From the moment that Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February, Balham’s Polish White Eagle Club knew what was needed. A call-out for donations on Instagram and Facebook left its community centre flooded with duvets, pillows, clothes, toys and sanitary products. ‘We were humbled by the support we received at the beginning,’ says its media officer Kate Frolova.
She’s speaking to me from a busy café in Lviv, a city in western Ukraine. The background hum indicates that life is carrying on almost as normal, just with the occasional air-raid siren. The day before, she spent 19 hours in a car in the Donbas region so she could donate aid packages from the Polish White Eagle Club to a local orphanage. She’s also been working in Donetsk in an area that’s inaccessible to most officials.
Back in south-west London, the club’s organisers have found a waning interest in Ukraine’s plight. ‘We’re seeing a decline in donations because the war’s not on front pages any more,’ explains Frolova. To tackle the fatigue, the charity has arranged a fresh burst of activity. ‘We’re accepting funds because we know what’s needed on the ground and it’s easier to buy the products ourselves,’ she says. ‘We’re also helping refugees in the UK, integrating them into society and getting them education through Wednesday night meetings. And because lots of people arrive with few belongings, we’re providing them with quality clothing.’
What started as a local community appeal has evolved into a full-scale operation. As the war passes its 100th day, the White Eagle is renewing calls for non-perishable food, first-aid kits and baby products. ‘Everybody’s extremely positive and we know that Ukraine will win, there’s no other outcome,’ says Frolova. ‘I’d like to ask people not to just let it pass by. The war has been going on for a long time but it’s still here. So please donate as much as you can.’
Polish White Eagle Club, 211 Balham High Rd, SW17 7BQ.
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