Ukraine – Women and children sharing cars by women. Since the beginning of March, Polish women have been organizing transports of refugees, Ukrainian women and children to safety from one of the border crossings between Ukraine and Poland in Durhusk.
At the origin of this initiative is Ella Jarmolska, a 38-year-old Polish businesswoman and mother who lives on the outskirts of Warsaw. At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, she wanted to act. She begins organizing a set of basic necessities at her daughter’s school. Money, diapers, baby formula, food, medicine…
She said, “I came home one day and I wanted to do more.” HuffPost. Not thinking much, I took my car and drove to the border. Having covered 400 kilometers in 6 hours on the road, I arrived at the Dorohusk site in Poland.
“I saw about 30 men, alone, in their cars, waiting outside to take the refugees away,” she says. Inside, a crowd of Ukrainian women and children did not go out. There was something wrong. “
She then decided to raise her hand and wave the International Women in Danger sign – a common sign during the Covid crisis for victims of violence. With four fingers raised, she cried: “Warsaw!”
She explains, “In three seconds, two women and a little girl followed me. On the way, I imagined myself, fleeing the war with a simple suitcase, in the middle of the night, arriving at the border with a foreign man in front of me assuring me that he could take me anywhere. I would never have gotten into his car” .
Guys, stay in the kitchen to make soup, and women, they’ll take the wheel! “
Ukrainian women in their car confirm this feeling: “They were afraid of being kidnapped, raped, or worse.” Returning home after dropping the women off to safety, she poured a glass of wine herself and recounted her experience in a Facebook post.
“Call Polish women! She writes. Just got back from the border point Dorohusk. Tomorrow, with all due respect, men, stay in the kitchen to make soup, and women, they will take the wheel!” Due to the success of her participation, she created the group, “Women in a Wheel.” Leadership!” (“Kobiety Za Kołko!”).
Since then, more than 650 Polish women volunteers have gathered there. Of these, about 150 take turns picking up Ukrainian women and children at the border daily. “We know a man who owns a VTC. We took several women in a vehicle to the border and lent cars there to leave each one with the Ukrainians.”
During the first hour of the trip it is very tense in the car. They don’t talk much because they are still afraid.
Most of the refugees are women and children. Ella explains: “Some of them have a destination, some don’t. Sometimes, when possible, we welcome them. I currently have a wife and her three children with me.”
Within the network, which includes only women, some do not drive cars but are interested in finding safe delivery points. The cat is opened online to pay for the gasoline and basic necessities that are distributed.
In Dorohusk, they began to appear. They even display the band’s logo on the windshield. To combat potential human trafficking, every driver wishing to transport refugees away from the front line must register. But, according to Ella, this is not always done, and this is a problem.
No child is allowed to travel alone
Europol warned in March of the danger of Ukrainian refugees fleeing invading their country falling into human trafficking networks upon their arrival in the European Union, and urged host countries to remain vigilant.
However, no Ukrainian child is allowed to travel alone. “It’s illegal,” says Ella. They must be accompanied by adults.” If these women refuse to transport unmarried men, it sometimes happens that some families include old men.
European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson on April 5 called on EU member states to properly register children coming from Ukraine, who account for half of the country’s refugees, in the face of risks of human trafficking.
Every day we hear stories of girls who have been raped or murdered. It occurs a few hundred kilometers away.
Since the beginning of the operation, about 200 women and children have been transported by “Kobiety Za Kółko!”. “The journey often goes the same way: during the first hour, it’s very tense in the car, and they don’t talk much because they’re still terrified, she says. Then they start to feel safe, relaxed and usually fall asleep.”
Discussion is not always easy, especially because of the language. Also because Ella is careful not to ask them questions. “If they feel the need, it always comes from them,” she says. “The stories I hear break my heart.” You no longer watch the news.
“The woman who lives with me showed me the photo taken in Chernihiv, northern Ukraine. It’s a little girl, 5 or 6 years old, lying on a pile of corpses, she says, crying. The little girl wears a bow in her hair. Every day we hear stories of girls They were raped or killed. It happens a few hundred kilometers away.”
When asked how she handles these feelings and stories, Ella replies, “I’m not dealing with it! But I’m in contact with a psychologist. It’s important that volunteers are supported too. So we can continue to help.”
See also on HuffPost: The war in Ukraine and its dire consequences for children’s health