Representatives from the garment decoration industry in Poland and the US are hoping to work with their counterparts in the UK to help Ukrainian refugees.

People working for businesses such as garment decorators are invited to join a free webinar on Tuesday 5 April, from 6pm to 7.30pm UK time, where experts will provide updates on the crisis and what people can do to help. Click here to register.

The webinar will feature input from John Lynch, CEO and founder of European garment decorator Lynka, based in Krakow in eastern Poland, close to the Ukrainian border.

Other speakers will include Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, and Rawi Abdelal, professor of international management at Harvard Business School. It is sponsored by US-based promotional products supplier Gemline.

Rawi Abdelal Vitali Klitschko

Pictured above: Rawi Abdelal and Vitali Klitschko

John has spearheaded an industry response to the refugee crisis arising out of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine working alongside colleagues from the American Chamber of Commerce in Poland.

They are involved in setting up Corporate Aid for Ukraine (CAU), a charitable fund providing rapid-response frontline humanitarian aid to Ukrainians, both inside and outside Ukraine.

CAU also involves the Poland and Kyiv chapters of YPO, the global community of chief executives, and is supported by Mark Brzezinski, US ambassador to Poland.

In the US, CAU’s fund-raising efforts are supported by promotional apparel companies and trade bodies ASI and PPAI and their members.

John said that CAU hoped to set up similar links with garment decorators in the UK. “Our industry is stepping up and helping. It sends a message of solidarity and something that our industry can be proud of. It would make me very pleased to get the support of our UK cousins in fighting this.”

Ukraine reflective vests

Pictured above: Reflective vests supplied by Result and Lynka for volunteers on the Polish-Ukraine border

More than 2.4 million refugees have already arrived in Poland, according to a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report on March 30, with millions more displaced within Ukraine by Russian attacks.

John said that, at this stage, what was needed most of all was money rather than unwanted garments that might not match the needs of refugees.

“As much as the good intention is there, sending stuff – unless it’s pretty big bulk container volume – is probably not the best way to help from the UK.

“It’s actually quite complicated to donate stuff – and it’s extra complicated for the UK because of Brexit. With Mantis and Result, we had to work out a lot of paperwork issues because selling it to the continent is one thing but donating it to the continent is even more complicated.

“Clearly, money is the most valuable thing needed. The needs on the ground now are rapid-response needs. They need food, they need medicine. The stuff they need is pretty basic.

“We know how to get things done over here. I’ve been in Poland for 30 years, and there are a whole bunch of ex-pats here who know people and know how to get things done and speak the language.

“We have resources. We will buy the food here, we will load it on the trucks and get it into Ukraine next week – not in six months or three months like government aid. So the best thing, whether it’s £100 or £500 or £1,000, that would be the most beneficial way to help.”

Lynka has already worked with clothing company Result to provide reflective vests for volunteers at the border, printed with “interpreter” or “volunteer” in Ukrainian and Polish.

It has also received apparel, including children’s clothing, donated by Mantis World and its CEO, Prama Bhardwaj, and ensured it reaches Ukrainians who have been displaced by the war.

Lynka itself has provided jobs for about 25 Ukrainian refugees in production while Lynch himself has helped to find homes for refugees. Lynka has also helped to convert an unused Krakow building into a refugee centre, including the purchase of beds.