This are translated exceprts about our partner project “Matynka” of an article originally published by Krystyna Garbicz in the Polish newspaper Okopress.
Nastia Podorożnia has been living in Poland for 8 years. She came from Ukraine to study at the Jagiellonian University. She is a journalist, interested in sex education, writes for the Ukrainian media about women’s rights in Poland. Recently, together with volunteers, she has been creating Martynka – a bot in Telegram that supports Ukrainian women who are fleeing or have already escaped from the war. (…)
She leaves her projects, work and is employed as a volunteer editor in the Ukrainian editorial office in Krakow. She is given the task of talking to representatives of WADI about human trafficking. Experts, including the organization’s director Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, tell her what it looks like in Central Europe.
“An expert from WADI told me then that when she was sticking a poster with information about such a threat at a help point in Krakow, other volunteers told her: ‘Why are you scaring people? «. Then I understood that something had to be done about it,” nastia says.
Do not drive alone. Take a friend with you
Nastia created a free hotline ー bot in Telegram ー that will accompany girls and women on their way from Ukraine to safety. The bot writes back in the language that the person asking has on the phone (there are four options: Ukrainian, Russian, English and Polish).
Martynka ー is the name of her niece. Martynka, because the god of war is Mars, and Martynka will be the defender of Ukrainian women. “I chose a woman’s name so that the girls would write to a friend,” Nastia says.
“Martynka’s friends will help you find a lawyer, psychologist, doctor, they will even go to the Polish police if necessary” ー writes in the first post on Instagram “Martynki”.
In the beginning, when creating “Martynka”, Nastia thought about the safety of women in general – the activity of the “friend” did not focus on sexual violence. But when she found out about the rape in Wroclaw, where 49-year-old Krzysztof J. sexually abused a 19-year-old Ukrainian woman whom he took under his roof, she was not very surprised. Sama survived an attempted rape in Krakow’s Błonia four years ago. So she decided to help Ukrainian women who have experienced sexual violence in Poland (for example, from people who offered accommodation) or in Ukraine (from Russian soldiers).
What can be done to help a person who has experienced something like this? Go together to the police, translate from Ukrainian to Polish at the police station, support so that the services do not discourage them from testifying and reporting a crime. And this is what “Martynka” and the team behind her helps in.
Many people who are fleeing the war want to help
Psychologists, designers and translators work for “Martynka”, mostly from Ukraine – refugees and those who live in Poland longer. Nastia searches through social media – you can apply.
Psychologists are the most necessary. This is what people writing to “Martynka” most often ask for. “They write people who have been abused, and those who, for example, are afraid to take to the streets after the attack. Some talk about the problems of their children who cry, moan, grind their teeth in their sleep. Someone else wants to talk about adapting to a new place. >>Summering, I suppressed all my emotions<< – wrote a person who found himself in a Western European country,” nastia writes in a text on the Zaborona website.
At the moment, “Martynka” is helped by five psychologists, but this is not enough. Nastia herself does not sleep much, because at night she talks to people who report to “Martynka” and need help.
They don’t always say: I was raped
Women from Bucza also wrote to “Martynka”, most often asking for a conversation with a psychologist.
“I ask them to identify the problem. They reply: “What else can I say here? I need to talk to someone.” They don’t always write directly: ‘I was raped,'” Nastia says. Not all cases are rape, and often traumatic war experiences.
Nastia ends the day of her 25th birthday by writing back to the raped teenagers from Bucha. We know this from her Instagram. Nastia reports that there are more such girls and women, but she asks journalists not to ask her about these stories. Thanks to this, women have confidence in “Martynka”. He writes: “My birthday ended in such a way that I mediated in arranging help for underage rape victims in Bucha. There are over a hundred of them (I do not know the details and I will not help journalists in dealing with victims). I am very anxious that we do not feed on the hope that “maybe it was not so bad”. It was very bad.” (…)
Help with abortion in Poland
On average, five women a day are asked about psychologists, how to safely find a job in Poland and not become a victim of violence, abortion, contraceptive pills, etc. As for the last point: refugee women do not know what to do, they do not know the language and often do not have the money to go to the doctor for a prescription (and he can refuse anyway). And you can wait up to two weeks for state health care (this is soon for Polish standards in health care, but two weeks too long in the context of the pill the day after).
“It shouldn’t be that someone has to help someone get a birth control pill. This is a violation of a fundamental human right.”
ー Nastia points out.
Hotline (chat, they do not have a phone number) “Martynki” cooperates with the international organization Women on web, which helps in such matters. Women on web help is available in Ukrainian.
“Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, at least 158 people who fled to Polish before the war and were in unwanted pregnancies have spoken to Abortion without Borders. They all got help,” the Abortion Dream Team wrote on Instagram.
Pro-life organizations scare not only Polish women
During the two months of the war, anti-abortion movements are also active, as evidenced by posters or leaflets with a bloodied fetus distributed at railway stations just after the arrival of refugee women.
“Martynka” warns Ukrainian women about this before the road to Polish. “For me, the important message is that this is your body. If you don’t want abortion – that’s great, if you want to terminate a pregnancy – you have the right to do so” says the founder of “Martynka”.
QR in the toilet
Anastasia goes to Przemyśl and from there to Lviv – so that the information about the existence of “Martynka” spreads as widely as possible. Women who fled the war often pass through these cities. At the stations, together with her friend-rescuer, she puts out leaflets. He also leaves them to volunteers. By post, he sends cards with information for volunteers in Kiev and Mukachevo.
“I never thought that I would contact someone through a QR code in the toilet” ー such a message was received by “Martynka” from a woman who saw a pink and yellow leaflet in the toilet in Przemyśl.
“Martynka’s” leaflets do not shout directly about violence: the bot offers Ukrainian women company in any case, even so that they do not feel alone, so that they have someone to talk to. Not only when something bad has happened. In Lviv, volunteers warned that posters warning about human trafficking and sexual violence, dark, with hands, frightened women and blood, deterred from using help. The activist explains:
“These posters are of poor graphic quality, too aggressive and scary. You read and don’t believe it can happen to you. It’s an abstract story for you.” (…)
Recently, Nastia also sent leaflets to Russian volunteers who help Ukrainians forcibly evacuated from Mariupol to Russia. These most often try to escape to Estonia, through St. Petersburg. “Martynka” also offers them support.
Please support this important project with your donation
We also like to thank the AJC Berlin for their support of the #SafeAid Campaign in Poland