Translated by Teresa Chang
Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, Poland has taken in the largest number of Ukrainian refugees. Our foundation has been helping offer support to the displaced Ukrainians there. Volunteers from more than ten countries traveled a while ago to Poland and combined forces with local volunteers and personnel from other humanitarian organizations to hold distributions and provide other aid to the refugees. The Ukrainians who had fled to Poland were not staying in just one place, but were distributed mainly in four cities. Nearly 40 Tzu Chi volunteers divided themselves into groups and worked in the four cities to help. Their mission was to provide material aid and to bring warmth and emotional support to the refugees. They listened as the displaced people shared their pain and anguish, and they gave them hugs and a shoulder to lean on. Seeing how our volunteers gave to ease their suffering really touched my heart. This illustrates how living bodhisattvas go wherever there is suffering.
Besides giving aid and support to suffering people, our volunteers worked to inspire love wherever they were. For example, a group of Taiwanese students studying in Poland joined our efforts in Lublin, eastern Poland, to provide relief to displaced Ukrainians. Our senior volunteers treated the students as mothers would their children and shared with them the Tzu Chi spirit of “gratitude, respect, and love.” They also shared with the young people how to go about a distribution to convey our love and care to the refugees. I hope the warm bond formed between them will inspire these youths to continue giving of themselves and become seeds of love wherever they may reside.
Our aid missions on the front lines couldn’t have happened without the help of many people. Take the blankets we’ve distributed: they are a labor of love of countless people. Our recycling volunteers had to first collect used PET bottles, then sort and prepare them to be melted into pellets, extruded into yarn, and woven into fabric before the final products could be packed and shipped to Poland. Similarly, the gift cards provide by us, each loaded with 2,000 Polish zlotys (US$450), were only possible because of the donations of many kindhearted people.
Many are contributing in whatever way they can. When the Dragon Boat Festival was approaching this year, our volunteers in Taiwan organized charity sales of zongzis to raise money for our Ukrainian humanitarian response. [Zongzis are sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves, traditionally eaten during the festival.] Some people donated rice and other ingredients, and others made the food. There were instances of people paying enough money for dozens of zongzis but then taking only ten home and donating the rest to be resold. There were also people who not only bought our zongzis but donated money to help Ukrainians. A volunteer in Taichung, central Taiwan, provided chopsticks made from ebony for charity sales too. A group of volunteers who were skilled at sewing made lovely stitched cases for the chopsticks out of recycled umbrella fabric. [The decorative cases made the chopsticks more appealing and allowed them to be carried easily for eating out.] Everyone gave in different ways with one goal—to help the refugees.
I am most grateful to everyone who donated time, goods, or money, and to the Tzu Chi volunteers who went to Poland to deliver our care and love to the displaced Ukrainians. We couldn’t go there personally, but they went in our stead. We couldn’t embrace the refugees ourselves, but they did it for us. Such is the relay of love. Those of us who can’t go to the front lines must do what we can to help so that we can give sustained support to the needy. I am also happy to see our foundation joining hands with other charity or non-governmental organizations to help the refugees. When everyone works together, each contributing their strengths, we make a bigger difference and can offer better aid to those in need.
When others are hurt, we feel the pain; when others suffer, we feel the sorrow. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in peace and safety must remember that while we are enjoying our blessed lives, a group of people far away are suffering and facing an uncertain future. Let’s seize every chance to give and help love spread by inspiring others to tap into their kindness. When we pool our love together, we will accumulate limitless strength and allow love to reach every corner of the world. When that day comes, then transforming our world into a Pure Land will be more than a dream.
Tzu Chi held its first distribution for displaced Ukrainians in Warsaw, Poland, on May 6. Tzu Chi volunteers and Ukrainian refugees also worked together to hold a charity concert on the same day. Pictured here are several volunteers and performers in the concert. Some are holding sunflowers, Ukraine’s national flower. Zhong Wan-yin