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UUSC Board & Staff Visit Eastern Europe

Week-long trip provided crucial updates on how UUSC’s partners are doing more than two year’s after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

By Noemi Uribe on May 29, 2024

Between April 17 and 24, UUSC’s board traveled to Poland to meet with our Eastern European partners in the region and learn more about their work. From April 18 to 20, the board met with three of our partners in Warsaw, Poland: RegenerAction, Towards Dialogue Foundation, and Alliance for Black Justice in Poland. From April 21 to 24, the board traveled to Krakow, Poland where they continued their learning about the region and met with another partner, Martynka

Our first meeting was with RegenerAction, which provides psychosocial support to organizers in Poland and Eastern Europe to address the impacts of burnout and fatigue in the human rights movement. During this visit, our board was able to learn about their work and engage with community activists receiving support from their anti-burnout trainings. We were then invited to participate in a forest walk for human rights in the Bielany Forest, which ended with a community song in the forest with small instruments. At the end of our visit, the executive director of RegenerAction shared with me that this was the first time many of the community activists had come together in one space to support each other and organize. She was so grateful that UUSC was able to be a part of making this happen and is excited for what this will bring to their work on their newly purchased land in the forest outside of Warsaw. 

Our second meeting was with the Foundation Towards Dialogue at the Roma Community Center. The visit began with an introduction to the president and vice-president of the foundation. This powerhouse team shared the realities Roma people have faced and continue to face in Poland. They also shared about their recent focus which has been centered on supporting the Roma refugees from Ukraine who are fleeing the war in search of a safe place to live but have been met with discrimination. After learning about these struggles faced by the community, the foundation showed the board the joy and resilience of the Roma people. They invited us to their community garden where our board was able to meet families, play with the children and youth, and enjoy each other’s presence on a beautiful day. We then learned about Roma dance, art with screen-printing and coloring, and even actors who many of us did not know were Roma. At the end of the day, we were all reminded that there is more that unites us than divides us. 

Our last meeting in Warsaw was with our partners at the Alliance for Black Justice in Poland (BJP). Operating as a coalition of organizations and informal groups, BJP is a Black-led initiative with a diverse team motivated by the mission to support and strengthen Black, African, and Afro-descendant communities in Poland. Before our visit, the board members had signed up for three sessions to learn more about different topics ranging from media and representations of the Afro-Polish community to the history of the African diaspora in Poland. Each session provided our board members with so much knowledge about the realities of racism and discrimination experienced by Black people in Poland. After engaging in the sessions, everyone came back together and shared a little bit about their experience. Sitting in a circle, several of the BJP members shared their sense of hope seeing so many white and light-skinned people who were willing to listen and learn about the Black experience in Poland. 

After arriving in Krakow, a smaller group of board members came together to learn about the organization Martynka, a 24/7 helpline supporting Ukrainian women experiencing sexual violence. The group was astonished by how much they had been able to accomplish with such a small team and limited resources. This led many of the board members to think about how they could individually support the organization and even connect them with other funders to help Martynka continue to do this much-needed work in Poland. 

Overall, the trip was restorative and rejuvenating, helping to center UUSC board members and staff in the primacy of this work. Donating to UUSC’s Annual Fund helps supports learning trips like this and keep the relationship between UUSC’s board and staff and our partners strong. Please donate today! 

Image credit: UUSC

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