Refugee Week 2023: Seeking a Community Away from Home

This Refugee Week, we are highlighting the work of our Ukraine Emergency Appeal and hearing the stories of Ukrainian people. This, the second blog of the week, focuses on how our appeal is enabling refugees to find community away from home.


Through our Ukraine Emergency Appeal, we have been supporting a variety of work which meets the needs of Ukrainian refugees. One of the ways our appeal supports refugees is by providing spaces for them to seek community away from home. While meeting the practical and physical needs of refugees (such as providing food and shelter) is imperative, our humanitarian partners understand how vital it is to care for the emotional needs and mental well-being of refugees in these unsettling and uncertain times.

Our partners have been caring for the emotional needs and mental well-being of Ukrainian people by providing spaces for them to build ‘community’ with one another. This is so that despite being far from home, the Ukrainian people do not feel alone.

We wish to share some of these stories with you now, so that you may also understand how caring for one another looks like more than meeting physical needs. These stories are a testament to the impact being in community with one another can have.

The Hostel

Hostel. ©Jenny Matthews/All We Can.

On the outskirts of Bielsko-Biala, seven refugee families live in a refurbished hostel hosted by one of our humanitarian partners.

Within this emerging community lives Natalya and her grandchildren, Timur (aged ten) and Lea (aged nine). Natalya is the sole guardian of her grandchildren.

‘Timur and Lea’s father couldn’t leave Ukraine and their mother lost custody of them.’

The family fled to Poland on the evacuation buses from their home in Enerhodar.

Timur and Lea are doing online classes with the laptops Natalya bought for them with the cash assistance that our partner provided.

Natalya’s priority is her grandchildren,

‘My only hobby is the children’.

Maintaining a sense of normality for them has been crucial for Natalya.

Natalya was a primary school teacher in Ukraine and now organises children’s activities at our partner’s community centre.

‘I also look after Nathalia’s son if she is held up at work’.

Nathalia also lives in the hostel. She lives there with her ten-year-old son and teaches at the community centre.

Both the community centre and the hostel are critical places for refugees to have their needs met, be with other people, and build a life once more.

Natalya, Timur, and Lea. ©Jenny Matthews/All We Can.

Children’s Art Class

©Jenny Matthews/All We Can.

At our humanitarian partner’s community centre in Bielsko-Biala, Nathalia (from the hostel) and Maryna run a Children’s Art Class for families coming through the centre.

In the session photographed, Nathalia and Maryna are leading the children in a session on making origami animals for them to take home.

This is an important space for children to be able to meet other children their own age, get creative, have fun, and leave behind the chaos of their lives for the sake of doing ‘normal’ activities.

©Jenny Matthews/All We Can.

Art Therapy Class for Adults

Tamara and Tatiana. ©Jenny Matthews/All We Can.

Psychologist Iryna runs an Art Therapy Class for older people at our humanitarian partner’s community centre in Bielsko-Biala.

The group, largely consisting of older women, is a vital space to explore creativity in the company of those who have shared experiences and trauma. To be invited to be creative and to express themselves through arts and crafts shows how ‘support’ for refugees goes beyond meeting the practical needs that we might first expect.

In the sessions, Iryna also teaches the women relaxation techniques. She notes how much the group has changed from their first session:

‘When they first came, they wore dark clothes and no make-up, now they are much more relaxed’.

This relaxed setting is a testament to the environment Iryna has cultivated with the group, she has developed a safe space for the community to grow and for these women to express themselves. She also commented:

‘Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry’.

Zina, one of the members of the Art Therapy Class reflects on the support that has been given to her and her family:

‘Here we get lots of support, both psychological and social, and we get help from the Ukrainian community’.

Because of this group, these women are getting to be both creative and vulnerable. While being able to pursue creative tasks for fun, the group are also growing in meaningful relationships with one another in a setting that is facilitated by someone who can help them process the appalling circumstances that have caused them to be in Poland as opposed to at home in Ukraine.

Zina. ©Jenny Matthews/All We Can.

To go to All We Can’s Refugee Week 2023 webpage to download our latest resources, click here: Refugee Week – order your resources – All We Can

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