9 March 2022
Dear ASW Community,

When COVID hit, we had to bolster our core values and take on a huge challenge.  We've now weathered that over two years in spectacular fashion.  While challenged at times by circumstance, our work together has been a model for others around the world as we applied creativity and collaboration to our efforts to sustain the school.  We are coming out of the 5th wave still resilient and determined.

It seems we are now confronted further with an unrelenting string of events culminating in now the war in Ukraine.  The initial response to the refugee crisis by our community has been nothing but stellar with broad involvement at all levels.  We are only just beginning to build our initial efforts into sustainable programs for the longer term as we develop a strategic sense of what lies ahead.  We have a strong student and parent leadership team under our Service Learning program and the activities continue to develop throughout the school.  Our website, originally introduced with my prior message, is now robust including regularly updated reflection on and accounting of our work.  We are learning and weaving this into our education program as we must be true to our mission and vision.  Tears flow on a daily basis when we see the gratitude in the eyes of those ripped from their homes and the generosity in the contributions that support their needs.

Let me then add here a note on the security and safety of our community.  I want to reassure all of our ASW Community that we are safe and secure here in our corner of Warsaw and Poland.  Please read Ambassador Brzezinski's gracious message to our community below!! Our Crisis Plan demonstrates that we are prepared to respond effectively if needed.  Please share these reassurances with your children and know that we have everyone's best interests at heart.

Along the lines of visiting dignitaries, I'm pleased to announce with this message that ASW will be welcoming the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, to our School for a visit on Thursday of this week.  We are supporting our US Embassy partners by providing a location where the Vice President can meet with representatives of the refugee community, US Embassy staff, and a representative group from the school.  The focus is on the refugee crisis and we can provide a good location in a school setting where round table conversations can take place.  It will cause some challenges on the day Thursday due to security arrangements, but we feel confident we can still have school as normal with the following exceptions:
  • We will have limited access to outdoor areas on our campus during the day on Thursday.  Teachers will provide alternate activities inside and treat it like a rainy day.
  • We will be relocating classes from the Annex building into the main building for the day. The plan for using alternative classrooms is being prepared now.  The Annex will be dedicated to and secured for the visit.
  • We will be cancelling all after school activities on campus on Thursday, except the MS play which can go on as scheduled Thursday night including all preparation work after school.
There will be a significant safety officer presence on campus as you would expect during this visit, but our school security team will be partnering with the embassy and local teams to function as smoothly as possible.

I know that this will be a day of challenge for us, but I want to thank all of you for your willingness to be flexible, be prepared for some difficult traffic at pickup time, and for your continued support of the school and our goals.  This recognition by the embassy and the Vice President is a wonderful affirmation of the work we are all doing to change the world for the better!!

Best Regards,

Mr. Z
Dear American School of Warsaw Faculty, Staff, Students, and Fellow Parents,

For the past couple of weeks, we have all been shocked and horrified at what has been happening to our east, so close to where we all live. It seemed unthinkable that Russian President Putin would really choose to invade a country that posed no threat to Russia and the Russian people, but that is exactly what he sent his troops to do in Ukraine. Since Putin’s war of aggression began, we have seen hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians flood into Poland and other countries, fleeing the terror unleashed by the Kremlin.

I have been highly impressed by the hospitality and support of the Polish people in welcoming Ukrainians and others, including helping ensure rides to onward destinations, welcoming people into their homes, and contributing money and goods to support refugees from Ukraine and people still in Ukraine. This assistance is badly needed. Russian strikes are hitting schools, hospitals, and residences. They’re destroying critical infrastructure which supplies drinking water, electricity, and gas to keep innocents from freezing to death. Buses, cars, and ambulances are being shelled. Already, the human costs of the Kremlin’s unwarranted, unprovoked, and unjustified war on Ukraine are staggering.

The generosity of the Polish people and others around the world is reflected in the generosity of the community of the American School of Warsaw. My daughter and diplomats from the embassy have told me of the many boxes, filled to overflowing with donations from the ASW family. The school is welcoming many displaced students from sister schools in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Families in the school are taking in refugee families and their churches are doing likewise.

I want to assure you that the U.S. Government and the mission are doing what we can to help in this situation. We planned for months for this eventuality, while hoping Putin would reconsider the course he was on.

To assist refugees, the United States announced $54 million, on top of more than $300 million, in humanitarian assistance – and USAID has deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team here in Poland, which has received over a million refugees. I visited the border multiple times in the past two weeks, including Saturday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau and the previous week with USAID Administrator Samantha Power to assess the situation and the need there. We are working similarly with the governments of Moldova, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia, who have also taken in many refugees. The Administration has requested from Congress an additional $6.4 billion in new funding to support all forms of assistance we are providing to Ukraine.

To prepare to assist American Citizens and all employees of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, the U.S. Embassy and Consulate General Krakow set up a Welcome Center in Przemysl near the border to assist those who need it. Since the start of aggression, hundreds of individuals and their family members have passed through the Welcome Center. Welcome Center volunteers and staff answered many hundreds of phone calls from Americans trying to evacuate Ukraine, or from their concerned family members back in the United States. Welcome Center staff met with basketball players, journalists, students, international school teachers, farmers, children, newborn babies, and even cherished pets.

Before the conflict broke, we worked with the Polish government to ensure American citizens and others would be able to cross the land border with Ukraine. The Embassy and Consulate joined our colleagues throughout Europe in taking in and providing work to Ukrainian citizens who had been working in our embassy in Kyiv, while a core of the American diplomats and Ukrainian staff are continuing their work here in Poland.

You surely have seen in the news how President Biden sent thousands of additional troops to Poland to help keep NATO’s eastern flank secure and assure our allies and their citizens that we stand with them against any danger. These troops have included a significant presence of the elite 82nd Airborne. As I have assured Polish viewers and readers in recent interviews, “Polska jest bezpieczna i Polska jest bezpieczona” – Poland is safe and Poland is secure. NATO Article 5 means something; we do not believe the war will spread to us.

As far as military support for Ukraine, we provided Ukraine with significant aid before the invasion and we are not done. Like Poland and other NATO allies, we continue to support Ukrainians fighting for their freedom from Putin’s tyranny. Last week, President Biden approved $350 million in additional military assistance. He also authorized expedited transfer of U.S.-origin defensive equipment from allies to Ukraine.

The U.S. diplomats and Polish staff of the embassy and consulate have been working flat out to support Poles in their efforts to help Ukraine and in the U.S. efforts. In addition to operating the Welcome Center, we have supported a steady stream of visitors, including the Secretaries of Defense and State, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the USAID Administrator, and numerous Senators and Representatives looking to assess the situation and decide on further support for Allies and Ukraine. You have likely heard that this week Vice President Kamala Harris is visiting at short notice for meetings with Poland’s leaders and Ukrainian refugees, including a session on the ASW Campus.

Somehow, on top of all this, members of the embassy community have joined you and their churches and neighborhoods in donating time, money, and goods to support refugees. We have also worked with American companies and individuals who have donated to the cause. We have assisted companies to donate humanitarian and essential equipment to Ukraine. One famous American asked our help in targeting a personal donation of one million dollars.

All of this is only a small sample of the work we are doing to support Ukraine, its citizens, and our allies here in Poland and elsewhere. I am proud that the ASW community is invested in supporting vulnerable people during this crisis and commend the leadership, faculty and staff, students, and parents for showing the best of what we can be in the face of such horror so close to us. These are emotionally trying times for all of us, but I know we can and will remain strong in support of each other and of the people of Ukraine.


Mark Brzezinski