How a West Yorkshire family mobilised a Polish town to help those fleeing war-torn Ukraine

  • ITV News reporter Katie Oscroft reports from Poland, where a huge humanitarian aid convoy has arrived from West Yorkshire

Taisa almost breaks down as she explains how her extended family had fled Kyiv in Ukraine.

"Some bad men from Russia, they attacked us with tanks," she says. "Children hear the sound and in the night when we are asleep we see this sight outside – it’s really dangerous."

Taisa is among 13 now sharing one large room in Lewin Brzeski – a Polish town, 300 miles from where they crossed the border and further from the besieged city they call home. Three of them share one of the beds.

The "scars" they bear become apparent when the children cower from the noises they hear outside, which they mistakenly fear are tanks.

But they are safe and they enjoy the relative comforts of food and water. Unlike some family members and friends left behind.

"Now we are here and it's very good," Taisa says.

"Thank-you very much all the people who have helped us and the people from my country."

Lewin Brzeski is more than 1,000 miles from Keighley

Over and over again she asks me to thank the people who had helped her and who were continuing to help Ukrainians.

Some of that gratitude is for people she has never met and probably never will – the residents of Keighley and Bradford, more than 1,000 miles away in West Yorkshire.

In a unique partnership those towns have joined forces with Lewin Brzeski, a sleepy, rural settlement in the south west of Poland.

An unlikely bond has formed, a common mission to help displaced Ukrainian refugees.

One family has brought this about. Alex Marcinkowska has her Polish roots in Lewin Brzeski. Her children Dominika and Julia, now 22 and 17, were born before she moved to England and settled in Bradford.

She galvanised support at the Good Shepherd Centre in Keighley, where people donated four container loads of supplies.

From there they were loaded onto lorries, before making the two-day trip across Europe to Lewin Brzeski, to be met by Alex, her daughters and an army of volunteers.

What happened next was quite extraordinary. Everyone formed a human chain and loaded box upon box of aid into the town's gym.

Aid is unpacked in the town's local gym Credit: Katie Oscroft

The Deputy Mayor of Lewin Brzeski, Dariusz Sleazy, was one of those in the chain. He told me he normally does karate in the gym, but it has now been commandeered to store supplies until they are distributed.

Some will go to refugees like Taisa, some will go to places closer to the border.

I asked several people what prompts Polish people so far from the Ukrainian border to welcome strangers into their home and time after time I was told, "this is what we do, it is our duty".

The community spirit evident in this town does not stop here and they are preparing to look after a total of 700 refugees. The population of Lewin Brzeski is not quite 6,000.

They are grateful too for the kindness of people in Yorkshire who have sent aid, and will be sending more.

But they are also nervous of how this war will develop and when it will end.

Taisa tells me: "My mum stayed in the motherland to look after animals and so we are really worried about family back there."