Wisconsin's Polish community raising funds for Ukrainian refugee efforts in Poland

NOW: Wisconsin’s Polish community raising funds for Ukrainian refugee efforts in Poland

FRANKLIN, Wis. (CBS 58) -- As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians seek refuge in neighboring countries, Poland has opened its borders to help those looking for safety.

Waves and waves of refugees have crossed over the border, with Polish citizens opening their homes and businesses to help with the influx of people. That includes a close contact of Jeff Kuderski, the executive director of the Polish Heritage Alliance here in Wisconsin.

"Polish people are opening their arms to accept the refugees and that's the Polish heritage, tradition," explained Kuderski. "So I asked, 'Is there something I can do to help?'"

Kuderski immediately got to work on setting up a fundraiser to help provide money to his contact on the ground in Poland that is helping provide the thousands of refugees with resources needed to survive. The fundraiser launched on Monday and has already raised roughly $3,000.

"That's going to buy a lot of water, a lot of food, bread, butter and that's what these people need right now," Kuderski said. "They left their country with nothing, and it's women and children and elderly, and that's why I think it's important to help. This is not political. We're not taking any sides. We're not condoning either thing."

Marie Idzikowski works with Kuderski at the Polish Center of Wisconsin and has donated to the cause. She says that she is grateful to have an opportunity to help.

"If I can spare a dollar, I can spend five dollars, I want somebody to have a good meal. I want them to have a clean place to lay their head and have clothes on their back," Idzikowski explained. "Anything that we can do to help out, and sending funds is the easiest way. The money is there for them to see where it is needed most."

All of the money raised will be going directly to the grassroot efforts taking place on the ground in Poland. Kuderski says he plans to wire the first payment later this week or early next week and then will send more payments as the money is collected. He doesn't expect the fundraiser to last longer than a few weeks.

"This is a direct contact that I have and they're putting together care packages. He sent me some pictures of the boxes they're putting together and the lines of refugees and it's just very helpful that I can send him money directly, and it will be utilized that day or that evening," Kuderski said. "We're not going to take any administration fees out of this. There is a fee to wire the money and that's all going to be taken care of."

Along with the money donated via PayPal and in person, the center also plans to hold a 50/50 raffle during its popular Friday Fish Fry event and the proceeds of that contest will be donated. Kuderski says the generosity that has been on display so far is a great example of the Polish community's willingness to support those in need.

"Helping each other. That's what the Polish community is about," Kuderski explained. "Helping each other and staying together."

Anyone looking to donate can do so online at the Polish Center of Wisconsin's website or by dropping off funds in person.

The address is 6941 South 68th Street, Franklin, WI 53132.

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