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Each of us can change the world for the better

In the halls of the Zamoyski Palace in Warsaw, Ambassador of the Swiss Confederation Fabrice Filliez and Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway Øystein Bø – in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Head of UNHCR in Poland Kevin Allen – opened a ceremony to celebrate the Nansen Refugee Award 2023. 

At the end of last year, for the first time in history, the winners of this prestigious award were Poles – Lena and Wladyslaw Grochowski, the founders and owners of Arche and the Lena Grochowska Foundation. The couple was honored for their role in helping war refugees from Ukraine. They received the award in person at a gala in Geneva last December.

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.

“People who have great financial opportunities should think not only about multiplying their income, but above all about improving the world. Contrary to appearances, it is not just the responsibility of politicians or some organizations. They will not do it themselves. I am proud that as a nation we were able to behave decently at a difficult moment in history, welcoming millions of Ukrainian women and children, the elderly and people with disabilities into our homes. The Nansen Prize awarded to our organization by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is first and foremost an honor bestowed on Polish women and men for their commitment to help, but it is also proof that we CAN and even TRUST in helping the vulnerable. Business must become more involved in solving social and ecological problems. We are all in the same boat and selfishness will only lead us to catastrophe‼️ It can’t be like this and we shouldn’t accept it…” – said Wladyslaw Grochowski.

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 to return to their homeland.

Over the years, the Foundation’s activities have expanded to include support for people with disabilities and in crisis situations, as well as projects related to 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. Currently, 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 helped – 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.

Prestigious award

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.

Adam Białas
Adam Białas
construction and real estate market expert, manager and advisor in many projects with over 20 years of experience, business journalist. He also covers financials, (M&A, IPO-WSE, development and financing, Private Equity / VC funds), IT, HoReCa, MICE, digitization, e-commerce and gaming. For many years, he has been cooperating with the leading media in Poland and abroad, with the most important organizations in the sector and international chambers of commerce. Globetrotter, culture and art lover.