It is six weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine. Over that time we have witnessed the incredible bravery, resolve and heroism of the Ukrainian people. We have also seen the unimaginable terror, horror and brutality unleashed on the Ukrainians by Putin’s Russian forces.
The response of the UK has been bold and strong. We have provided military, diplomatic and financial assistance to Ukraine. There has also been an exceptional humanitarian response- both financially and practically. Offers of help and assistance have been made by so many in our own community of Dover & Deal and across the country. My team and I have been working hard to accelerate visas under the family reunion and Homes for Ukraine schemes.
Last week I went to Poland as part of a Parliamentary delegation to see how Poland was responding to the Ukrainian crisis. I met with Ukrainian refugees, aid agencies, Polish officials and politicians.
The response of Poland has been inspiring and humbling. I met with the Governor of Pomerania, a regional local government which hosts 60,000 refugees. About half of the refugees have been hosted in individual homes and half in regional council arranged accommodation.
While in Poland, I visited three different types of accommodation that have been provided to refugees. One was a beautiful retreat run by the Catholic charity Caritas. The second was a converted student accommodation block in a state run scheme. The third was an orphanage set in a holiday home park where I worked with the AK Foundation, alongside its founder the world champion boxer Amir Khan, to build an outdoor playground for refugee orphans. In each case, the quality of accommodation, food and care was exceptional.
Poland is providing extraordinary neighbourly support to fleeing Ukrainians. The overwhelming majority of refugees are women and children. In normal times, Poland has a large number of Ukrainian men who come to work in Poland from the Ukraine. When the war broke out, we were told that wives joined their husbands and brought their children to safety. Knowing they were safe, the men went back to fight, leaving their wives and children in Poland.
Inevitably there is a great sadness surrounding the meetings with Ukrainian refugee women and children. They are grateful for the sanctuary, but they want to stay near to their home country, and their menfolk. Most of all, they want to return home to Ukraine.
I also met with a number of Polish officials and politicians. What was clear from these discussions that the situation in Ukraine is seen as a grave danger to Poland’s own security as well as that of Ukraine.
Poland is a NATO member. While in Poland I went to the Gdańsk shipyard to discuss new navy ships being built led by specialists from Scotland’s shipyards. The threat of the current Russian crisis underlines the continuing importance of the NATO military alliance.
Our countries, the United Kingdom and Poland, are so closely aligned. We share a spirit of generosity and give our hospitality freely. Together, we stand with Ukraine.