Bronxville guidance counselor volunteers at Polish refugee camp for spring break
A Bronxville school guidance counselor traveled to Poland to help refugees amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Jim Agnello is a guidance counselor at Bronxville Schools. With no concrete plan, he bought a ticket to Poland during spring break.
“As I was watching the news, it was just literally one of those ‘Aha’ moments where I was like, I have to do something that contributes to this,” Agnello says. “I literally got on the plane and just went. Other than looking at a map, I had no idea where I was going.”
He rented an eight-passenger van, found a hostel for $10 and a refugee camp near the Polish and Ukrainian border to volunteer at.
“We were literally feet from the border, like, I could reach out and touch Ukraine,” Agnello says. “They are coming across the border with just the clothes they’re wearing because their towns were bombed.”
The camp had beds for refugees, but no blankets. So, Agnello said he stepped in to help.
“I went out over the course of that night, and then the next day and I bought probably 350 blankets,” he says.
Agnello helped the camp with other chores as well.
“I cleaned the bathrooms, I cleaned the garbage cans, I worked in the World Central Kitchen for a whole night shift one night,” he says. “We worked on the bedding. Every day at 10, we take everyone out of the room and sanitize.”
Agnello says what was most impactful was hearing the stories of the refugees and what they went through.
“A 91-year-old came across with his daughter and they had been in their flat…the windows were all blown out by four missiles,” he says.
Angello says he plans to go back to Poland once school is over in the summer for a longer period.
The refugee camp Agnello volunteered at is a former supermarket, similar to a large Walmart. The supermarket owners decided to give the space to refugees while continuing to pay the rent.