Polish-Ukrainian borders: an example of solidarity I hope will never end

Volunteers from all over Europe gather to help people fleeing bombed Ukrainian cities

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

After the outbreak of the War in Ukraine, the perception relative to the immigration theme has completely changed in Poland. Just two months ago, with the crisis of Iraqi migrants arriving from Belarus, the Polish army reacted with violence, using powerful water jets from hydrants below zero degrees to drive people back to the border. Now, on the contrary, more than two million Ukrainians have already arrived and been welcomed in this neighboring country. Soon, moreover, many more will arrive.

However, Poland does not have a Civil Protection system, nor does it have a national body prepared to manage emergencies. Thereafter, Warsaw has not yet provided any economic aid to its municipalities in the front line for reception, such as Bakun or Medyka. As a consequence, the people we read about in newspapers, waiting for the fleeing Ukrainians in the border town, are all volunteers.

Photo by Julia Rekamie on Unsplash

Indeed, citizens ready to overcome this humanitarian crisis come from all over Europe, bringing with them all kinds of goods to help the thousands of women and children crossing the border every day. From the various Member States of the European Union, people arrive in Poland with their own means, leave their name and document, being then immediately ready to help as many refugees as possible.

With city buses, coaches, private cars or fire trucks, fleeing Ukrainians are taken to humanitarian relief centers; then they are offered a ride to one of the 27 countries of Europe. The Union has in fact activated the “Directive for the temporary protection of refugees”. This allows Ukrainians to reside in an EU nation of their choice for a three-year period. Of course, they have there the opportunity to seek work, medical assistance and send their children to school.

Yet, despite the fact that solidarity seems to be at the highest level at the moment and the system is functioning, the first signs of weakness and fatigue are already feared in many Polish cities. Many Ukrainians, in fact, do not have a definite goal and still hope to be able to soon set foot again in their land. As a result, they stop in Krakow or Warsaw — the main Polish urban centres — which are then forced to face the first difficulties.

Photo by Kevin Bückert on Unsplash

Krakow has indeed already welcomed 150,000 refugees. Thereafter, Mayor Majchrowski recently announced on Facebook that the town is “losing the ability to make room for other people, without compromising the functioning of the city itself”. In Warsaw, on the other hand, as announced by the president of the Foundation for International Aid PCPM (UN adviser) Wojciech Wilk, the refugees are even more, reaching the number of 400,000.

Furthermore, Wilk adds that “the operations designed specifically to simplify the life of people on the run are becoming complicated”. In fact, the time for assigning the access code to social services and work is getting longer. In addition, half of the Ukrainians who arrived are minor, forcing the nation to overcome the problem of schooling.

Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash

What some Polish people worry about is therefore a return to the feelings of fear and closure that have characterized the population following the migration crisis of 2015–2016, when the state government did not allow the entry of Syrian refugees on its territory. At the same time, there is growing anger at the war increasingly approaching the border, while citizens, now in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, are doubting the newly approved law that guarantees money, assistance and priority for work to the Ukrainians. “Sooner or later a ‘Polish fist sentiment’ syndrome may emerge again,” many say.

How then can we thus avoid this situation and help the volunteers in the migration crisis that we must be prepared to face? “Europe must assist us, it must allocate funds and help the Polish people to integrate refugees or the climate will change,” Wilk stresses.

I am an Italian student who tries every day to improve her English. I really like writing and studying in this language, also to be able to reach more people. However, I still often run into mistakes. So, if while reading my article you have found some, do not hesitate to contact me, either though a comment or private note!

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Annalisa Vibio

Annalisa Vibio

Hi 🙋‍♀️ I am an university student of Economics 📚 interest in geopolitics, journalism ✒ and creative writing, willing to share my everyday experiences 📖