Between Solidarity and Whitewashing

The Polish Response to the Refugee Crisis

2 May 2022

Kerry Longhurst and Pawel Surowiec

The lack of strategic response from the Polish government risks losing much of the goodwill citizens, civil society and public institutions have garnered over their tremendous response to Russia’s War with Ukraine. Instead, the PiS government is trying to utilise Poland’s new positive international image for their own purposes and is ignoring the long-term consequences.

On 21 February 2022, Vladimir Putin signed a decree recognising the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, which – alongside Crimea – had been annexed by Russia in 2014.

Three days later, Russian troops used these territories to launch an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which has resulted in over 1600 Ukrainian civilians being killed to date. As the bombs started to fall, Ukrainians – mostly women, children, the elderly and other vulnerable groups – began to flee to neighbouring countries. The BBC has reported that more than ten million people have become refugees or have been internally displaced. At least 2.3 million refugees from Ukraine have come to Poland.

Differences Between Polish People and the Government

Polish society’s reaction to the crisis and generous solidarity with Ukrainians has captured the imagination of the international community, as local authorities, civil society organisations and individual citizens moved swiftly to offer housing and material assistance at an unprecedented level. Admiration for this bottom-up movement led commentators to propose that the Polish nation be awarded the Noble Peace Prize.

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