NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — More than 2 million Ukrainian refugees have fled to Poland, and some of them will eventually be coming to Connecticut. And there aren’t many communities that have a stronger tie to Eastern Europe than New Britain.
The city's Little Poland business district was renamed Little Ukraine for the month of March. It’s a place where tradition and heritage spill out onto the streets.
“A lot of the Ukrainians who come over here live right here amongst us every single day,” said Nicholas Erlacher, the Owner of the New Britain Flower Shop.
The Polish-owned travel agency in Little Poland has been busy collecting donations for Ukrainians and booking flights to Poland for residents like Mariusz and Tatiana Grabowski. They are flying to Poland with a plan to rent cars and shuttle refugees back and forth across the Polish / Ukrainian border.
“Innocent people are getting killed,” said Mariusz.
Tatiana’s mother had to be evacuated from a Ukrainian hospital to Czechoslovakia after breaking her hip.
“They moved her mother about two weeks ago to Czechoslovakia because they were scared over there,” said Mariusz.
FOX61 found Nicholas Erlacher arranging his sunflowers inside the New Britain Flower Shop. Sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine.
“I’ve been doing a lot with them because ironically the sunflower, that’s their national flower that stands for peace in a country that right now is so broken by war,” said Erlacher.
The family of Marlo Bish knows about war.
“My grandmother was a refugee herself and came over many many years ago,” said Bish.
President Biden visited Poland on Friday. The President says the United States is prepared to welcome 100,000 refugees. Gov. Lamont has said Connecticut would welcome them with open arms.
“It’s heartbreaking with what’s going on over there and it’s nice to see that New Britain has been so accepting to the refugees that have been coming over,” said Bish.
Refugees will be coming here slowly over the course of the next year, according to the executive director of the Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS), a Connecticut-based refugee resettlement agency.
They will be afforded social service support for the first three months while they work to get a job and support themselves.
More than 284,000 Polish-Americans currently live in Connecticut along with more than 20,000 Ukrainian Americans.
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