Arizona volunteers resettle Ukrainian refugees in Poland

The volunteers established a connection with the Polish government, which found the refugee family a free farmhouse to live in, 90 minutes from Krakow.
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 11:24 AM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GILBERT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Volunteers from Gilbert learned very quickly this spring how to help refugee families fleeing the war in Ukraine. They often operate inside a large mall in Krakow, Poland, which is adjacent to the city’s main train station. A steady stream of refugees has been arriving for more than two months.

Recently, they found a multi-generational family made of women and children who arrived with nothing. The men in the family all remained in Ukraine. The group from Gilbert first gained the refugees’ trust in the train station, then took them into the nearby mall to stock up on blankets, groceries, and other supplies to stock a temporary home. The volunteers established a connection with the Polish government, which found the refugee family a free farmhouse to live in for a while, 90 minutes from Krakow.

The Arizonans paid their own travel costs and spent $600 on supplies for the family, who seemed stunned by the generosity of strangers. The matriarch of the family, Yulia, got to work, setting up the new home.

“She’s over there just trying to make it a home. I get emotional because you think, if that was me, that’s what I’d be doing. She’s in a strange place doing the best she can to make a home with her kids,” Marcee Foster said.

Foster and her husband, Lance, set up a nonprofit called REACH Humanity to raise funds to help more refugees. They diverted their own spring break trip from the beach to Poland to help the refugees and brought friends along on several trips.

“Every time I hug them, I want to tell them it’s going to be okay. But I don’t know that. I don’t know what’s going to happen with their country, their fathers and sons,” Marcee said.

A woman who fled her home in Kyiv, Natalya Takhmazova, travels with the Gilbert group as their translator.

“I’m happy I can support them and provide some help for the American volunteers,” she said. Natalya left her 19-year-old son in Kyiv and has plans to move to Italy.

After helping the family set up the new home, the Arizonans left them with cards and flowers, including a blue and yellow bouquet to represent the Ukrainian flag.

“This is supposed to be a bit of home. We want their new home to have beauty and remind them of home, Ukraine,” Jodee Huish of Gilbert said as they prepared to leave.

It’s unclear how long the family will remain in the farmhouse, but it’s a safe, warm space, at least for several weeks. Word of the work the Gilbert group is doing is spreading. While at the farmhouse, they were getting calls from contacts about more families seeking their help in the days to come.

“It’s one of the most heartwarming things I’ve seen. The worst in humanity is bringing out the best in humanity,” Marcee said.

While her husband stayed in Poland to continue organizing humanitarian aid efforts, much of the rest of the group returned to Arizona. They’re hosting a fundraiser at Schnepf Farms on May 14th, which will help provide more aid to Ukrainian refugees in the weeks to come. For more information, click here.