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Polish first lady in Washington attends conference on help for Ukrainian refugees

02.03.2023 15:30
Polish First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda has taken part in a conference on Poland's support for refugees from war-torn Ukraine in Washington, telling the audience she “can’t accept that the war has claimed so many innocent lives.”
Polands First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda (on stage on the right) attends a conference on support for refugees from Ukraine, in Washington on Wednesday, March 1, 2023.
Poland's First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda (on stage on the right) attends a conference on support for refugees from Ukraine, in Washington on Wednesday, March 1, 2023.KPRP/Grzegorz Jakubowski

Entitled Commemorating the One-Year Mark of the Inhumane and Full-Scale Russian Invasion of Ukraine, the event took place at the Washington residence of Poland’s ambassador to the United States on Wednesday, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

The conference focused on ways of supporting Ukraine’s refugees and internally displaced persons, according to officials. 

Co-organised by the Polish embassy and the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), a leading US think tank, the event brought together more than 130 guests, from American lawmakers and officials to ambassadors and diplomats, as well as representatives of Polish and international think tanks and nonprofits, according to organisers.

Participants included Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, and US Senator James Risch, in addition to Wojciech Wilk, managing director of the Polish Centre for International Aid (PCPM) and Mark Simakovsky, a senior official at the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

'I can’t accept the fact that the war has claimed so many innocent lives': Polish first lady

Kornhauser-Duda, who is continuing her visit to the US capital, told the audience: “As a woman, as a mother and as a wife, I can’t accept the fact that the war has claimed so many innocent lives, including children and women.”

The Polish first lady said she was grateful to governments, organisations and individuals showing "international solidarity in helping the victims of the war" in Ukraine. 

Poles 'opened their homes to guests from Ukraine

More than 9.3 million Ukrainians have crossed into Poland since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and an estimated 1.3 million war refugees remain in Poland, the Polish presidential office said on Thursday. 

“Helping them is a big task and responsibility of the international community,” it added, noting that “Poland is leading the way in helping Ukraine.”

Kornhauser-Duda told Wednesday’s conference that “Polish people have opened their homes to guests from Ukraine and so not a single refugee camp has been created" thanks to a "universal outpouring of support.”

She said “nobody had to be urged to help” as Ukrainian refugees received support from “ordinary citizens, the central government, local administration, NGOs, private companies, uniformed services, volunteers and members of the Polish diaspora from all over the world.”

x Agata Kornhauser-Duda (right).   Photo: KPRP/Grzegorz Jakubowski

Ukraine’s envoy to US thanks Poland

Ukraine’s Markarova thanked Poland for being “the first place where women and children forced to flee their homes found refuge.”

The Ukrainian ambassador said: “They met their Polish brothers and sisters, who opened their arms, hearts and homes to them.”

“We thank the Polish nation for everything it has done for us,” she added.

Jobs, education for refugees

Poland’s first lady described the range of policies undertaken by her country to help Ukrainian refugees since the outbreak of the war, according to the Polish presidential office.

She discussed measures granting those fleeing war access to healthcare and education in Poland.

Kornhauser-Duda said that "it is vital to offer adult refugees opportunities to learn the Polish language and undergo vocational training to enable them to find jobs aligned with their qualifications,” thus helping them become independent.

She cited data showing that 80 percent of adult Ukrainians had found legal employment in Poland. 

Asked about education opportunities for Ukrainian children, Kornhauser-Duda said many young Ukrainians were attending Polish schools as well as participating in online classes offered by the Ukrainian education system. 

She added: “It’s very important that Ukrainian pupils are able to attend school, but also to continue their education after returning to Ukraine.”

First ladies join forces

The Washington conference also focused on international cooperation, NGO initiatives for Ukrainian refugees, as well as projects undertaken under the auspices of the first ladies of various countries, according to officials.

Kornhauser-Duda shared her experience in “helping evacuate unwell children, children with disabilities and children in institutional care from Ukraine and offer them shelter and professional care in Poland and other countries,” according to officials.

They said that, thanks to Kornhauser-Duda's cooperation with Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, Ukrainian medics were being trained in Poland. 

The Polish first lady also thanked America for President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Poland.

“It was a historic and important visit, both for Ukraine and for Poland,” she told the conference in Washington.

Wednesday’s event was co-hosted by Poland's US ambassador Marek Magierowski and CEPA’s CEO Alina Polyakova, officials said.

Thursday is day 372 of Russia’s war in Ukraine.


Source: PAP, prezydent.pl