Diversity & Inclusion

Supporting displaced people fleeing Ukraine: An on-the-ground personal perspective

June 20, 2022 - 2 minutes 30 seconds
A woman kissing her child on the forehead
Each year on June 20 we recognize World Refugee Day, an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It celebrates the strength and courage of people forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. After the recent invasion of Ukraine, Danny Salinas, CFO, TD Securities U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific, felt compelled to help displaced residents. With a small contingent from the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York, Danny travelled to Poland to assist with local efforts in Warsaw, Krakow and along the Ukrainian border.

What was your motivation for joining the humanitarian effort?

Like many, I felt helpless sitting at home watching what was happening in Ukraine. When the opportunity arose to travel to Poland, I immediately knew that it was something I wanted to do. In part, this desire was fueled by my awareness of how fortunate I am to live when, where and how I do, and I wanted to do something more to help those in need.

In hindsight, being on the ground in Poland was an opportunity to bear witness to the human impact of war and to provide emotional support to those in need; most of whom were separated families who fled their homes on a moment's notice and with little more than a small bag in hand.

What did your day-to-day look like while in Poland?

As you can imagine, each day was different. There tends to be a stereotypical vision of what a humanitarian aid camp looks like – but at first glance, nothing seemed out of the ordinary in the city centers. Poland has done an incredible job organizing to support people fleeing Ukraine. Big box and department stores have been converted into housing and supply dispensaries, and hotels and residents are also taking in Ukrainians, who they respectfully refer to as "guests."

Our main roles were to bring relief in the form of tangible and emotional support, to support humanitarian aid workers and to learn from diplomats and journalists. This included playing a game of soccer with children to give their mothers a small break, helping to set up a clothing shop so displaced people could select items they needed, and hosting dinners with families to provide them food and express our solidarity.

What would you say to others considering volunteering?

For those interested, it's not that complicated to go. Research local reputable organizations who are organizing missions. We were able to bring critical supplies and funds, along with our warmth, compassion and humanity to Ukrainians who have lost everything.

When we arrived in late April, there was an immediate need for necessities like diapers, feminine hygiene products and basic medicine. Over time, the needs of displaced Ukrainians will evolve, and they will continue to need support.
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