In keeping with the “spirit of giving and involving,” Peter Burzynski and his family, owners of the Polonez restaurant in St. Francis, are trying to help a family of Ukrainian refugees find a home.
Burzynski said his mother saw a Facebook post shared by a family friend and former St. Francis police officer about a Ukrainian family of four looking for a place to stay.
The father is an orthodox priest and the children, both girls, are 13 and 11 years old. An Orthodox church in Mequon is helping, Burzynski said, with a parishioner housing the family until a more permanent place can be secured.
“We thought putting it on our Facebook page would help,” Burzynski said. “I would like to help. Happy to be a channel to get information out there.”
Six landlords approached Burzynski and he did a few shows but nothing was completed.
“We are looking for a landlord at an affordable price for a two- to three-bedroom apartment,” he said, adding that the main problem is a lack of current employment and references for the family.
Since the effort began, residents have offered clothing, non-perishable groceries, linens, full beds and living room furniture, and someone thought of donating a car, Burzynski said.
A few community groups also offered assistance, including the St. Francis Lions Club, which offered a $500 loan for its annual used sale, the South Milwaukee Knights of Columbus, which offered $500 for the first rental payment, and the Ladies Auxiliary for the South Milwaukee Knights of Columbus, who will be buying new linens, bath towels and washcloths, Burzynski said.
Anyone with housing opportunities or who would like to donate can contact the restaurant at [email protected] People can also support the effort by sending money through a Venmo account @UkrainianRefugeeRent set up for the family, which will be used for rent and security deposit.
“We’ve had a flood of support,” he said. “Once we have the space, we’ll be in touch with people who have offered things.”
Burzynski’s distant relatives also once fled a war-torn place
Burzynski said that in addition to helping this Ukrainian family, the restaurant raises funds for the Kosciuszko Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Stephen Mitzvah in 1925 with the aim of “building closer ties between Poland and the United States through educational , to promote scientific and cultural exchange,” says the official Facebook page of the foundation.
Recently, the foundation’s president, Marek Skulimowski, was on the Polish-Ukrainian border to help war refugees, according to a Feb. 27 Facebook post. It’s that effort that Burzynski said motivated him to help.
“I think the story is really incredible,” he said. “That really inspired me.”
So far, the restaurant has raised $500 from people who left loose change, Burzynski said.
Some family history also motivated Burzynski. He said his father’s older brother, his father’s mother and her brothers were living in Wołyń, a former town in Poland, at the end of World War II. Shortly after the war, the city was annexed by Ukraine and is now called Volhynia.
The family had to flee.
“They themselves fled from a war-torn place,” Burzynski said.
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The Polonez restaurant also needs help
Polonez opened its doors in 1983. Bruzynski said the restaurant’s loyal customers and staff were able to sustain the restaurant with carry-out during the pandemic.
Now, while trying to help others, the restaurant itself needs help as it’s been hit by recent staff shortages at many businesses. Burzynski said he needed experienced chefs or someone with knowledge of European cuisine.
In addition to helping out in the family restaurant, Burzynski is an adjunct instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College, where he teaches introductory composition and communication.
He also works with the Woodland Pattern Book Center, a local literary nonprofit.