SheltHer Operation Report
February-May 2022

The Ukraine refugee crisis – a snapshot:

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, one third of the population of Ukraine have been forced to leave their homes. This is the largest displacement crisis in the world today. More than seven million people have been internally displaced by the war inside Ukraine, with an estimated 7.15 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. A similar number of Ukrainians (9.6 million) have fled the country. In recent months, close to 1.2 million refugees have returned to Ukraine, mainly to the west of the country. According to the UNHCR, at the end of May over 7.4 million refugees were residing in European countries, with 60% residing in bordering countries (Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova) and 40% in other countries, mainly Germany. More than 9.2 million refugees from Ukraine have signed up for temporary protection or similar national protection programs in Europe. Inside of Ukraine, many people who have been trapped are unable to meet their basic needs, including food, water and medicine. Eastern Ukraine remains the current center of hostilities, although shelling and airstrikes continue in other areas. Supplying life-saving aid remains extremely challenging in the absence of safe humanitarian access to areas where the conflict continues.

Aid operations by Topaz, TAG and partner organizations:

Three months have passed since we started our operations in Ukraine. We launched a rescue operation “Ukraine is not alone”, led by TAG Development International and Topaz International. We later launched the “With You Wherever You Go” campaign, and in recent months have concentrated on the “SheltHer” project – residence centers where at risk women and children receive support and guidance, in the city of Rzeszow in eastern Poland.

Main activities:

To date, we have sent seven professional delegations to the border areas between Ukraine and Poland, which have included more than forty professionals, many of them senior professionals, experts in the fields of psycho-trauma, treatment of women and assistance to victims of sexual assault, movement and art therapy, out-of-home care for at-risk populations, and more. Many of the volunteers were and are Russian, Ukranian or even Polish speakers, and we operated in several arenas: at the border crossings between Ukraine and Poland, at the temporary residence centers near the border, and in the cities of Rzeszow, Krakow and Warsaw. Five more delegations are scheduled to travel in June-August.

The project encompassed the following activities:

  1. Assistance in rescuing hundreds of Jews from Ukraine to Romania and Moldova, including children of the “Alumim” boarding school in Zhitonir. (February-March)
  2. Providing humanitarian assistance (food, clothing, hygiene) to thousands of refugees in Jewish communities centres in central and southern Ukraine. (February-March)
  3. Providing assistance, support and guidance to hundreds of women, children and families at the Medica and Kraków border crossings, at temporary shelters in Tesco-Preshmishl, and at other facilities in the area, and to refugees at train stations in Krakow.
  4. Primary medical assistance to refugees at border crossings.
  5. Running training programs in the field of psycho-trauma for Polish, Ukrainian and international intervention teams. This activity included providing training to local teams, and “passing the baton” of many of the activities to them. This took place both in the transit areas and in the cities of Rzeszow, Krakow and Warsaw.
  6. Opening of residence and support centers for refugees and their families in the city of Rzeszow, operated by volunteer teams from Israel and the Jewish world. The support centres are run as part of operation “SheltHer” in partnership with the company ‘Celsius’. The opening of the centers included the purchase of equipment for the homes. About 15 – 20 refugee women and their children live in each house.
  7. Building a professional and organizational infrastructure for the absorption of refugee women and their children, and formulating assistance programs tailored to refugees and families staying in homes.
  8. Diverse community activity in various institutions, schools and agencies dealing with refugees, and the creation of supportive and mutually beneficial working relationships. Preservation and development of working relations with various agencies in the city working with Ukranian refugees, as well as with organizations and bodies located near Rzeszow, and bodies working at the main border crossing stations for the absorption of refugees.

Snapshot, last week of May 2022:

In the last week of May we have seen a significant decrease in the entry of Ukrainians into Polish territory. The scope of activities at the Medica border crossing and the station in Preschmish-Tesco has reduced significantly, and we have identified a reverse movement of Ukrainian citizens back to Ukranian territories. From the field we learn that the refugees currently need less immediate psychotherapeutic support (although there are populations with special needs), and the emphasis is now on organizing and readapting inside the country itself. Their immediate needs at this stage are centered around security and stability: finding new connections in the community, mutual support, enrolling children in educational frameworks, exercising rights as refugees and looking for work and housing.