The Halva restaurant in the northeastern city of Białystok opened a year ago, months before migration pressure from Belarus began. Now, its owner Lilla Świerblewska, a minority Muslim Tatar, considers it her duty to help migrants, mostly her fellow believers, stranded in Poland's freezing forests.
Thus, meals including turkey meatballs in carrot sauce and chicken with green beans, pasteurized and sealed in jars are shipped to charities going to the border forests to help migrants who have crossed from Belarus. The menu includes no pork to respect the migrants’ faith.
"I have to ask myself, what would I do in this situation? Would there be someone who would help me?” Świerblewska told Reuters.
“Because I don't know if tomorrow or in some years I won't be in this kind of situation," she added.
Much of her mission is tied to her faith and her place in Poland's ethnic minority Tatar community. "As Muslims we should be helping, regardless of religion or where the person is from. We should just be helping those in need," Świerblewska said.
Descended from warriors who were rewarded with land by Polish kings for protecting the country's eastern border centuries ago, the Tatars have been providing food for the migrants and holding funerals for Muslims who died at the border.
Poland, a staunchly Catholic, ethnically homogenous country, has been struggling to stem a wave of migrants from the Middle East trying to illegally cross its eastern border from Belarus. Poland and other EU members accuse Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko of instigating the crisis in order to destabilise the bloc.
Hundreds of migrants have been left stranded for weeks in Poland's forests. Humanitarian agencies say at least 13 individuals have died at either side of the border, where many have suffered in the cold with little food or water, Reuters wrote.