Granddaughter of Righteous Among Nations sets up shelter for Belarusian refugees
A woman whose grandparents saved 39 Jews during WWII has now set up a shelter offering asylum to political refugees fleeing persecution in their home country of Belarus.
Called Mirnyi Dom (House of Peace), the shelter is part of the couple’s Humanosh Foundation set up in memory of Katarzyna’s grandparents Sława and Izek Wołosiański who were recognised as Righteous Among the Nations for risking their lives during WWII to help save Jews in Drohobycz, which is now part of Ukraine.
The Humanosh Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness of the Righteous Among the Nations as well as breaking down barriers of race, religion and culture and helping those in immediate need and had already been helping Belarussian political refugees in other ways before setting up the Mirnyj Dom.
Katarzyna told TFN that the aim of the Mirnyj Dom is to offer immediate temporary accommodation, help and support to political refugees threatened with persecution, jail and possible violence for opposing the government in Belarus.
She said: “The idea for Mirnyj Dom came when I heard from Jana, a student who has been living for a number of years in Poland and is an activist helping Belarusians in her home country.
“She turned to me for help in taking in people who wanted to escape the political repressions there.
“We are not a political organisation in any way, I have no experience in political activism, all we want to do is help people.”
Refugees are offered shelter at the house for up to three months, though in exceptional circumstances longer.
During this time they will receive help in sorting out all the formalities associated with their stay in Poland, help with finding permanent accommodation, a school place for their children, jobs and help with enrolling in Polish lessons.
Those arriving at Mirnij Dom come from a range of backgrounds, but are connected by their experiences of persecution and threats to their freedom, usually as a result of their participation in anti-government protests and activities, as was the case for Katia, a psychologist, and Losza, an artist, both current residents of Mirnyj Dom, who faced 3-8 years in prison for attending anti-government protest in Belarus.
Katarzyna said: “We currently help around 100 people as apart from the Mirnyj Dom, we have refugees who are living in flats rented by us.
“I can’t hide the fact that we have great financial needs and any financial support is really welcome, but also donations of food.”
She added: “It was very difficult to find a house in Warsaw, we looked for a long time, but eventually we found one we could rent cheaply from a kind gentleman called Tomek.
“We have been doing renovation works and still have more left to do, but it is inhabitable and there is even a conference room.
“We started renting it in February and there are currently 16 people living there.
“We have three families arriving soon and the house has space for 20 so it is already getting too small.”
This is not the first time the couple has helped those in need. Fifteen years ago they helped 30 Tibetan refugees to find safety and build a stable life in Poland.
They have also adopted two young Tibetan girls.
To find out more and support the Foundation’s fundraising, visit O nas - mirnyjdom.pl.