worse than it is now, so more help will be needed.”
Izabella is doing her bit for the Ukrainian refugees.
“I was glad to help and do my bit,” she says.
“It is so sad to see the situation. We all see the images on the TV but in reality it is different. You see the pain and the crowds of people crying.
“We can’t imagine how bad it is and how much help is needed.”