Little Poland in Connecticut ready to help Ukrainians fleeing war

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There are 285,000 Polish-Americans living in Connecticut and 20,000 Ukrainian-Americans

NEW BRITAIN, Connecticut – More than 2 million Ukrainian refugees have fled to Poland, and some of them will eventually come to Connecticut. And there aren’t many communities that have a stronger connection to Eastern Europe than New Britain.

The Little Poland business district has been renamed Little Ukraine for the month of March. It is a place where tradition and heritage spill out into the streets.

“A lot of Ukrainians who come here live here with us every day,” said Nicholas Erlacher, owner of the New Britain Flower Shop.

Poland’s Little Poland travel agency has been busy collecting donations for Ukrainians and booking flights to Poland for residents like Mariusz and Tatiana Grabowski. They fly to Poland with the intention of renting cars and transporting refugees between Poland and Ukraine.

“Innocent people are getting killed,” Mariusz said.

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Tatiana’s mother had to be evacuated from a Ukrainian hospital to Czechoslovakia after breaking her hip.

“They moved his mother about two weeks ago to Czechoslovakia because they were scared there,” Mariusz said.

FOX61 found Nicholas Erlacher arranging his sunflowers inside the New Britain Flower Shop. The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine.

“I’ve done a lot with them because, ironically, the sunflower is their national flower which represents peace in a country that is currently so broken by war,” Erlacher said.

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Marlo Bish’s family knows the war.

“My grandmother was a refugee herself and came many years ago,” Bish said.

President Biden visited Poland on Friday. The president says the United States is ready to take in 100,000 refugees. Governor Lamont said Connecticut would welcome them with open arms.

“It’s heartbreaking to see what’s going on there and it’s nice to see that New Britain has been so welcoming to the refugees who have come,” Bish said.

Refugees will come here slowly over the next year, according to the executive director of Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS), a Connecticut-based refugee resettlement agency.

They will receive social assistance for the first three months while they work to find a job and support themselves.

Over 284,000 Polish Americans currently live in Connecticut along with over 20,000 Ukrainian Americans.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and instagram.

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