A HUSBAND and dad of two from a village near Tadley who volunteered at a refugee centre in Poland says it was heart-breaking and emotional to see thousands of Ukrainian refugees leaving their homes behind.
Robert Lissman, who is also a parish cllr from Little London near Tadley, volunteered at a refugee centre in Korczowa for four days.
The 52-year-old who works at the regulatory and compliance department of a London bank said his experience in Poland has made him more grateful for the things he has.
“It was truly heart-breaking,” Robert told the Gazette, after reaching his home in Little London.
“I have never seen anything like this in my life. It was also inspiring to see so many volunteers helping out and donations flowing in from all over Europe.
“I worked at this refugee centre where buses from across the border would come in every 30 seconds to one minute. Refugees arrive there with their kids and bags and pets. Some of them have been walking for miles. They stop outside the centre and walk to a warehouse where there are flags of different countries on the wall.
“They can register there. Some of the wait for a couple of hours depending on when their buses leave. From there they go to different cities in Poland, or Paris or Amsterdam or Brussels.”
Robert said he decided to volunteer after seeing a friend from another bank posting on social media about his experience in Poland.
Like everybody else, Robert was also moved by what was being shown on television and news.
“I decided on March 10 that I am going to go to Poland,” Robert said.
“I flew out from Luton airport to Krakow and drove out 250km to a town called Korczowa near the border.”
However, the trip wasn’t easy for Robert as he hardly slept during the volunteering days. He spent most of the cold nights in his hired car when at the refugee centre.
“I felt bad about taking a bed from the refugees,” he said.
“I heat the car up, turn the engine off and go to sleep. I was thinking I can always sleep and rest later. I have a house to be at, but those people don’t.
He was given a sleeping bag only on the last day of his mission.
During his stay there he was helping the Polish volunteers with unpacking boxes and packaging small goodie bags of snacks, drinks and essential items.
Robert said his experience in Poland has made him more compassionate in life.
“I’ve always been a person who is grateful for the things we have,” he said.
“This experience probably made me realise much more grateful for the things we have, not to get stressed from work.
“I’ve also been a compassionate person. But this has opened my eyes to be more compassionate and try more to help people. If you are in a position to help, you should do something.”
If you wish to donate to a charity close to Robert’s heart, visit World Central Kitchen.