In Poland, women are taking the lead for ‘a little bit of security’ for Ukrainian refugees who are threatened with human trafficking

“Urgent! A mother of two crosses the border in Medica. Is anyone available?” Requests like this are piling up on the Polish Facebook group page “Kobiety Za Kółko!” (“Women take the wheel!”). You have to take a mother and her two children to Katowice. “Girls! Are any of you going to be in your home today? A kid is traveling there alone.”indicates another message.

The community includes more than 1,000 women across Poland: the drivers are ready to take the wheel to make performances for Ukrainian refugees – mostly women and children Safe trips by car. Because in addition to the risks of rape and sexual assault, many international organizations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, have warned of the danger of seeing those displaced by the war in Ukraine fall into the hands of human trafficking networks. On the road to denial.

The day started early for Ella Jarmlska. From her modern home on the outskirts of Warsaw, the 38-year-old Polish entrepreneur is putting the finishing touches to organizing a bus trip for refugees between Lviv and Warsaw. The first for the group, accustomed to car trips with four or five passengers. “Dorota is on the way. We may be able to take care of 70 people”Get excited about the co-founder of Women Take the Wheel!

Since its inception, its initiative has led at least 500 Ukrainian exiles on Polish roads. Depending on the requests they receive, volunteers take the roads for three, four or five hours towards the border posts. They come to search for exiles stunned by the fighting and offer them a first respite, time for the journey to their next destination.

A bus driven by a group member

From the very beginning of the Russian army’s invasion of Ukraine, Ella Garmelska insisted on working. After her first Ukrainian fundraiser at her daughter’s school, the 30-year-old wondered how she could be of more help. She took command on February 28, just four days after the offensive began. “I jumped in my car. I remember, I told my husband I was going shoppingshe laughs. Then I drove by car to Druhsk at the border.”

When I arrived at the border post after dark, the Polish woman noticed this “Many men offer rides” : “You had a lot of moving offers outside of the center, and a lot of people were waiting to be moved inside. Something was wrong.”

“I raised my hand, and said, Warsaw, three places.” And immediately three Ukrainian women came to see me. ”

Ella Jarmolska, co-founder of Women Take the Wheel!

in franceinfo

Talking to these exiles on their way to the Polish capital, the businessman understands how much they are “too weak” : “These refugees don’t know anyone. They are at the mercy of the people who help them.”She, too, would be horrified if she found herself alone with her child in a foreign country, without money and the shock of war, and, moreover, in a stranger’s car, she trusts. ‘It was necessary to provide them with a little safety’ emphasizes the head of thinking of the project.

The discussion started on Facebook, inviting men to “stay in the kitchen”and women in “Take the wheel”Ella Jarmlska smiles. The exchange became a group in which the women drivers coordinated and took turns every day to help those fleeing the Russian strikes. Since then, the entrepreneur has added about 10,000 kilometers to her car’s odometer. She usually drives very rarely, she says jokingly.

Ella Jarmlska, co-founder of the group

On the rear window of Ella Jarmulska, as on the windshield of a Katarzyna Proch, there is a Ukrainian-colored sign telling the refugees that the women will drive them: in a yellow shield on a blue background, a small car and the woman hashtag with the name of the group.

This morning, Katarzyna Proch’s box is filled with bundles of diapers, water bottles and children’s books that she will be handing over at the border, before she departs with several refugees. The entrepreneur’s majestic black car has six seats, an opportunity for the initiative she has been involved in since the beginning of March. Once or twice a week, a woman nicknamed “Kasia,” a mother of three, leaves Lublin, a large city in eastern Poland, for the Ukrainian border for “the women take the wheel!”.

After a cigarette stopped, the forty-year-old set out on an energetic journey on country roads towards the south of the country. She agreed to take us to the border, one way. On the way back, she wants to reserve her five passenger seats for refugees. The driver is waiting for a message from the group to know which border point to go to. “cassia” It has already relocated 18 refugees to Lublin or Warsaw, in response to requests “for three days or immediately”She says in a calm voice.

Her friend, Ella Jarmolska, pushed her to lead the refugees. I also got acquainted with these Ukrainian mothers who were thrown out on the roads. “Maybe Poland will also be affected. I too can become a refugee with my children”Pole explains.

“If I, in turn, had to go to Germany, I would not have imagined myself in a car with an unknown man. I would have trusted women more.”

Katharzina Broch, Driver “Women Take the Wheel!”

in franceinfo

At the border, the police told him they saw “A very imposing man is looking for a Ukrainian woman”, which was confirmed by several volunteers interviewed by franceinfo in Medica, a Polish town on the border with Ukraine. Stories of missing children and attacks on women are also circulating online, among volunteers and refugees. Police and regional defense forces are organized on the border. It means something is going on.”, notes “Kasia”. In Poland, a man was also arrested, on suspicion of raping a Ukrainian woman he was hosting.

Katarzina Brooch, member of the band

For an entrepreneur, there is no doubt: “The risks of kidnapping or rape are much lower, if any, with female drivers.”

“Women from Ukraine are already traumatized. We are helping to avoid further trauma.”

Katharzina Broch, Driver “Women Take the Wheel!”

in franceinfo

“Some women have an adrenaline rush, they take care of the children and never stop talking. Others are closed and apathetic, without energy to talk”, describes “Kasia”. This old lady is still talking alone in her car to the driver, “Sit like she’s already dead.”. She recounted that she witnessed civilians being shot at several times, as well as a child losing a leg in an explosion.

Passengers “very tired”after “I often traveled between five and seven days in a country at war.” “mentally”They ‘exhausted and scared’Supports Ella Jarmlska. The entrepreneur notes that before getting into her car, Almost all women I felt insecure” , worried about the future consists of many uncertainties. “They were afraid of what would happen in Poland. Who will lead them? Should they be riding in someone’s car they don’t know? ”

“Women have been telling me their boyfriends are being driven by men who have been scared the whole trip. It’s a five-hour flight, after going through traumatic events.”

Ella Jarmolska, co-founder of Women Take the Wheel!

in franceinfo

The exiles lay their care by Ella Jarmlska “about an hour” To trust the woman who leads them. The 30-year-old describes refugees “too reserved” At the beginning of the journey, who need to see their driver Make a phone call or give them access to the internetTo feel reassured. Halfway through, the displaced left. Ella Jarmolska noticed fits of relief, thankfulness, and most importantly, of women who ended up sleeping in her car. They finally felt safe, at least for a few hours.

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