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Dec 12 2023

Polish soldiers from Multinational Corps Northeast head for Lapland with children's letters to Santa

SZCZECIN, Poland – This Christmas season, Sergeant Łukasz Agaś and Private 1st Class Specialist Łukasz Chlebowski (Polish Army) went on a very special mission. Working on their own initiative, they collected Christmas letters from children fighting cancer and delivered them to Santa Claus in Rovaniemi, in the far north of Finland. The Polish Minister of Defence granted his honorary patronage to the initiative, and it was funded by the Polish Armed Forces.

It is safe to say that Agaś and Chlebowski are no strangers to providing support. On a daily basis, they both serve at Multinational Corps Northeast's Command Support Brigade. This operation, however, was very different from their regular military duties. Although busy in their unit, Agaś and Chlebowski wanted to do something for the community. They had volunteered at Independent Public Clinical Hospital no 1 in Szczecin before, and it was Santa Claus, the patron of the Paediatric Oncology and Haematology Ward, who inspired them to embark on a polar exhibition for a worthy cause.

SGT Agaś and PFC Specialist Chlebowski collected kids' letters from several hospitals from across Poland © Karol Sito
This is where the idea to collect letters from kids and deliver them in a military convoy was born.  Where would these letters be safer than in a soldier’s hands?

"The next thought was: Why should only one ward benefit if we can reach out to other paediatric oncology and haematology wards," said Agaś. In this way, they collected more than 1,000 letters from several hospitals across Poland. "Some hospitals sent them by mail; we visited other hospitals in person to meet with their management and children. At the same time, we were in contact with Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi in Lapland and we created a fan-page on Facebook for the initiative," added Chlebowski.

The fan-page also documented their journey to the very north Finland, as Lapland's capital, Rovamieni, is located 800 km north from Helsinki. Often referred to as the true embodiment of a winter wonderland, this region is as beautiful as it is unforgiving – with a harsh continental climate and temperatures averaging -12°C, in extreme cases plummeting as low as -45°C. The hearts were warm, however, when Santa Claus received the letters from Poland. Most importantly, Agaś and Chlebowski didn't come back to Szczecin empty-handed. Rovamieni's first citizen had already prepared Christmas gifts for those hoping for them on the other side of the Baltic. 

The soldiers delivered the letters to Santa's village Rovaniemi, in the far north of Finland © LTC Zbigniew Garbacz

Altogether, the whole trip took three days, not to mention the months of preparation. Yet, Agaś and Chlebowski don't regret any minute of it – on and off duty.  

Anyone who has ever visited a paediatric oncology ward and saw the smiles, enthusiasm and honesty of the children knows that all your personal time and effort are worth it.

"But it’s nothing compared to what those brave young patients are facing. It gives you this amazing drive to do something, the endorphins kick in and you get into a self-perpetuating loop," summarized Agaś.

SGT Łukasz Agaś and PFC Specialist Łukasz Chlebowski express their special thanks to PFC Specialist Grzegorz Całka from the Polish Ministry of Defence for his assistance in the execution of this initiative.

Story by Multinational Corps Northeast Public Affairs Office

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Multinational Corps Northeast
Waleriana Łukasińskiego 33
71-215 Szczecin

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Public Affairs Office
Waleriana Łukasińskiego 33
71-215 Szczecin