Minneapolis aid agency Alight sends team to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees

A border crossing in Poland where Ukrainian refugees are outside for hours prior to moving on to the reception center.  (Alight )

A rapid response team with the Minneapolis-based aid agency Alight flew to Poland Saturday to join the efforts to help Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia's invasion. 

Two Minnesota natives. Alissa Jordan and Andezu Orionzi, were part of the group that left MPS Saturday. They will join Alight's team of 10 already on the ground distributing essential items including blankets and toe warmers, to Ukrainian refugees. 

More than 2.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia invaded on Fed. 24, according to the latest numbers from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with 1.6 million of those crossing into Poland. The mayors of Warsaw and Krakow have warned that they are struggling to accommodate the influx of people, which has shown no signs of slowing as Russia's targeting of civilian areas and infrastructure intensifies

Over the last few days, Alight staff have handed out thousands of blankets to refugees waiting in line near a border crossing and have also set up a warming tent, a spokesperson said. The team includes staff who were part of the agency's response to the last large-scale conflict in Europe, the Yugoslav Wars in the 90s and 00s, as well as former refugees. 

"I can imagine what Ukrainian families are going through right now," Alight Emergency Response Team Leader Igor Radonjic said in a press release. "My family experienced the horrors of war in the Balkans in the 1990s, and I was forced to flee myself. Our team will meet families where they are and amplify what they tell us so that people around the world can help Ukrainian families in the most meaningful ways possible."

Alight, previously known as The American Refugee Committee, was founded in 1989. Its headquarters is in Northeast Minneapolis.