“We don’t need stuff, we need cash” says the Mayor of Rabka
Frome has a direct link to the war in Ukraine – and a way for you to help Ukrainians fleeing from the terror. Frome is twinned with three European towns. It is a four-way twinning, with representatives of three towns each visiting the fourth on a four-yearly cycle. One twin town is in France, another in Germany and the most recent to join is in Poland.
This week the Polish twin, Rabka Zdroj, took on a new significance as it awaits an influx of refugees. It is a small town with a population of around 14,000. While it is mainly in an agricultural area, it is more widely known as a winter-sports and spa resort. Its rural setting among the forests, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, has given it a reputation as a healthy place to get away from the pollution in Poland’s more industrial areas.
Just south of Krakow, Rabka, as it is generally known, is 120 miles from the Ukraine border and is preparing to give shelter to 500 refugees in its hostels and spa accommodation. It is not a wealthy town, but the population is keen to help its neighbours – many of whom would have been Polish had the Potsdam treaty at the end of the second world war not pushed Poland’s border westward.
Justin Worringham is the chair of Frome’s Twinning Association. “It is a friendship organisation, not a political one,” he says, “and as friends we like to help each other when we can.” Earlier this week, along with Frome’s mayor, he joined an online meeting with the mayors of the other three towns.
“While the meeting gave us a chance to express our support for the people of both Ukraine and Poland, the primary objective was to ask what Rabka needed from us.” says Worringham. “The Polish government will cover the basic costs of accommodation, but people have other needs like nappies, hygiene and sanitary supplies, medicines, clothes and toys for the children.”
The press is full of stories of people collecting supplies and driving across Europe to help those fleeing the war. While there is no doubting their good intentions, experience shows that truckloads of assorted stuff are not always the best solution. Worringham says,
“The mayor of Rabka told the other mayors that he doesn’t need stuff, he needs cash.” He added, “The four mayors have made arrangements to collect and distribute donations directly to people in need.” He went on to explain: “There is no shortage of stuff to buy in Poland. Allowing people to select and buy the things they need does more than just give them the items they buy. It gives them agency, a bit of dignity and a thin slice of normal life.” And we all know the value of a bit of normal.
You can show your support and make a donation through Just Giving from the Frome Town Council website or directly at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ukrainianappealftc