As the majority of Ukrainians seek refuge in Poland, the Tyler Sister Cities organization is lending a hand to help Jelenia Góra.
Jelenia Góra, a city in southwestern Poland, has so far hosted 2,000 refugees, said the city’s mayor, Jerzy Łużniak. A sister city to Tyler since 1993, Jelenia Góra contacted Tyler asking for help for refugees.
Tyler Mayor Don Warren and Łużniak met via Zoom on Wednesday morning to discuss how Tyler can help the city.
“We are very proud to be your sister city,” Warren said. “We are here today to visit you to determine what we can do as a community to help you.”
Łużniak said that Jelenia Góra is also a sister city of three Ukrainian cities, one of which is siewierodonieck. Many refugees fleeing to the city come from here, he added.
First aid such as food, medicine and other essential items were sent to Ukrainian cities by Jelenia Góra at the start of the conflict. From now on, the city is working to welcome and house those who leave Ukraine.
The city provides housing for many refugees, and others stay with families or people willing to take them in, Łużniak said. Wherever the refugees are staying, Jelenia Góra tries to provide them with essential items, he added.
Over the past three weeks, more than 1.9 million Ukrainian refugees have entered Poland, Łużniak said. This conflict was unplanned, so places where refugees could stay were unprepared, he said.
The Ukrainians have suffered and it is “very difficult to say how they feel now”, said Łużniak. Many women and children have sought safety in Poland and the country is providing aid as it can, he said.
“Poles are trying to do everything they can to help these refugees,” Łużniak said.
Łużniak said monetary donations would offer the most help. Sending supplies at this time is difficult, but with money Jelenia Góra could buy the things Ukrainians need, he added.
The city of Tyler has agreed to help Jelenia Góra. Łużniak said that in this time of need, he was grateful for Tyler’s desire to help in times of conflict.
“One of the things Mayor Łużniak said was… ‘a friend in need is really a friend,’ and that’s just an expression we hear every day,” Warren said. “To hear that expression coming from a country that helps so many refugees is heartwarming, and I’m glad we were able to have that call.”
Mickey Slimp, liaison with Jelenia Góra for Tyler Sister Cities, said he has traveled to Poland several times and taught there for a semester. Slimp said it was an emotional and difficult time and he was happy to see Tyler step in to offer his help.
“What I want our community to do is send enough money out there to make an impact, to realize that a friend in need really is a friend,” Warren said.
Those wishing to donate to Jelenia Góra and help them help Ukrainian refugees can visit tylersistercities.org .
Once the money is collected, it will be transferred to Jelenia Góra’s accounts. All accounts have been verified, Slimp said.
Tyler Sister Cities is a diplomatic network with the goal of building partnerships between Tyler and other cities around the world, according to the organization’s website.
Tyler joined Sister Cities International in 1982 to provide a holistic view of East Texas and the Tyler community. Since then, Tyler has “twinned” with six sister cities, located in Chile, Costa Rica, France, Japan, Mexico and Poland. Tyler is currently in the process of forming his seventh sister city relationship with Qujing, China.
According to Sister Cities International, a sister city relationship is a long-term partnership between two communities in two countries. A relationship is officially recognized after the highest elected or appointed official of the two communities signs an agreement to become Sister Cities.
In addition to volunteers, sister city organizations may include representatives from nonprofits, city governments, the private sector, and other civic organizations.