Kateryna, a 33-year-old Ukrainian woman, holds her nephew Nazar, 5, in the Kraków Główny Main Station three days after they arrived from Ukraine. 'I feel lost,' she said. 'I don't know what will happen tomorrow.'

Help Ukrainian mothers hold on to hope

At a train station in Poland thronged with dazed, exhausted Ukrainian refugees, everyone is clutching something. For adults, it's mostly cell phones, their faces strained as they try to hear faraway loved ones over the station noise. For children, it’s toys or lollipops, and fruit passed out free by Polish volunteers. Some hold tightly to their pets.

There is so much that has been lost in the weeks since the war began. What remains is more important than ever.

And escaping the violence in Ukraine is only the beginning of a long journey for these families.

An uncertain future for Ukrainian refugees

While waiting in the railway station, a mother wraps the velcro of a bungee leash onto her child’s wrist. She wraps it and unwraps it, then tries again to make sure it's secure.

It's the main rail station of Krakow, a few hours west of Ukraine. In the past weeks, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian mothers have sat here on suitcases or seats, crowding their children close, shell-shocked and confused.

"I told my children we needed to go to a safer place," says Katerina, a mother of five. "The little ones didn’t let me go anywhere for a second. They were watching me all the time."

Thankfully, these mothers and children have made it this far. Once they crossed the border into Poland, they were no longer threatened by bombs and guns. "I feel safe now, but I'm completely exhausted," says a woman named Olena. Her 5-year-old son Timor hovers near her, reluctant to move a foot or two away to play cars with a boy in his group.

The immediate threat is over, but other threats loom. Already separated from loved ones who stayed in Ukraine, these mothers are desperate to keep what remains of their families together. To do that, they will need not only the food and clothes generously provided by Polish volunteers at places like the train station, but also temporary housing and eventually a way to pay for all the expenses of beginning anew in unfamiliar lands.

Your generous gifts will help them start over

On a sidewalk in Krakow’s city center, two dozen women stand quietly in line, waiting to receive milk, diapers and other necessities from a pantry that gives them out for free. They worry about how to stretch the little money they brought as they fled to Poland. “We have enough money for a month,” says a woman named Svetlana. “We only have winter clothes. We’ll need to get other clothes.”

Marta, a young mother of three, has returned to the pantry for a second time. “I am looking for a job as a cleaning lady,” she says. She and her children have a place they can stay for free for a few months. “We don’t know what will happen after that,” she says. 

Your generous and urgent gifts will make sure these families can find short-term lodging, so they can rest their heads without worry. Your generous gifts will also provide a safe, efficient way to transfer emergency funds to refugee mothers and their children.

Many still have long journeys ahead. Krakow is just a brief resting place before finding temporary homes somewhere else in Poland, or in a third country like Germany. They will need money for rent or schooling. They’ll need to pay for electricity and fuel bills, which are doubling and tripling in some parts of Europe.

With your love, there’s something else they will be clutching on to tightly – hope.

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