After the students received their graduation certificates, Dean Krzysztof (center, in a white shirt) of the Adam Mickiewicz University Polish Language Institute posed for a photo with outstanding graduates. (Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation; Poznan; 2023/08/31)

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the war has dragged on for month after month. It has severely affected Ukraine's healthcare system and posed unprecedented challenges. Thanks to the relentless conflict, an increasing number of casualties and resource shortages have placed immense pressure on healthcare professionals. With both their lives and working conditions under extreme strain, many of them have had to seek opportunities to continue their careers in other countries; there they can continue to use their expertise in helping others.

New Opportunities Arise with New Language

As the situation continued to evolve, towards the end of 2022, the Polish government, which had been hosting nearly a million Ukrainian refugees, made a significant policy change. It allowed Ukrainian doctors to convert their licenses to Polish ones and allowed them to practice medicine legally in Poland for a period of five years. This policy not only addressed the shortage of healthcare professionals in Poland but also provided these doctors with an opportunity for more stable lives and employment prospects in the country.

Upon the announcement of this new policy, Tzu Chi volunteers Lukasz Baranowski and Shu-Erh Chang (張淑兒) in Poznan quickly realized the urgent need for Ukrainian medical professionals to learn the Polish language for medical purposes. This unique policy had a prerequisite: Ukrainian healthcare workers needed to possess a basic understanding of medical knowledge and be fluent in the Polish language to ensure smooth communication with Polish patients.

The Polish government allows Ukrainian doctors to practice medicine legally in Poland to address the shortage of medical professionals. (Photo by Shu-Erh Chang; Poznan, Poland; 2023/08/31)

Lukasz and Shu-Erh promptly sought collaboration with Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan (UAM). It is not only renowned as the top-ranked university in Poznan but also holds the third position in national rankings in Poland. Established over a century ago and named after the Polish Romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz, the university is celebrated for its foreign language education and research. It is often referred to as the "Foreign Language University of Poland."

The Tzu Chi Foundation has long been an important proponent of humanitarian aid. As early as August 2022, Tzu Chi began offering general Polish language courses in Poznan to assist Ukrainians in learning the Polish language and integrating into the local community.

The First Assistance for Thirty Ukrainian Families

The initial phase of assistance focused on thirty Ukrainian families, helping them learn the Polish language as a means to secure employment and establish new friendships.

This initiative also aimed to reinforce the diversity and inclusivity of Polish society and foster friendly relations within the international community. Alongside the previously established four general Polish language classes and two medical Polish language classes, a total of eighty-two Ukrainians seeking employment or career transitions and fifty Ukrainian healthcare professionals participated in these free courses.

The Tzu Chi Foundation provided medical courses in Poland to assist Ukrainian doctors in practicing medicine legally in Poznan, Poland.‌ ‌(Photo by Shu-Erh Chang; 2023/08/31)

The two medical Polish language courses were led by Professor Eva and Professor Monika. Both work at Adam Mickiewicz University and have twenty-two years of teaching experience. Throughout the course, healthcare professionals learned to engage in medical conversations in Polish and gained comprehensive insights into Poland's healthcare system and legal framework.

In August 2023, the first batch of students who had enrolled in the medical Polish language course were set to graduate. These students not only had to maintain an attendance rate of over 80% but also needed to pass rigorous examinations to earn the graduation certificate jointly issued by Adam Mickiewicz University and the Tzu Chi Foundation.

In the end, eleven dedicated and exceptional students successfully navigated the various challenges and passed their final exams. They were awarded their graduation certificates in the presence of Krzysztof Skibski, Dean of the Polish Language Institute at Adam Mickiewicz University, along with witnesses Shu-Erh Chang and Lukasz Baranowski. These outstanding doctors and medical professionals were granted priority employment by the Polish government's job placement services, opening the doors for them to practice legally in Poland.

The Tzu Chi Foundation is committed to promoting education and supporting Ukrainians in learning the Polish language. (Photo by Shu-Erh Chang; Poznan, Poland; 2023/09/8)

Of the total fifty students who participated in the course, twenty-three completed the program and subsequently passed the Polish government or hospital medical language tests, allowing them to exchange their Ukrainian medical licenses for Polish ones. This enabled these healthcare professionals to use fully their expertise and earn legal salaries, to provide their families with independent means of livelihood in Poland.

For the Polish government, this initiative not only helped war-affected families find employment and integrate into society but also contributed to alleviating the shortage of professional physicians in Poland. This has helped to improve Polish healthcare institutions.

Poznan Tzu Chi volunteer Lukasz (standing on the right) congratulated the students on completing the Medical Polish language course. (Photo by Shu-Erh Chang; ; Poznan, Poland; 2023/08/31)

Lukasz, who accompanied them on this remarkable learning journey, said: "Tzu Chi Poznan, in collaboration with Adam Mickiewicz University, introduced the medical Polish language course with the aim of assisting doctors in successfully obtaining Polish medical licenses, enabling them to practice legally in Poland. This program not only allows Ukrainian doctors to fully leverage their professional skills but also offers families forced to stay in Poland the opportunity for sustenance and independence."

A Jing Si Aphorism says: “Even though we have no relationships with other living beings, their suffering is our suffering, and their pain is our pain. When their bodies hurt, my heart worries. When their bodies are wounded, my heart feels the pain. This is called “great compassion for all.”

Join Tzu Chi. Let us spread Great Love to the needy.

Story by Shu-Erh Chang