Stirring tale from one for whom coffee is so much more than a bit of froth | Alex Clark

A latte is a powerful symbol of normality for a friend working to help Ukrainian refugees arriving in Poland

I pick up the phone to an old friend who, until a few weeks ago, had a working life a bit like mine; one might grandly call it a portfolio career, but in truth it’s a matter of turning your hand to all sorts of things to make a buck. In his case, a Starbuck; he’s a coffee devotee and, as we chatted, a sad story came to light, which saw him being relieved of his takeaway latte by an officious concierge as he arrived at a swanky office building for a meeting. Honestly, he said, I could have cried, to which you might retort, well, go ahead and cry me a river.

Except that the latte was a little manifestation of creature comfort and normality, a treat to power him through a whistlestop trip to London, where he normally lives, but from which he has been largely absent recently. Nowadays, you can most often find him in Jaroslaw in Poland, where he has gone to volunteer for a newly founded charity called Poland Welcomes, its mission to provide shelter and amenities to Ukrainian women and children who have been forced to leave their homes. At the last count, they had 500 guests across a series of hastily adapted sites; they’re trying to scale up to 2,000.

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