Norwich’s Polish Community Reaches Out To Their Newly Arrived Ukrainian Cousins

One of the great things about the job I have is coming face to face with the generosity and kindness that helps make Norwich the place it is and the home we all love. The way our city has responded to the plight of Ukrainian refugees has, as ever, been stupendous. As the saying goes – ‘we are a welcoming city’ especially to refugees, no matter where they are from or what they look like. That’s because we understand there is but one race – the human race – and we welcome all equally.

So it was wonderful to see a relatively new community in Norwich, the Polish community, step up to play its part in our city’s tradition of welcoming refugees.

Poland as a country has taken in more than 3 million refugees to date – a number which puts our own government’s track record to utter shame. Polish people here are doing their best to help the limited number of Ukrainian refugees that have made it to the UK – a people whom they have a very close history with. The 16th-18th century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth included much of western Ukraine and Belarus.

Norfolk Polonia CIC is a new Polish community group that has helped to spearhead a new charity, formed of different city organisations, to help settle Ukrainian refugees coming to Norwich. The event I attended was the Ukrainian Family Support Surgery – held at the West Earlham Community Centre. Here, newly arrived Ukrainians and those hosting them can receive help and advice on everything from visa applications through to housing issues.

As you can imagine, the list of bureaucratic obstacles facing Ukrainian refugees is high. Our government has not made it easy for the families hosting them or the refugees themselves, despite what they may say publicly.

The fact of the matter is, our country has become increasingly difficult for all of us to navigate. Whether it is poor, expensive rented housing and a rogue landlord, high hurdles for benefit claims, or employment issues – the ‘hostile environment policy’ the government adopted against many newcomers is one that now confronts all working people in this country. As has already been famously noted, “The way a government treats refugees is very instructive because it shows you how they would treat the rest of us if they could get away with it.”

It’s a simple rationale – treat people, no matter where they are from – with decency and kindness, and you’ll find it returned twice fold. The job of all of us is to demand politicians and government understand that. Here in Norwich, I’m proud to say the majority of us understand this simple and reciprocal approach very well.

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