Chingford News Walthamstow

Walthamstow shop delivering regular donations to Ukrainian border

The Chingford siblings behind Peeld in Walthamstow say they will make as many trips as needed
By Victoria Munro

Gabriela Anisko has been travelling to Poland regularly to help Ukrainian refugees
Gabriela Anisko has been travelling to Poland regularly to help Ukrainian refugees

The Chingford siblings behind a Walthamstow restaurant are delivering regular donations to the Ukrainian border and say they will make as many trips as needed.

Gabriela and Bartek Anisko, owners of Peeld Poke & Acai in Orford Road, grew up in Poland, which borders Ukraine and was a part of the Soviet Bloc until 1989.

With recent experience of living under Russia’s thumb, Gabriela explained Polish people feel compelled to help Ukrainians – in some cases even giving away spare homes – including her parents Malgorzata and Wojciech, who rushed to the border to receive refugees.

Following their example – and with the help of a relative in the export business – the siblings collected donations in Walthamstow to take to the Polish border with Ukraine, delivering their first load on 3rd March, and have been taking more ever since.

Ukrainian refugees sleeping on the floor of Warsaw station (credit: Gabriela Anisko)

Describing the scenes as she first arrived in Warsaw, Gabriela said: “I was not prepared for it, I had to go in the toilet and cry for a little bit, it was very difficult.

“Whenever I go to Poland, it’s just empty because it’s a very big country with not a lot of people. This was the first time I have ever seen it so busy, there were people and kids everywhere.

“For me, one of the saddest parts was seeing about 20 people cradling their cats… these people were evacuating the country and still brought their pets.”

Gabriela stayed for a few days, helping her mother sort the donations with the help of Polish charity Fundacja Rodziny Czarneckich.

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Her father loading donations into the family’s campervan (credit: Gabriela Anisko)

She explained her parents initially traveled to the border just to drop off food, including 1,500 sandwiches made by Polish football fans, but ended up camping in their van to continue volunteering.

“My parents live on the Russian border so when the invasion happened I called immediately and told them to pack up and come here, where it’s safe, in case it escalates,” she said. 

“But my dad said, if Poland gets invaded, he would go back in the army, he was not leaving the country. He’s 52 but it took a lot of convincing to stop him going to Ukraine to fight.

“Polish people feel they have to help because this happened to them, when we came out of WWII the country was just left to the Soviet Union to do whatever they wanted. They won’t let that happen again to another country.”

She described how Polish families had taken in those fleeing Ukraine, including “tons and tons of people that have literally signed away properties and given families the deed to the house”. 

Similarly, in Walthamstow, Peeld has been overwhelmed with donations, having to shut down its initial drive after just one day “because the shop was literally full to the brim”.

In addition to collecting supplies, the family is also collecting money on JustGiving to help buy items like some medications that cannot be exported.

However, Gabriela noted that, in most cases, it is actually cheaper to buy stuff in the UK and deliver it to Poland, as “inflation is going through the roof”. 

Peeld – at 69 Orford Road, E17 9NJ – is currently calling for donations of non-perishable food, underwear, slippers, shampoo, deodorants, soap and washing powder.

Let us know about your local volunteering efforts to help Ukraine for a special story in our next edition by emailing [email protected].

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