Mariusz and his team have worked to ensure trauma therapy is part of everyday classes in the refugee daycare centers.

Providing a Safe Space for the Refugee Children of Ukraine

Mariusz Sand and his wife Dominika have dedicated their lives to helping others.

As the CEO of Nienudno, Mariusz has spent years running a successful business in Warsaw teaching adult language classes and running several childcare centers. When Russia invaded Ukraine last February and the refugees started flooding into Poland, they knew they had to help.

Running for their lives

Within days of the invasion, refugees began fleeing Ukraine. It was a time of chaos, fear, and the unknown. Mostly women, children, and elderly, they had to leave everything behind.

Not just possessions — family, friends, jobs, customs, food, and a common language were also left behind as they were welcomed into neighboring countries like Poland. They didn’t know where to go or what to do. They just ran for their lives and the lives of their children.

Within days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of refugees began crossing into Poland.

The violence of war also left its mark on many. Sadness, despair, and hopelessness … affected young and old alike.

Poland was doing everything it could to help. Refugee reception points were set up to accept and temporarily house the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians crossing the border. The need was high, and the people and government of Poland acted fast.

Providing comfort in a desperate situation

Mariusz and Dominika began visiting refugee centers right away. Seeking a way to use their business and expertise to help, they quickly saw that the temporary facilities were especially hard on the children and teenagers. These young people were just not equipped to deal with the loss of so much so quickly, let alone the extreme trauma some had witnessed.

“We have learned over the years how to support children and how to help them develop. We wanted to create a safe space for children in what was the largest influx of refugees into Poland,” Sand shares. “But we saw a bigger challenge ahead. A reception center that received several thousand people a day. When we went to this place, we saw these tired families. Moms whose only dream was to sleep. Terrified people, terrified children.”

Poland set up refugee reception points to help provide temporary housing for the wave of Ukrainians fleeing the war.

Using their resources and expertise, Mariusz and Dominika set to work. Their mission became to create a colorful, inviting place where the children could feel more comfortable and nurtured inside the refugee centers. They approached non-profits and the government for funds, met with organizations running the refugee centers and within just one month were able to open thirteen daycare centers.

The ripple effect of helping and healing

Almost immediately, women living in the centers began approaching Mariusz asking how they could help. Mariusz was humbled by their passion and desire to support their fellow Ukrainians.

“The courage and strength of these Ukrainian women is incredible. Their husbands are fighting on the frontline, and they want to be needed here.”

More than 70 Ukrainians have been employed to run the daycare centers. Through the months, Mariusz has seen how the daycare centers are not only helping the children, but the adults too. “It’s incredibly therapeutic for those who we’ve hired to be helping the kids at these daycare centers,” he shares.

Over the past few months, Mariusz and Dominika have partnered with several organizations that specialize in child trauma to ensure the centers are offering real therapy in addition to daily classes that ensures these children of war do not fall behind emotionally or educationally due to the unfortunate situation that continues for them.

Beyond the daycare centers, Mariusz and Dominika continue to teach free Polish and English language classes to Ukrainians that want to learn so that they can have more opportunities to find jobs and a more secure future while staying in Poland. “We are integrating Ukrainian society with our Polish society,” Mariusz says.

Life continues to be incredibly difficult for millions of displaced Ukrainians who still have not been able to return home.

Mariusz reminds us, “Just like months ago, they need help so much now. They need this support. It hasn’t changed. We should not forget that."

Everyone can help, and it’s easy.

SHARE THIS STORY! Helping can be as simple as sharing this story on your social media and asking others to do the same. If you want to support in more ways, visit our blog post for a list of organizations accepting supplies and donations.

When we all raise our voices, we become a powerful force together.

You will be heard by Ukrainians who are fighting to be free. They will know that people around the world are with them, and that we all want Russia to leave Ukraine so they can be united with their families once again.

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About the Campaign

Unify Ukraine is a public service campaign on behalf of the Polish government to raise American awareness of Russia’s ongoing invasion that has torn apart the country and families of Ukraine. Together, we can help free Ukraine from this occupation and unify this beautiful land and people once again.

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