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Refugees this morning at Medyka border crossing wait for a bus to Przemysl. DPA/PA Images

'Money, money, money - that is what is required' - Irish politicians visit Polish/Ukraine border

The Journal’s Niall O’Connor is reporting from the border – he met Cathal Berry and Gerard Craughwell.

IRISH POLITICIANS WHO have travelled to the Ukrainian/Polish border to examine the humanitarian crisis have appealed to Irish people to focus their humanitarian response with financial donations to Irish aid agencies. 

Oireachtas Foreign Affairs and Defence committee members Deputy Cathal Berry and Senator Gerard Craughwell were on the Ukrainian/Polish border yesterday.

Berry and Craughwell have been vocal in recent weeks about the impending crisis in Eastern Europe. They met The Journal at Medyka just metres from the border and met refugees and aid workers.  

Berry, a former Irish army officer who has served on peacekeeping and humanitarian missions said that the trip was a fact-finding mission to better inform themselves of the crisis. 

“It is very important to be here, myself and one of my colleagues from the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee are here for a fact-finding trip.

“We have very good access to the decision-makers and ministers back in Ireland and it is critical that we cut through the layers, feed back good information so they can make good decisions.

“You need good information to make good decisions. It has been a very worthwhile and informative trip,” he said. 

Berry said he was impressed by the Polish efforts, both Governmental and volunteer, to assist the refugees. 

“There is no chaos here, no sense of panic, everything is in good order. People who are showing up are, the vast majority, women and children, 95% women and children. There are a handful of elderly gentlemen here but any men are pretty much working as part of the effort. 

“They are here for fleeing the conflict which is just a couple of hundred metres behind my back. 

“(My advice for Irish people) go through reputable organisations at home – give money to the Red Cross or make a pledge to provide housing through the Red Cross. The Irish Red Cross are the reputable organisation,” he added. 

Craughwell, who is also a military veteran, after his visit to Medyka and then later the converted Tesco shopping centre which is now a refugee centre, called on Irish people to find out what is needed before sending items. 

He also warned that he has seen evidence that Poland is at risk of filling up with refugees and called on other Governments to act. 

“(We need) to get people to understand the critical things that are required here rather than going on the great good nature of the people of Ireland – we need to go on something more than good nature, we need to be focused on what we are doing. 

“We have seen here at the reception centre, at the airports and here we have seen a very organised Polish community throwing everything into the mix. 

“We have been walking around here and we have seen what is required here – what is needed is nappies, medical supplies, food and money. They can buy everything needed here.

“I know a lot of people are sending clothing but with the best will in the world people that are coming here are not poor people. They are people displaced by war, well dressed and nourished people. 

“What we need to do is send money to Irish NGOs who can buy anything – we just walked out of a supermarket which is packed to the gilders – they can buy whatever they need. Money, money, money – that is what is required,” he explained. 

Last night The Journal reported from the centre of the local Polish response and spoke to Kamil Krukiewicz of the Przemyśl City Hall. 

Przemyśl is home to 200,000 residents, it is approximately the size of Cork city but it has become the centre of the Polish response due to being just 10kms from the border and also the terminus for trains from the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Lviv.

Kamil appealed to the Irish public to stop sending summer clothes and focus on winter clothing, medical supplies, items for babies such as nappies and baby food. He also said there is a need for female hygienic products as the vast majority of refugees are women and children.  

The Polish Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrzej Adamczyk also told this website that he would welcome greater Irish support. 

Two other Irish politicians, MEP Billy Kelleher and Senator Timmy Dooley, also travelled earlier in the war to the Ukrainian town of Lviv to assess the situation.