Ukraine: Couple hire hotel in Poland to house refugees

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A couple has rented out an entire hotel to house Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion.

Jakub and Gosia Golata, from Barrow upon Humber, Lincolnshire, emigrated to the UK in 2004 but have returned to Poland to aid humanitarian efforts.

Mr Golata started by driving refugees in a minibus to and from the Ukrainian border, but said he wanted to do more.

He has taken over the 180-bed hotel near Bydgoszcz, in northern Poland, for those waiting to be rehomed.

At first, Mr Golata picked up refugees on eight-hour minibus treks to the border and found friends and family happy to host them, but wanted to do more.

“I came up with this idea that if I would be able to rent an entire hotel and place these vulnerable mothers and children in a hotel, and then allow them to settle, feel safe, looked after and be able to come to terms with what’s happening, then that would be the best thing,” he said.

“And that would also allow me to find the local community volunteers so they can be taken care of a bit more.”

Volunteers and refugees outside the Park Hotel
The hotel has 180 beds, and is acting as a hub for Ukrainian refugees in Poland

He has been focusing on those from eastern parts of Ukraine where much of the worst of the violence has occurred.

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“It was mentally very challenging because the mothers were crying – they were uncertain about what’s going to happen,” he said.

Mr Golata said the purpose of the converted hotel would be to act as a “refugee hub” to provide support for those fleeing invasion and the Polish families offering to take them in.

“It’s a risk reduction and also a support for both, so much as we are worrying about the refugees we are also worrying about the adopting families, because they also need support,” he said.

Minibus used to bring refugees to safety
They have hired the whole of the Park Hotel to act as a hub for refugees

Mrs Golata, a serving officer with Lincolnshire Police, was in Poland on sabbatical caring for her mother when the invasion began. Her husband travelled over to be with her and help in the humanitarian effort soon after.

“We cannot carry on keep drinking tea and thinking about the crisis – now we’ve got hundreds of thousands of people exposed to potential abuse and sleeping rough,” Mr Golata said. “We need to act now.”

Mr Golata, who works on the HS2 rail project as a logistics manager, received backing from his bosses at Skanska, who contributed funds as well as giving him time to work on the project.

He has rented the hotel – which closed due to the Covid pandemic – with his own money and also linked up with the Polish arm of Sue Ryder to help with fundraising.

He hopes the hub will be taken over by government and the model replicated in towns all over Poland.

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