The group was excited, yet silent when Annelies Damen and Jitte Milder (Global Marketing Communication) entered the office of Damen in Gdansk on May 16th. They were a little shy at first, but a feeling of family togetherness bound all together. Seventeen Ukrainian evacuees were gathered around a table in a conference room, normally used for business meetings. Now the room was overloaded with emotions, gratitude and touching attention for all.
Respect for the courage of these colleagues was expressed. Heartbreaking stories were shared about how these men and women struggled to survive their sudden evacuation towards the Polish boarder by foot, having no food or water, going for hours, with no toilets and about how they even had to let their children sleep standing up. Annelies sat in the middle and took the time to learn everyone’s story.
In spite of all these terrible experiences and of the uncertainty about husbands or other relatives left behind, the evacuees from Ukraine feel they are safe now in Gdansk, being taken care of by Damen. Still, they deeply wish to go back to their homeland. Facing reality, returning soon does not appear to be a safe option.
Managing director of the Ukrainian office, Olena Zhukova, inspired to make the best out of this situation. “You have to look to the future, make the best out of it now in Poland.” The Ukrainian Damen people show impressive motivation to carry on with their work. To work every day and re-find a daily structure also keeps their thoughts away from the country and the loved ones left behind. The stories the evacuees shared, show that there is a big need to be able to “keep up and have faith”.
Meanwhile, there is practical need for housing, language lessons, mental help and physical care, like dentist and checkups. ‘Stichting Damen Helpt’ wants to fulfill these needs. Help is necessary, all donations are welcome.