Coronation Street star Jennie McAlpine was among dozens of volunteers who gathered at a Polish centre in Eccles to sort through donations in a bid to help refugees escaping Ukraine.
McAlpine, who plays Fiz in the long-running Salford-based soap, appeared with her young daughter at the Wilno Polish Centre on Worsley Road in Eccles. The pair helped to pack a box containing old toys and clothes.
She said: “It was just fantastic…they’ve not got the space for it, there’s that many people who have brought things – the generosity of people is incredible.”
Other Salford residents donated second-hand and store-bought goods, including clothes, toiletries, medicine and more.
Eva Szegidewicz, aged 60, from Withington, has Polish heritage and opened the centre in 2019. She was approached about using the centre as a drop-off point for donations due its large open space.
Eva expressed the impact that the war in Ukraine has had on her personally. “I really didn’t think that this sort of thing in this day and age would happen”, she said.
“My grandfather fought in two world wars against the Bolsheviks, and the Soviets. To me, it’s just like history repeating itself.”
Poland has welcomed over one million Ukrainian refugees over the border, with many citizens offering a room for families fleeing the conflict.
Many took time off work to help. Malcolm Duffin, from Salford, heard of what the centre was doing in a local supermarket.
He said: “I couldn’t sit in my hands anymore. You just watch the stuff going on and it’s really hard.”
He spent what would usually be a working day volunteering and felt he had no choice but to help out.
“Among the books I just saw “Wow! Said the Owl”, which is the book that I read to my seven-year-old daughter and I just burst into tears, I’m doing it now… you can’t imagine what it’s like.”
Additionally, Stretford Fire Brigade provided one of their trucks to help transport boxes of donations. Local police, scouts and even Royal Air Force associates also turned up to lend a hand.
Schools and businesses in the area provided pre-packaged boxes of donations.
Sergeant Amanda Edwards, aged 50 from Eccles, a Speciality Engagement Ambassador for the RAF, said: “My community is one of the most important places in my life, so when they needed people to help with the effort in Ukraine and help with donations and sort them out, I didn’t give it a second thought.”
Donations began last Monday, however by Wednesday an appeal was sent out on social media seeking more volunteers due to the volume of donations made. One volunteer, Hayley Parrish, travelled from Bolton to help and estimated at least 50 people joined in the process.
“I didn’t expect it to be the way it turned out to be, I just thought we might have a few donations that would be that,” said Eva.
“As soon as we opened the doors on Monday, there was a queue of people, and the queue hasn’t stopped.
“People are bringing loads and loads of stuff; lots of clothes, toys for children, toiletries, all the basic things that the people need”.
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By Friday afternoon, the centre had to turn people away as they were inundated with donations and limited drivers to transport them to the processing hub in Trafford Park. From there, they are shipped and distributed along the 310-mile border between Poland and Ukraine to be handed to refugees.
Many organisations, including the Polish Centre, have appealed for more drivers and financial contributions to help aid their efforts in supporting Ukrainian refugees.
If you would like to donate you can do so via the Polish Integration Support Centre.