Wladyslaw and Lena Grochowski will receive this year’s regional Nansen Award from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The couple, who live near Siedlce, are being honored for their role in helping war refugees from Ukraine. The prestigious award will be presented in person in Geneva and is the first to be awarded in Poland.
The award, officially known as the Nansen Refugee Award, is presented annually by UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency for more than 70 years, to one regional winner per continent and one global winner. It is awarded to an individual, group or organization in recognition of their efforts on behalf of refugees, displaced persons or stateless persons. For the first time, this year’s regional winner for Europe was the Lena Grochowska Foundation in Poland, run by philanthropist and businessman Wladyslaw Grochowski and his wife, Lena. The commemorative medal and cash prize will be awarded at a ceremony on December 13 this year at the Palexpo Convention Center in Geneva.
“The Nansen Prize awarded to our organization by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is first and foremost an honor bestowed on Polish men and women for their commitment to helping refugees from Ukraine following the outbreak of war on February 24. I am proud that as a nation we were able to behave decently in those difficult moments in history and welcome millions of Ukrainian women and children, the elderly and the disabled into our homes,” said Wladyslaw Grochowski.
A communiqué from the UNHCR office stating the reasons for the decision by Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, reads: “Wladyslaw and Lena Grochowski have been recognized for their efforts in using all available resources of their foundation and Arche Group hotels to help refugees find shelter and employment, inspiring others to take action. Their philanthropic work has had an indelible impact on thousands of refugees, providing them with vital support including shelter, livelihoods and social integration. You have also used your voice to unite the business community and the public, creating a powerful force for positive change.
“I take the Nansen Award as a thank you for what our foundation and other NGOs are doing in our country, welcoming thousands of refugees, giving them a roof over their heads, helping them find jobs, education, develop interests, medical care and adaptation. It is also an indication of the need for such actions in the future, because the refugee problem will not be solved by building walls on the border. Let’s not forget that the war in Ukraine is still going on and thousands of families have nowhere to go. Therefore, it is important that at this stage we focus on adaptation measures, on education, and especially on vocational activation and helping those who do not yet have a job to find one. We should also not forget about dependents, the elderly, people with disabilities who need long-term support,” -concluded Lena Grochowska.
They have been helping for many years
The Lena Grochowska Foundation was established in 2014 on the initiative of Lena and Wladyslaw Grochowski to help Poles displaced to the Asian Soviet republics return to their homeland.
Over the years, the Foundation’s activities have expanded, and its main focus has become the support of people with disabilities and in crisis of homelessness, as well as ventures that oscillate around culture, art and tradition in the broadest sense. For example, the non-profit art competition “Looking for Nikifor” has been organized periodically for many years. At present, the Foundation provides employment and sheltered housing for 70 people with intellectual disabilities who were previously completely excluded from the labor market.
In addition to her work with the Foundation, Lena Grochowska is a painter and her husband Władysław is an entrepreneur in the real estate development and hotel industry, founder and CEO of the Arche Group, which donates 10% of its income to the Foundation.
According to the UNHCR Representative Office in Poland, with the onset of the invasion of Ukraine, as more and more refugees arrived in Poland, the Lena Grochowska Foundation and the Arche Group launched a program of free accommodation in Arche hotels and refugee homes across the country. As of November 22 this year, a total of 14,463 refugees from Ukraine have been assisted – providing nearly 585,000 free nights. In 2022 alone, the Foundation’s support – in the form of medium and long-term accommodation – will reach the value of 20 million PLN.
The award is named after the late Norwegian polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen, the first League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and winner of the 1922 Nobel Peace Prize. The first recipient was the wife of the 32nd President of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt – an American human rights activist, diplomat and columnist.
Since then, the prize has been awarded to more than 60 individuals and organizations, including Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, Italian opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti, King Olaf V of Norway, German President Richard von Weizsäcker, Humanity & Inclusion, Argentinean pianist Miguel Ángel Estrella, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, Congolese nun Angelique Namaika, Edward Kennedy, Jeel Albena Association for Humanitarian Development in Yemen, and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among others. Since 2017, several regional winners have also been recognized each year. This year, they will also each receive $25,000 to be used for ongoing humanitarian activities.
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