By Anita Kobylinska and Anna Koper
WARSAW (Reuters) - For Beata Zalewska-Stefaniak, it didn't feel right to be sitting comfortably at home in Warsaw while migrants were going hungry in freezing forests some 200 km (140 miles) to the east on Poland's border with Belarus.
So she decided to start "Soups for the Border", a campaign to prepare thousands of jars of homemade soup, in what she jokingly refers to as "forest catering" for migrants.
"It's a grassroots initiative of people like me who were conscious of sitting in their warm homes and being unable to do anything to help," Zalewska-Stefaniak, 57, told Reuters.
Thousands of migrants, mostly Iraqis, have been trying for weeks to cross the border into the European Union but have been pushed back by Polish security forces. Around 10 migrants are believed to have died.
Poland and the EU accuse Belarus of encouraging the migrants to cross in revenge for EU sanctions imposed on Minsk over human rights abuses. Minsk denies the charge.
The first 600 jars of soup were prepared and shipped in late October from Warsaw to the Podlaskie region near the border.
Volunteers have now distributed about 4,000 litres of soup to the migrants and to people from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) trying to help them.
'MESSAGE OF HUMANITY'
The soups, made from beetroot, lentils, zucchini and other ingredients, are prepared by families, scouts and others.
The Facebook group which helps to organise the initiative has grown to more than 1,800 people, increasing the diversity of the food available.
At first, all the soups were vegetarian, with the aim of making them easy to digest but still filling. Volunteers now also prepare freshly baked bread, meat dishes, and special lunches for small children.
They try to respect the dietary requirements of the mostly Muslim migrants, for example by leaving pork off the menu, said Zalewska-Stefaniak, who works as an English translator and mindfulness coach.
She said she wanted to show that ordinary Poles are keen to help, despite big cultural differences with the migrants.
"This is beyond politics, beyond all divisions. The hungry should be fed, (it is) a basic message not only of Christianity, but of humanity," Zalewska-Stefaniak said.
(Reporting by Anita Kobylinska, Anna Koper and Kuba Stezycki, Writing by Anita Kobylinska, Editing by Joanna Plucinska and Gareth Jones)