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Industry. Sean Penn in Przemyśl. His organization is renovating a hotel where refugees from Ukraine will find shelter

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American actor Sean Penn visited Przemyśl in Podkarpacie in mid-February. He visited the construction site where the renovation of the closed hotel at the Przemyśl Sports and Recreation Center is underway. The CORE organization founded by the actor finances the renovation of the facility. It is to be a place where people fleeing war-torn Ukraine will find permanent shelter.

Sean Penn is an American actor, producer, director and screenwriter, a two-time winner Oscarthe most important award in the film industry. In 2010, after the earthquake in Haiti together with a group of volunteers, he went to help on the spot. They set up the largest camp for the homeless on the island, and ran a hospital in it that provided free medical assistance to the locals. After the outbreak of the pandemic coronavirus an organization run by the actor conducted free COVID-19 tests in the United States. From the first days war in Ukraine CORE is committed to helping people fleeing a war-torn country.

Sean Penn with Greta Ostrowska, director of the Przemyśl Sports and Recreation Centre Przemyśl Sports and Recreation Centre

CORE operates in Poland, helping refugees from Ukraine

CORE employs local staff to respond quickly to needs. After the Russian aggression in Ukraine, it launched two branches in Poland: in Kraków and Rzeszów. It also helps in Przemyśl, where it co-finances the renovation of a disused hotel, which is to serve as a shelter for refugees from Ukraine.

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– Although the traffic on the border is currently much smaller than in the first weeks of the war, there are people who are still fleeing war-torn Ukraine. There are those among them who do not want to go further, they want to stay here in Przemyśl, mainly due to the proximity of the border, because they can visit their relatives who stayed in Ukraine at any time – Wojciech Bakun, the president of Przemyśl, tells us.

A center for refugees from Ukraine will be built in the building of the former hotel

After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Podkarpacie served as a reception voivodeship. People who were fleeing from the war received emergency help on the spot and were directed to centers in other voivodeships.

One of the reception points operated at the train station in Przemyśl. Refugees could rest there, eat a hot meal and sleep before continuing their journey. – After a few weeks, when it turned out that the war would not end so quickly, together with the employees, we began to wonder what to do next. We already knew that we would need a place where people who want to stay with us for longer could be located – says Wojciech Bakun.

After reviewing the properties that are in the city’s resources, the choice fell on the building of the Przemyśl Sports and Recreation Centre, which used to house a hotel. – The building is located in a very good location – by the main road, with good access, just a few minutes from the train station. The problem is that due to its poor technical condition, it had been out of use for over a decade and required a general renovation – says Greta Ostrowska, director of the Przemyśl Sports and Recreation Centre.

The Germans financed the roof, the Americans and the Koreans financed the renovation of the building

The local government began looking for partners who would financially support the project. Help was offered by the mayor of the partner city of Paderborn in Germany, Michael Dreier. – He came to us, we showed him the building and told him about our plans. He asked about the most urgent needs, and we told about the renovation of the roof. He said he could give us a million zlotys. A few days later, the money went to the account of the City Hall in Przemyśl – recalls the director of POSiR.

Sean Penn, a representative of the organization, was also interested in the project. – I showed him the building, told him that we already have money guaranteed for the roof. He promised that he would talk to his superiors – says Greta Ostrowska.

A month later, representatives of CORE’s Korean partner, engineers from Ssang Yong, came to Przemyśl. They saw the building of the former hotel, made the necessary measurements and calculations. – After a week I got an e-mail that they are entering this investment – says Ostrowska.

Sean Penn visited the construction site in Przemyśl

In August, the CORE team came to Przemyśl. After completing the necessary documentation in November 2022, the renovation began. On February 16, Sean Penn personally visited the construction site. – It was an unexpected visit. We received the message that Sean was coming to us ten minutes before the meeting – says the director of the Przemyśl Sports and Recreation Centre.

– He wanted to see with his own eyes how the works were progressing, he was satisfied with their progress and very grateful to the team working on site – adds our interlocutor.

The Sean Penn CORE Foundation is helping to renovate a hotel in Przemyśl, where refugees from Ukraine will livePrzemyśl Sports and Recreation Centre

Work is progressing at an express pace, the opening of the center is scheduled for the end of April. Sean Penn is also expected to attend.

The Sean Penn CORE Foundation is helping to renovate a hotel in Przemyśl, where refugees from Ukraine will livePrzemyśl Sports and Recreation Centre

They want to create an aid complex in Przemyśl

The hotel will offer individual rooms with private bathrooms and kitchenettes. The laundry and drying room will be located on the ground floor of the building. “We want to give these people a substitute for a home. It will no longer be a hall in a collective accommodation facility. Residents will have more intimacy, and children will be able to do their homework at their own desks in peace. We call this place “house of integration”. We want someone who will not be able to return to Ukraine for a long time to have a place where they can organize their life in Przemyśl – emphasizes Mayor Bakun.

As announced by Greta Ostrowska, this is most likely not the end of cooperation between the local government and the organization of the Hollywood actor. Efforts are underway for Sean Penn’s organization to also finance the refurbishment of the old arcade, which houses showers, toilets and bathrooms. Thanks to this, 700 beds for refugees will be able to be opened in the sports hall located next to it in a crisis situation. – At the moment, our partners are considering it, we are waiting for their decision. If we succeed, we will have a full aid complex at our disposal should such a large wave of refugees be repeated – sums up Greta Ostrowska.

Przemyśl with the title of the Lifeguard City

After the Russian aggression against Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Przemyśl, as a border town, became the first safe stop for over a million Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war. It was here that, from the first days of the conflict, they could count on help provided by residents, volunteers and international humanitarian organizations.

July 11, 2022, the 79th anniversary of the Volhynian Crime, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky announced the awarding of the honorary title of the Lifeguard City to the City of Przemyśl. As President Zelensky argued, Przemyśl was awarded for “unprecedented solidarity of local authorities, residents and volunteers with the Ukrainian nation, comprehensive and huge help for Ukrainian citizens who were forced to leave their homeland as a result of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation, and strong support for Ukraine in defending its independence and sovereignty.” The first Polish city to be awarded the honorary title of the Lifeguard City was Rzeszów.

Main photo source: Przemyśl Sports and Recreation Centre

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