183d Wing Members Witness Ukrainian Refugee Crisis First Hand

  • Published
  • By Capt Tanner Lovett
  • 183d Wing

WARSAW, Poland -- Three members of the Illinois Air National Guard’s 183d Wing, located in Springfield, Illinois, got a firsthand look at Ukrainian citizens fleeing to Poland, in order to escape the war in their country.

While in Poland, training with their Polish military counterparts, Lt Col David Keck, Lt Col Matthew Born, and Capt Tanner Lovett, had an opportunity to visit several facilities in the Warsaw area, welcoming Ukrainian refugees into the country. Escorted by a member of the Polish Territorial Defense Force (TDF), Poland’s equivalent of our National Guard, the 183d members visited reception centers in Torwar, the Warsaw West train station, and Ptak Park.

The scene is exactly what you would expect, a sea of exhausted people with only what they can carry, trying desperately to care for themselves and their families, arriving by the thousands. The overwhelming majority of refugees are women and children.

These facilities are set up to temporarily house refugees for two or three days before finding them more long-term housing. The facilities are staffed by National Firefighters, Polish Red Cross, the TDF, various Boy and Girl Scout Clubs, private healthcare companies, and local individuals. Volunteers are everywhere, providing directions, carrying bags, and making food. These reception centers do their best to provide at least the basic necessities: food, clothing, and diapers, strollers, and toys for children. Some provide SIM card for cell phones, health and medical services, professional mental health services, and even food and crates for pets.

The three 183d members donated as much children's clothes and toys as they could pack into their suitcases. “We dropped off our contributions, a drop in the sea of need, as volunteers quickly whisked it away to be sorted”, said Born.

Poland is rising to the challenge, supporting a massive amount war weary refugees, in need of everything, providing safety and dignity to the innocent victims of a tragic war.