How many of them are there in Poland? Officially about 175 thousand. Most of the Ukrainians, especially from the beginning of the conflict with Russia. We see most refugees from eastern Ukraine, from the Donetsk and Lugansk camp, from regions which are most vulnerable to the attacks from the Russians and separatists
It happens that they arrive in our countries when being terrified, with strong trauma, needing therapeutic support. However, it is not a complete picture. It is said in Ukraine that ‘the new life begins in Poland’ – work, peace, safety. The war has acted like a catalyst. Fearing that the conflict would spread all over the world, people prefer to be quicker than the fate and leave their countries earlier. Anton from Mariupol compares it to the situation of the Jews at the time when Hitler took over authority. Many of them ignored symptoms and paid for it with their lives.
We are coming back soon
Anton, who has lived in Poland for over a year, says that only here did he feel freedom, how it tastes. – Like fresh air - he says. He managed to help his wife and daughter arrive here. He had been afraid about them. As a chemist by profession, he has already worked as a blue-collar worker in Poland and a farmer, he worked on construction areas, picked strawberries and took care of trees in parks. Now he is working irregular hours, mainly physically, but does not complain. He is not thinking about permanent stay in Poland. He want to wait for some time. Later he will return to Ukraine with his family. They have not unpacked their suitcases, have not broken their relationships in Ukraine. They watch Ukrainian TV online, and listen to their music. – In our Ukrainian town we have a little business and a flat; the orthodox church and a graveyard with graves of their grandparents. Outside their town there is a forest and a river with fish in it. You see….they miss people and little things, they miss scents, tastes, something in the air. I do not have to explain it to Poles. They have also experienced something similar… - says Anton. And another Ukrainian man, Wasyl, adds: - Poland is a beautiful country. Only here did we understand how much work we are going to face up before we reach the level which you have reached.
I do not want to die at such a young age
Wasyl is 23 years old and admits that the main problem of his leaving his homeland was fear of the war, and, exactly speaking, joining the army. Before that he had supported Majdan, participated protests, and then it turned out that ‘oligarchs’ were still reigning, so he did not want to fight with the Russians. In his opinion, the war is not ‘between them and us’ – this is the war of unclear interests. Among young people in Ukraine there are stories about what is happening on the eastern frontier. That it is bloodshed, an unimagined cruelty. Internet is full of photos of the disabled, victims of tortures and reports of the first line. It is said that soldiers are going to fight nearly without any preparations, that there is a mess around and complete informative chaos. – So, it is better to leave earlier and wait for the development of events – says Wasyl. – I will not let anyone kill me – he adds. – I am too young.
Most foreigners get to the centre of the Office for Foreigners in Biała Podlaska, who want to gain the status of an asylum seeker in Poland. They want to get to a safe place first. What will happen later is a question which appears when they have left the centre. Such an attitude is not the result of the lack of sensibility or the survival instinct but a normal reaction of people who have lived under fire from snipers for a long time and were the target of unending airstrikes and bombarding. They know the feeling when suddenly somebody is killed without a trace. They know what it is like to live in a basement as it does not pay to return upwards.
There are more good
They are welcomed in various ways in Poland. Because in Poland, like in any other country, there are bad and good people; friendly and unfriendly. – However, there are more good people – says Anton. – I would even call some of them saints, because they gave me accommodation and work, although they did not know anything about me. Now I think that they noticed despair in my eyes. There was a moment when I had nowhere to go. Many of us know this feeling.
It is safe nowhere in Ukraine – admits Wasyl.- My friends told me: run away to the West! While I think – how much time it will take the Russians to arrive in the West of my country? Who will be the first to stop them from conquering Kiev or Lvov? But the border – yes. The border will stop them. They will not meddle with whole Europe, with NATO. They treat Ukraine as one of their peripheries. The separatists have it written on their tanks. In Poland it is peaceful and safe. I have work and a girlfriend. She is Polish. She is Catholic, I am Uniate, so there will not be any problems with marriage. When I start having nostalgia, I will go to Przemyśl where one can feel Ukraine.
- I have liked Poland since my childhood. For example, I have always supported your footballers. And what is astonishing, is the fact that I have not Polish blood! – jokes Anton, but he is a bit envious of his compatriots’ Polish roots. – It will be easier for them because Poles are a sentimental nation: they will always accept their compatriots with open arms. In eastern Ukraine Poles and Tatars have a worse life than the Ukrainians. It is impossible to live there – he adds more quietly.
In eastern Ukraine in the end of December during 24 hours the Russians have breached an armistice 66 times. At Mariupol, from which it was possible to transport Poles, the Russians are bringing heavy weapon. Experts say about a new deal concerning the war in Ukraine. Will the situation be the reason for the wave of refugees which will come to Poland?