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Hello from Cieszanów!

This update is provided by our VFU Forward Commander located in Cieszanów, Poland. 4/2/22

Good morning from Cieszanow, Poland!

It’s been a week and I thought I’d drop you a note to share our progress, here at Volunteers for Ukraine (Forward). We’ve been very fortunate to have accomplished so much in such a short of time.  As you recall, our core mission is to assist vetted and qualified volunteers to make it to other organizations where they can best serve refugees. 

This initial week was devoted to setting up an HQ on the Polish border, gaining an appreciation for conditions on the ground in terms of the needs of the refugees (and Internally Displaced Civilians (IDPs), the other benevolent organizations in our area, the local civilian leadership (on both sides of the border), and the details of border crossing procedures.  I am thrilled that we have captured all of these intended atmospherics.

We have partnered with an amazing Polish foundation called Folkiwisko. They cared for 30k people that were lined up at the border in the opening days of the conflict and continue to push humanitarian aid into Ukraine at an amazing rate. We have relied heavily on their assistance this past week and I look forward to a continued partnership with them. We have garnered the full support of the mayor of Cieszanow and he has allowed us to occupy a vacant elementary school in town to base our operations. 

I have also met with additional Mayors and civic leaders on the Ukrainian side to and assess their needs, concerns, activities, and to introduce VFU. We declared Initial Operating Capability (IOC) two days ago with our capacity to receive inbound volunteers, conduct basic management and growth of VfU-Forward, secure a HQ, secure a vehicle (2), and to achieve minimum HQ manning requirements. We are up and running!

The next step toward Full Operational Capability (FOC) begins tomorrow with the efforts to establish our Lviv operations base. We are deploying our Advance Party to replicate our activities of the last week in Cieszanow.

The refugee status and trends of assistance to them have adjusted over the past few days.  We are seeing a significant shift from people fleeing Ukraine to a state in which people are fleeing the fighting by migrating to western Ukraine and NOT crossing into Poland.  In fact, we see a trend of people returning to Ukraine to check on their affairs or to join family for the Easter season. There is still a requirement for volunteers, but it seems to be localized to Lviv and not along the border. Some organizations are capitalizing on the reduced throughput of refugees fleeing Ukraine to increase their material stocks for an anticipated “next wave” of refugees and casualties.

I have been fortunate to visit Poland several times when I worked out of SOCOM HQ as a NATO specialist, but the outpouring of love and empathy of the Polish people is awe-inspiring. In my 33yrs in the Army I have never seen the enormity of care, concern, and love as I’ve seen this past week (excluding our own USA). Since we were not present during the peak of the refugee crisis, I’d offer that from my limited time on the ground, the biggest takeaway message is the inspiring response of the Polish to this historically tragic event.

By this time next week, we intend to have the Lviv forward support base occupied and established.  We are likely to gain additional lines of effort to include running an ambulance service and manning two micro-clinics.  I’d like to mention that concurrent with our busy week, we have still managed to assist our inbound volunteers in navigating toward their targeted organizations. Thank you, again, for your contributions and continued interest in our organization and mission.  I’ll drop you another note soon to keep you up to date.

God bless you and your family,

-Robie

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