Ukrainian children who perform at a charity concert in Warsaw for Tzu Chi’s aid hold sunflowers, their homeland’s national flower, symbolizing “Resistance, Solidarity, Hope.”
Written by Ida Eva Zielinska
Photos by Tzu Chi Team
With relief distributions in Warsaw scheduled for May 6, the next order of business was volunteer training, which took place on the first of the month. Sixteen Ukrainians came, eager to assist their people.
The training participants gained a deeper understanding of the Tzu Chi spirit of unconditional love in action. They also practiced the disaster relief protocol, based on equality between giver and receiver and respect.
As part of the training, they learned the popular Tzu Chi song “One Family,” which succinctly expresses unity across all divisions, a core principle of Tzu Chi’s philosophy. Seeing how Tzu Chi has rallied to help them and how Poles have embraced them with open arms, despite a complex shared history between the two Slavic peoples, the Ukrainians wanted to express their thanks and found a unique way to do so.
Moreover, the gift of song would evolve, as Anastasia Malashenko, one of the trainees, is a singer, and she and other artists wanted to thank Tzu Chi for the aid even further and proposed a concert as part of the May 6 distributions. They rehearsed for two days in preparation for their charity performance.
Songs of Solidarity and the Gift of Hope
As the care recipients at the “Songs of Solidarity for Ukraine” charity concert on May 6 heard their native songs, many couldn’t hold back their tears, the pain and worry they have been experiencing since leaving home etched on their faces. It was especially heart-wrenching when the Oratorium Children’s Choir performed, as concern about the future was a strong current in the room.
There was a chorus of tearful comments after the concert. “It was very emotional because it’s the first concert I’ve attended since the war started and I became a refugee,” and “When I heard these songs on stage, I felt the pain of the children who suffered and died because of the war in our beautiful Ukraine.”
Tzu Chi volunteers also felt their emotions surge, Faisal sharing, “Everybody cried,” his wife Nadya adding, “Although we couldn’t understand [the lyrics], we were all very moved. Music is the common language.”
Once the distributions began, several that day, care recipients were overwhelmed by the generosity in the shopping cards they received, one for each family member, and each loaded with zł 2,000 – the equivalent of 500 USD. The sum can cover the cost of groceries per person for several months and accommodate some other living expenses as well. The care recipients’ voices echoed astonishment about the amount of aid.
“It’s such a huge sum of money just to share with someone for free. I still can’t believe that it’s happening to me!” one said. “First, I thought it was a misunderstanding or something. It was so unexpected and wonderful,” shared another. “It’s happiness to know that tomorrow we don’t have to starve,” was their root message.
One mother added another layer of gratitude, saying “We received financial support, and it means a lot. But what is most important is that we received love and care. Everyone passed us a small part of their soul. Support from people from all over the world is priceless.”
Moreover, the distributions brought together different faiths for a common cause. Polish clergy was part of the preparations alongside Tzu Chi volunteers, as the event took place at a Catholic church.
During the charity concert, Pastor Edmund Modzelewski also delivered a message of solidarity and thanks, highlighting the universal aspiration for peace.
Buddhists and Catholics prayed side by side, as many people around the world are doing, yearning for an end to this dangerous eruption of hostilities in Europe.
Apart from the distributions in Warsaw in the first week of May, others were held in Poznań and Lublin. Aid provision would persist in those cities in the weeks ahead. Yet sadly, the cause of the Ukrainian refugees’ current state of displacement and suffering, the war in their homeland, rages on, so their futures remain uncertain.
Tzu Chi’s Aid Is Only Beginning
Tzu Chi’s disaster relief typically responds to natural catastrophes or accidents, which have a clear start and end. However, the impact of a human manufactured disaster such as war can be a prolonged evolving tragedy.
While Nataliia found refuge in Poland for now, some of her friends chose to stay in Ukraine. Iryna Knyshnyk decided to take special training and become a combat medic, now rescuing military and civilian lives and even animals. She writes that something frightens her more than the actual scenes and experiences of warfare.
While no one wants history to keep repeating itself, her wish demands that humanity relinquish its potential for anger, hatred, and violence, finally choosing a different path as so many world faiths guide.
Unfortunately, this latest war has joined other ongoing conflicts worldwide. And while, as another journalist friend of Nataliia, Antonina Kucherenko, wrote, “I think each Ukrainian wants to live at home or return home,” the time is not right for those who left to go back.
Tzu Chi volunteers will continue offering humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians who fled the war, helping resolve the families’ food needs, to start.
Once the last of the Biedronka supermarket cards are given out, Tzu Chi will provide prepaid debit cards that care recipients can use in any store. The blankets shipped from Taiwan also arrived and are now being distributed in several cities.
In addition to Tzu Chi’s other aid, may these eco-blankets help the displaced Ukrainian mothers keep their children warm and comfort them during the gravely stressful and unsettling times for these families.