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Polish attitudes toward Ukrainian refugees deteriorating, survey shows

by Martin Fornusek June 19, 2024 9:01 AM 3 min read
Ukrainian refugees gather at the railway station on March 3rd, 2022, in Przemysl, Poland. Photo for illustrative purposes. (Francesco Pistilli/IRC)
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In more than two years of the full-scale war, Poles approach Ukrainian refugees more negatively in almost all measured aspects, except for accepting Ukrainian children to schools, according to a survey by the University of Warsaw and the University of Economics and Humanities in Warsaw published by Rzeczpospolita on June 18.

Around 4.2 million Ukrainian refugees reside in the EU under temporary protection status, of which almost 1 million took shelter in Poland.

Poles welcomed the refugees after the outbreak of the full-scale war, and Warsaw has recently extended their legal stay in the country along with various support programs.

According to the survey, the social benefits for Ukrainian refugees have always been the most problematic aspect, as the vast majority of Poles (95%) believe that they should be reduced.

Only 17% of Poles would accept Ukrainian refugees with the possibility of a long-term settlement, a decrease from 37% more than a year ago. Some 61% of the respondents want Ukrainians to return to their home country after the war.

"Such results are not surprising, they are the result of discrepancies in the perception of foreigners after a longer period of their stay in the country," Jan Brzozowski, head of the Jagiellonian Center for Migration Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, told Rzeczpospolita.

The only aspect where the attitudes remain positive is the education for Ukrainian children. Some 82% of Poles support providing education to Ukrainian children, but there is little support for teaching them based on a Ukrainian core curriculum.

Half the respondents said the children should be taught the Polish core curriculum, while 40% support a compromise between a Polish and Ukrainian education.

Around 72% of the respondents said that despite Ukraine's war with Russia, Poland should take care primarily of its own interests, namely when it comes to food trade. Only 15% hold the opposite views.

Disputes over trade, namely Ukrainian agricultural imports, have soured the relationship between Kyiv and Warsaw since 2023, leading to intermittent border blockades by Polish protesters.

Around 31% of Poles believe that Poland must definitely help Ukraine (a decrease from 62% in January 2023), while 43% "rather agree." Some 19% oppose the assistance to Ukraine, the survey shows.

There is still strong support (62%) for helping Ukraine materially, like by donating food and clothing, but even here, the numbers have been decreasing compared to previous surveys.

Such trends are not new to Poland, nor are they limited to this country. Surveys in other states that have accepted Ukrainian refugees show a similar decline in solidarity, though the overall support remains quite strong.

Russian propaganda has sought to capitalize on skepticism toward refugees in the host countries and demonize the Ukrainians, seeking to drive a wedge between local populations and the governments, the Ukraine Crisis Media Center said.

Ambassador: Poland ‘absolutely neutral’ whether refugees stay or return to Ukraine
Warsaw will neither encourage nor prevent the return of Ukrainian refugees to Ukraine, Polish Ambassador to Kyiv Jaroslaw Guzy said in an interview with Deutsche Welle published on March 13. Poland hosts around 1 million Ukrainians who fled from Russia’s all-out war, the highest number of all countr…

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