Portland man’s cousins set up free kindergarten in Poland for Ukrainian refugees

Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 10:52 PM PST
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - Given the rush of people, especially women and children, pouring into Poland right now, a Portland man’s extended family is setting up a kindergarten to help.

The parents in Krakow are creating a free, temporary kindergarten as a place for Ukrainian children to learn and be cared for, and a place for their moms or grandmas to work too, as many of them have left fathers, husbands and brothers behind.

Chris Gniewosz took us through some of his family history, including that his father lived in what’s now Lviv, and at just 17 years old during World War II was captured by the Russian army while trying to escape and became a prisoner of war.

He was released after a few years but Gniewosz tells us other family members were killed or disappeared.

His parents eventually made their way to Portland.

Now what he sees happening in Ukraine hits close to home.

“I can relate to it secondhand because my parents went through that and I was kind of raised in the aftermath of it,” Gniewosz said.

More than half a million Ukrainians have now left their country, many flooding into Poland, crowding trains and waiting days to cross borders, often mothers and children having to leave their husbands and fathers behind to fight.

“Could you imagine a young mother with who knows, two, three children perhaps, leaving her husband behind and going to who knows where for who knows how long and she may or may not ever see her husband again,” Gniewosz said. “It’s pretty drastic. They often leave with nothing but what they can carry on them perhaps, no resources, no money, no nothing and to land in a foreign country.”

So Gniewosz’s cousins are doing what they can to help, setting up a free, temporary kindergarten in Krakow to give parents jobs and kids a safe place to learn.

Their goal right now is to help 100 children for a month.

“In those circumstances you have people that are walking around numb in pain of various kinds and they’re lost and a little bit of help can go a long ways,” he said.

They’re asking for donations for the kindergarten for teachers’ salaries, supplies and three meals a day.

You can learn more about it here.

Gniewosz is collecting donations through his business website as well. All donations through March will go to the kindergarten.