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Oct 02nd
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Home Global Activities Europe Tzu Chi Holds Free Dental Clinics for Ukrainians in Poland

Tzu Chi Holds Free Dental Clinics for Ukrainians in Poland

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Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Tzu Chi volunteers Shu-erh Chang and Lukasz Baranowski have been actively assisting Ukrainian families who fled to Poznan in western Poland. They discovered that many Ukrainian families not only face the trauma of being uprooted from their homes, but also have to bear medical expenses that far exceed what they can afford, when they fall sick.


Hard Situation

Dentistry is an example.  In Poland, the scope of free dental prevention and treatment is very limited. Even families with jobs who are required to pay for health insurance only receive basic examination services. Waiting times for appointments can sometimes be as long as two to six months; this is of little help for emergency dental treatment. The situation is dire.

A person seeking treatment in a private clinic, simply to consult a dentist about the condition of his teeth, typically pays an average of 200 Polish zloty (approximately US$48.12). Root canal treatment for one tooth typically requires an additional at least 350 Polish zloty (US$72.18), while tooth extraction costs around 200 Polish zloty. These costs do not include fees for X-ray examinations, anesthesia, pain relief, and medications. Therefore, a single dental treatment can easily cost between 800 and 1,000 Polish zloty (US$192.49 to 240.61). This is a great burden for Ukrainian families without jobs.

Relieve Suffering from Illness

There is a saying: “Toothache is not an illness, but it can be life-threatening when it hurts!” Toothache cannot be taken lightly. Sensing the urgent need of Ukrainian families for medical care, Shu-erh Chang and Lukasz Baranowski reached out to Professor Karolina Anna Gerreth; she works at the affiliated hospital of Poznan University of Medical Sciences. They explained to her the medical difficulties faced by Ukrainian families. After hearing their explanation, Professor Gerreth readily extended a helping hand and agreed to provide free dental check-ups – this has led to a collaboration between the two sides.

Professor Gerreth studied pediatric dentistry at the Karol Marcinkowski Medical University in Poznan and obtained her diploma in 2002. She has actively conducted scientific research, specializing in dental caries and enamel defects in the primary dentition of Polish children. She has also analyzed the impact of genetics on dental caries. Additionally, she also studies and evaluates the treatment needs of disabled and chronically ill children in special schools in urban environments, as well as the barriers to receiving dental health.

During a distribution of Solidarity Boxes to Ukrainian refugees, Shu-erh and Lukasz met Olena from Lviv, Ukraine, who was studying dentistry at Poznan University of Medical Sciences. When she was young, her parents emigrated to Canada. After completing her education in Canada, she came to Poznan to continue her studies in dentistry.

To help her fellow countrymen, Olena previously raised funds for medication after the Russian invasion began. She hoped to help not only her stranded relatives but also more people in her home country.

At Olena's invitation, eight dental students from Poznan University of Medical Sciences joined the Tzu Chi Foundation as volunteers to participate in a dental charity event in collaboration with Dr. Gerreth. They provided free dental check-ups and treatments for children under the age of 18, including Taiwanese students studying in Poznan. After the first event on February 10th, 2023, they held a second event on March 29th. They targeted low-income Ukrainian families who urgently needed tooth extraction but could not afford the high cost of treatment.

Extend a Helping Hand

The volunteers first helped the children and their parents who came for the dental check-up to fill out registration forms and so shortened their waiting time. Under the guidance of the professor, the children underwent X-ray examinations to understand the condition of their teeth. Then, led by the volunteers, the dental students cleaned their teeth and provided fluoride treatment.


Halyna, a 66-year-old from the occupied city of Mariupol, still remembers February 24, 2022, the day Russian troops began a three-month siege of Mariupol. She and her family, along with 18 neighbors, hid in the basement of a nearby grocery store. Every day, they took turns to keep watch; the women waited for nightfall to sneak upstairs and gather food from the grocery store to prepare dinner for everyone.

Life in the basement was cold and unbearable, especially for the children. When the sound of Russian bombs and gunfire grew closer and destroyed their home, Halyna could only hold her granddaughter's hand and flee. She can never forget seeing the bodies of her compatriots on the journey to Poland. She was unable to stop and cover them with a white cloth; all she could do was close their eyes and mourn silently.

Guided by the Polish government and residents, Halyna came to Poznan as a temporary residence. However, her granddaughter Martha suffers from epilepsy; registering disabled people in Poland is a lengthy and complicated process. Additionally, they did not have the diagnostic documents required to purchase special prescription drugs. Moreover, the elderly Halyna could not find a job; this made their lives even more difficult.

Fortunately, in August 2022, with the assistance of the Social Service Center (MPOS) of the Polish government, Halyna received economic aid distributed by Tzu Chi. This dental charity event once again brought her and the Tzu Chi volunteers together and strengthened their bond.

Agapitova Nina

Agapitova Nina had been suffering from toothache for some time; but the high cost of dental treatment in Poland made her hesitate to seek medical help. She suspected that she needed to have a molar extracted to relieve the pain and swelling. When she learned of Tzu Chi's monthly dental clinic in Poznan, she quickly signed up, hoping to solve her dental problem through this service.

Natasha and Sasha

Thirteen-year-old Sasha from Kyiv came with her mother Natasha to the Poznan University Hospital. After the outbreak of the war last year, the mother and daughter had to flee without packing any clothes. Ten days ago, they went to Zhytomyr, a city 120 kilometers (about 74.56 miles)  from Kyiv near the Belarusian border, to seek refuge with relatives.

Upon arrival, they realized that Zhytomyr was also occupied and very unsafe. The family hid in a cold basement; but the constant alarms and explosions made it impossible for them to sleep at night. Even if they fell asleep from exhaustion, they were awakened by the sound of explosions.

On March 4th, a school next to the basement where they were staying was destroyed by a rocket; this forced the mother and daughter, along with other families, to flee once again. It took them 49 hours to reach Poland, and they did not sleep during the journey. They finally arrived in Poznan safely on March 9th, exhausted from the long journey.

A Ray of Hope

In April, while going to the Tzu Chi Foundation to receive economic assistance with their Ladybug Card, Sasha and her mother Natasha met Tzu Chi volunteers Shu-erh and her husband Lukasz. They were inspired by the volunteers' dedication and decided to join the Tzu Chi volunteer team. They became the first recipients of the dental clinic service in 2023.

During the dental check-up, the dental professionals and volunteers were very friendly and approachable; this made the children feel at ease and comfortable during the treatment. Their teeth were cleaned and polished;  after the treatment, the volunteers gave them more knowledge about dental health. Each child received a small gift as a token of appreciation for their bravery.

"I am very grateful to the Tzu Chi Foundation, the dentists who participated in the dental check-up, and brothers and sisters from the medical school," said Sasha. She was really afraid of having her tooth extracted, but the dental professionals were very kind and gentle. "Now I feel much better, I can eat without pain," she added.

Since March 2022, Tzu Chi in Poland has provided different forms of assistance to Ukrainian families in Poznan, including food, clothing, and medical supplies to vulnerable households and injured soldiers. They have also organized haircuts for children and teenagers, as well as Polish language and entrepreneurship courses. They have also provided economic aid to help them pay for rent and other necessities. Shu-erh and Lukasz plan to continue providing free dental services each month to those who cannot afford it.

The work of the Tzu Chi Foundation in Poznan is just one of the many ways to change the world. Charitable actions remind people that even small acts of kindness can have a positive impact on the lives of those in need and bring them hope and healing.

A Jing Si Aphorism says: “Life is impermanent, but wisdom-life lasts forever. Love is boundless; its spirit will live on.”

Join Tzu Chi. Let us spread great love to relieve suffering.

Story by Shu-erh Chang from Europe

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" It is never too late for a deep-rooted affinity to blossom. Do not worry over a distant journey as long as one finds the way. "
Jing-Si Aphorism