UK-based couple rent entire Polish hotel to create hub for Ukrainian refugees
A UK-based couple have rented an entire hotel in Poland to create a hub for refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Jakub and Gosia Golata, who immigrated to the UK in 2004, have teamed up with the Polish branch of the Sue Ryder charity to take over the Park Hotel Tryszczyn near Bydgoszcz, where Ukrainians can come and stay while they are away placed with local foster families.
Mr Golata, 42, told the PA news agency he wanted to take immediate action because aid was not arriving quickly enough in the right places.
He said: “We can’t keep drinking tea and thinking about the crisis – we now have hundreds of thousands of people exposed to potential abuse and sleeping rough.
“We must act now.”
Mr Golata, who works on the HS2 rail project as a logistics manager, has lived with his wife in Barrow upon Humber in north Lincolnshire for much of the past two decades.
His wife, a serving officer with Lincolnshire Police, is currently on sabbatical while caring for her mother in Poland, so soon after the Russian invasion began he traveled to join her and try to help with the humanitarian effort.
Mr Golata said: “I was thinking ‘I have to get involved and I need to help as much as I can’, but I didn’t really know how I could help.
“So I first thought ‘I have to see it with my own eyes’ to see how can I help with my knowledge, skills and experience – how can I help?”
Initially, Mr. Golata drove an eight-hour minibus to the border, picked up refugees and found friends and family who were happy to welcome them.
However, after doing this several times, he felt he had to do more.
He said: ‘I had this idea that if I could rent out an entire hotel and put these vulnerable mothers and children in a hotel and then allow them to settle in, feel safe, care for and to be able to come to terms with what is happening, when that would be the best thing.
“And it would also allow me to find the volunteers from the local community so that they could be supported a bit more.”
He received support from his bosses at Skanska in the UK, who contributed funds while giving Mr Golata time to work on the project, and also forged links with the Polish branch of Sue Ryder to help to fundraising.
He found a 180-bed hotel, which had closed due to the Covid pandemic, which was happy to be involved, then used his own money to help them get back up and running and prepare for the arrival of refugees .
Mr Golata then drove a 48-seater bus to the border where he picked up a number of families fleeing the violence and brought them to the hotel – focusing particularly on those from eastern parts of Ukraine where the worst violence took place.
“It was mentally very difficult because the mothers were crying – they weren’t sure what was going to happen,” he said.
Once at the centre, it aims to match refugees with local households who are happy to host them for a longer period.
They will continue to provide whatever support they can, even after the refugees have left.
“This refugee center basically provides the refugees with the security and safety that if the Polish family is not suitable for them or vice versa, they have the refugee center to return to,” he said.
“It’s risk reduction and also support for both of them, as much as we worry about refugees, we also worry about adoptive families because they need support too.”
Ultimately, he hopes the center will be taken over by the government and the model replicated in cities across Poland, where more than two million Ukrainians have fled so far, according to the UN.
But for now, Mr Golata is trying to do his part to help deal with the “huge crisis”.
“We need financial support now so that we can protect vulnerable families from human trafficking, from any form of abuse – that is why it is needed now.
“Later governments will step in and people will settle down and things will be a lot better, but now we’re in this huge crisis.”
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