WARSAW, Poland – Ukraine's ambassador to neighboring Poland says his nation is grateful for the welcome that Poles have given to millions of Ukrainian refugees, but he hopes the European Union will soon release billions of euros to Poland so that the assistance does not come “at the cost of the Polish people.”
Ambassador Andrii Deshchytsia said that although there have been no real social tensions in the three months since Ukrainians began crossing into Poland seeking safety, he worries they could appear in the future given the large extent of Polish help.
Deshchytsia estimates that there are now between 3 million and 4 million Ukrainians in Poland, of whom some 1.5 million had already been working, studying and living in Poland before Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine, and the rest have arrived since then. In a country with a population of 38 million people, this means that Ukrainians now make up somewhere around 10% of the population.
The government has extended free medical care, education and other social services to the Ukrainians, while more than 80% of them are being housed in private Polish homes. Deshchytsia noted that Russian disinformation efforts online have included spreading the message that Ukrainians are getting better treatment than Poles themselves, and that while these efforts have not found fertile ground yet, he is concerned that problems could arise.
“I'm worried because I don't know where the limits of this hospitality, of the hospitality of Polish people, are,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday. “It's a warm and healthy welcome. But how long they can keep them? And it's understandable for me, and it's also understandable for my compatriots. They understand that there are some limits.”
The solution, as Deshchytsia sees it, is for the EU to release billions of euros of a pandemic recovery package.
That would also have the benefit of preventing a large wave of Ukrainians getting frustrated in Poland and heading elsewhere in the EU, he argued.
While most of the 27 members of the bloc have gotten their funds aimed at helping countries recover from the economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, 36 billion euros earmarked for Poland have been blocked in a dispute over changes to the courts viewed as an erosion of democratic standards.