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Rabbi Chester's Trip to Poland—Day 2

04/14/2022 11:06:41 AM

Apr14

Today was a very long and emotionally exhausting day. We left early in the morning for 2 1/2-hour drive toward the Ukrainian border. Our first stop was at Przemysl which is the closest large city to the Ukrainian border. We did not cross the border into Ukraine but were at the Poland-Ukraine border. There we visited the humanitarian center and went inside to see how many supplies have been given to them for the refugees. 

Even more importantly, we saw refugees who were at the center. There was sadness in their eyes as many of them seemed confused and in shock. The same was true at the next two stops we made, both at the border. There, too, the reality of the situation hit all of us. How overwhelming it was for all involved. As one woman told us earlier, “One day we were living a happy, normal life and the next we were refugees.” 

However, among the sadness there was an amazing positivity. What Poland has done in taking in the refugees is unbelievable. No questions asked, the Polish government and citizenry have sheltered and continue to shelter every refugee. The number of volunteers from all over the world is amazing! They helped the refugees. They sorted the goods in the warehouses. 

So many NGOs from all over the world were at each place. I am proud the Israeli and Jewish organizations were very well represented. We learned that these organizations also work together to not only help the refugees but also send food and other supplies into Ukraine itself. So, among the grief and sorrow we are also seeing compassion, hope and cooperation.

At the end of the day, before returning to the hotel, we had a Seder to which were invited volunteers, both Jewish and non-Jewish. We sang with great spirit and camaraderie and celebrated freedom. It was one of the best Seders I have ever attended.

We returned to the hotel at about 12:30 am. The reality and magnitude of the situation hit us all. The television and newspapers can’t fully describe what we saw and felt. The refugees became part of our hearts and souls.

At the center.

 

We had to wear these.

 

Strollers for the little children.

 

The border is behind me.

 

The humanitarian center right on the border.

Mon, December 5 2022 11 Kislev 5783