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South London woman travels to Poland to help ‘traumatised’ Ukrainian families cross the border

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A woman from South London who has been helping Ukrainians fleeing their country at the Polish border has opened up about what other Londoners can do to help. Angelina Riabi is a charity worker who has made a number of trips to the Ukrainian/Poland border since the conflict broke out earlier this year.

So far, Angelina has already made three separate trips to the border from her home in Camberwell to provide support and services to those in desperate need. Her work has included practical measures, including helping those crossing make housing arrangements and organise where they’ll be heading.

However, Angelina explained that those crossing the border are traumatised and require emotional support too. She has offered support by carrying bags, helping elderly people step down from the train and has even provided toys and face painting for children who have left their homes.

READ MORE: Brit, 48, from Watford fighting in Ukraine captured by Russian forces

A woman at the border supported by Angelina who escaped with her family and pet cat

Opening up to MyLondon, Angelina explained: “It is quite a chaotic place, it is classic organised chaos. There’s some structure to it, but it’s quite cobbled together. You can see there’s structure, but it’s not maybe as we’d expect it.

“It’s a lot of hanging around, and mums are trying to do the paperwork and work out where the hell they’re going next. The border is still hectic, but it’s more sporadic now. A lot of people have moved out and onto Warsaw or Krakow, so it’s not quite as busy as it was. A lot of the work is, ‘Where are you going next?’”

Angelina will be making her fourth trip out to the border next week, and is hoping to travel with drivers in a convoy who have arranged to bring some Ukrainian people back with them who are ready to travel. Describing the atmosphere at the border, Angelina explained: “There’s a real sense of defiance, but it’s tinged with sadness because they’ve had to leave, they haven’t had a choice. But there’s still this real strong feeling of, ‘We’re going to get through this.’ Somehow, they’re exceptionally resilient people.”

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Some play areas have been set up for the children crossing the border

She added she has met a number of inspiring individuals at the border. From the mum of six Yana, a widow waiting at the Paris centre for the Visas to travel to her new home in Manchester, to Zarina, who was forced to flee the conflict with her 18 month old son.

Aside from her work at the border, Angelina has been arranging fundraising and is encouraging Londoners to donate essential items required to those who need them. She has also organised a community group on Facebook where others can get involved.

“I think it’s really important that once people arrive [in London] it’s not just like, ‘You’re here now, let’s forget about it.’ It’s about community cohesion and cultural links […] it shouldn’t be a them and us situation, I’m hoping we can make it that each community does enough things that it’s in exchange.”

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Zarina was forced to flee with her 18 month old son

She added: “They’re very humble people, they’re not expecting all this help. They always seem very touched by how many people are coming to help them – but obviously the underlying thing is the sadness of leaving.

“You can see they’ve been through a lot, it’s on their faces. But at the same time, there’s this sense of hope. Eventually these people, in their mind, are going home. It’s not will we go back, it’s when we go back.”

For more information, or to donate towards Angelina’s campaign, click here

If you have a story you think we should be covering, feel free to email [email protected]

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https://www.mylondon.news/news/south-london-news/south-london-woman-travels-poland-23728962