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This Purim, like the biblical Queen Esther and Mordechai who saved their people, Ukrainian refugee children in Poland are trying to help save the lives of their fellow refugees.

The fleeing Ukrainians travel for days, often on dirty trains with limited sanitary facilities, before they finally reach safety in Poland. They arrive at the refugee center, a converted shopping mall in Przemyśl, Poland, still wearing the soiled clothes they had on when they left home. Their biggest concern has been escaping the war, but now the lack of adequate hygiene is taking its toll, causing disease and infections.

Doctors and nurses from the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem, who volunteered to fly to Poland to help, have been on hand for over a week now, taking care of the thousands of refugees that arrive daily.

Dr. Meir Cherniak, senior physician in internal medicine and clinical microbiology and infectious diseases, and nurse Dana Ben-Bassat were alarmed when they saw the terrible hygienic conditions. Many of the patients they are treating at the refugee center have problems that are related to lack of basic hygiene. These include stomach ailments, infected cuts and infectious diseases.

When Dr. Cherniak realized the root cause of these problems, he drew up a list of basic hygienic measures and put them on a poster that could be placed in strategic places near the entrance to the refugee center and near the kitchen. The posters, in Ukrainian and in Russian, promote personal hygiene and also point out where free first aid is available. They proudly bear the logos of Hadassah and our partners, The Polish Red Cross and NATAN Worldwide Disaster Relief.

Realizing that this information needed to be made highly visible and not lost among all the other posters on the wall, Nurse Ben-Bassat decided to involve the refugee children who make use of the improvised kindergarten/playground, located next to the first aid station. She and Dr. Cherniak provided the children with crayons and markers and asked them to decorate the posters.

The children were very happy to be part of the project. They feel that they are helping to save the lives of their fellow refugees. When they were asked how the posters should be decorated, they immediately answered, “in yellow and blue, the colors of Ukraine.”

This Purim we can celebrate our brave little Ukrainian “Queen Esthers and Mordechais.”

From a blog by Attila Gulyas, Communications Manager for Hadassah International, who is a part of the Hadassah Emergency Medical Operation to treat Ukraine’s refugees in Przemyśl, Poland.

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