Libraries Without Borders

Providing libraries without borders to refugees across Poland.

The challenge 

Refugee facilities in Poland are overcrowded and depressing environments with limited access to cultural materials in different languages. Books provide a lifeline to many refugees, who may be facing a range of mental health challenges.

The initiative

Libraries Without Borders grew out of Grupa Granica, a conglomerate of grassroots activists and humanitarian organisations helping refugees at the Polish-Belarusian border, which included an initiative to collect book donations and distribute them to the detention centres for refugees coming into Poland.

The challenge team decided to collect and deliver books to people in the detention centres across Poland, and to migrant and refugee communities already living in Warsaw. Together with the community, they are also determined to offer a place for cultural and language exchange in Warsaw, as well as promoting the culture and literature of the countries of origin of people finding refuge in Poland. 

Drawing on their local connections in Warsaw, they offer events that provide spaces for integration between the established local community in the city and new residents arriving from different countries. They have established regular meetings for skills and language exchange, and occasional larger community events, focused on sharing stories, recipes and cooking together, which provides a place to meet and strengthen neighbourhood bonds.

What’s next?

The challenge team wants to make sure that everyone has access to books in their native language, as well as improving the opportunities for migrants and refugees living in Warsaw. 

Working closely with the community, they plan to broaden the scope of their work: addressing specific needs of people in the detention centres and those already living outside, and providing books and educational materials in the Ukrainian language.

They would like to continue supporting people in detention centres across Poland, and they are starting to think about establishing a bigger library in Warsaw in the future too.

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