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The ruling Polish PiS party's single biggest sensationalized issue seems to be immigration and the anti-immigrant euro-skepticism. But Polish people now are very receptive of Ukrainian people.

Is it because they can relate to the threat from Russia?

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    Understanding that there are two answers, still, it seems to me that "is it because" is asking for opinion and/or "amIrite" (am I right) confirmation. Shouldn't it rather be something like "what has the government of Poland said" or "what is the Polish press saying"
    – CGCampbell
    Mar 2 at 13:26
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    At least western Ukraine is very similar to Poland, it was even part of Poland in the past, so the mentality, religion and even language is very similar. This is defenetly not the same with people from Asia.
    – convert
    Mar 2 at 15:19

7 Answers 7

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First of all Poland as most of countries does not have 100% uniform political opinion. It is entirely possible that if Poland had more liberal government they would take more of Syrian refugees. However the current government is very conservative, so it is easy to see why they would refuse to do it. Even liberal by the Polish standard, British conservatives are in some part anti-immigration.

Secondly, Polish people do not have much experience with other nationalities living in Poland and all Ukrainian expats who arrived after 2014, are relatively recent phenomenon and some people are still uneasy about it (stealing jobs and other xenophobic opinions), but Ukrainians are still somewhat familiar and there is a fear of unknown.

Thirdly, there is a concern about terrorist attacks from Muslims, although it is probably unfounded, it is difficult to argue with people. Even if there is less than 0.1% chance of terrorist attack, why would a country take the risk? Especially seeing the terror attacks from Western countries with relatively large Muslim population. To be clear, I personally do not endorse this opinion and I think there is more risk to Polish public from nationalists, anti-vaxxers etc. than from Muslim extremists.

Next, perhaps the most important point in the current situation is that this is an exceptional war on the Polish doorstep, which is inflicted by one of the historical enemies to Poland and the biggest perceived threat. I know it sounds strong, but it is how many people in Poland perceive Russia. Not one serious politician would endorse or ally with Russia in Poland. Also if you cannot send the troops, you can at least help the refugees. The war in Syria is unfamiliar to Polish people who know very little about it and is hard to relate.

I hope that lack of references are counterbalanced by the fact I'm a Polish person, which would give some valuable insight.

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    this is a nice and balanced answer.
    – user366312
    Mar 8 at 12:48
  • Although I don't get why you talk about vaccines... Has nothing to do with it and just seems like a "look I believe this" statement in your answer. Mar 11 at 14:24
  • Another point might be that most of the Ukrainian refugees are women and children, which are seen as less of a threat than men.
    – hb20007
    Mar 15 at 18:45
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It's probably because of racism. Examples:

  • "This isn't Iraq or Afghanistan...This is a relatively civilized, relatively European city" - CBS foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata
  • "It's very emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed" - Ukraine's Deputy Chief Prosecutor, David Sakvarelidze
  • "What's compelling is looking at them, the way they are dressed. These are prosperous, middle-class people. These are not obviously refugees trying to get away from the Middle East...or North Africa. They look like any European family that you'd live next door to." - Al Jazeera
  • This time, war is wrong because the people look like us and have Instagram and Netflix accounts. It's not in a poor, remote country any more. - Daniel Hannan

Now it is true that these quotes are all from journalists and newspapers. However, unless it is postulated that journalists have different feelings from ordinary Polish people, we can hypothesize that ordinary Polish people feel the same sentiments.

If it troubles you, remember that it's human to worry about things that are close and not about things that are far away, even if the things that are happening far away are just as serious. See the philosophy thought experiment The Drowning Child.

Edit: this article illustrates racism in practice.

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    Problem with this answer is a bit that none of the quotes is Polish. I would have expected Polish quotes to make a point about Poland.
    – Trilarion
    Mar 2 at 13:22
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    Agree with Trilarion here. It may very well be racism, but giving CBS (American), Al Jazeera (Middle Eastern), a UK politician or a Ukrainian one don't explain a single thing about the Polish peoples' mind sets. Sorry, -1
    – CGCampbell
    Mar 2 at 13:30
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    @Trilarion, Oh, so now need Polish quotes? When Syrian refugees were fleeing, you only needed German quotes?
    – user366312
    Mar 8 at 8:06
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    The linked article at the bottom of the answer describes racism by people in Ukraine preventing people from reaching Poland, not racism by Polish people or officials. See for example this tweet from one of the African students: "Please, this is at the Ukraine side, not Polish side. Stop spreading misinformation about Poland with this video."
    – phoog
    Mar 8 at 13:08
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    This answer would be greatly improved by including quotes of Polish journalists saying the same thing (in Polish with translation, if need be). I would be surprised if such quotes didn't exist because I heard the statements almost verbatim in German by German journalists covering the refugees fleeing Ukraine.
    – Jan
    Mar 8 at 13:57
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Why is a country like Poland that is vehemently anti-refugee..

This is an incorrect statement.

Poland has been taking Ukrainian and Belarusian immigrants for years. In fact, they showed the number of existing white immigrants to the EU to justify their non-acceptance of Syrian refugees during the mass migration of Syrians.

so accommodating to the people of Ukraine?

The explanation was given here: Here’s why Poland takes in millions of migrants... just not Muslim ones

In summary, they became scared seeing the situation in Germany. Therefore, they were so selective in taking Syrian refugees.


My personal opinion:

There are certain situations in this world that can never be proven definitely. Which explanation prevails depends on the strength of propaganda machinery and muscle power. And, people take advantage of this fact.

For example, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has different explanations from different parties. The invasion of Iraq has different explanations from different parties.

If Syrian refugees were not creating some incidents, e.g. stabbings, rapes, etc., in Germany, there could have been other explanations brought out by the Polish officials.

This is how this world goes.

I would say, their assessment was correct to some extent. Not only Germany but also Turkey and Bangladesh have been facing problems with the immigrant/refugee population regarding robbery and rape. It remains to be seen how the Ukrainian refugees fare for Poland.


Note: I live in Poland. The Eastern part of Poland, which used to be a part of the Russian empire, is vehemently xenophobic, if not racist, to colored people.

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    Robbery and Rapes are carried out disproportionately by refugees for same reasons they are done disproportionately by the oppressed minorities in various nation states. It is because of imposed poverty and prevention of material wellbeing pushing them to to commit those acts.
    – Ash Rivers
    Mar 10 at 17:53
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    @AshRivers, Yes. However, this is very hard for a sitting government to explain to the general citizens of a country. Turkish government told the media not to report those incidents, and Bangladesh relocated all refugees to a remote island.
    – user366312
    Mar 10 at 18:04
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It's multiple things:

  • Throughout history, neighboring countries always have taken in most refugees from wars. The reason is simply geography. Crossing borders and traveling long distances is difficult for refugees. Refugees will invariably be stranded in neighboring countries, whether they like it there or not.
  • Familiar ties: Poles will have many relatives living in Ukraine. Ukrainians will have many relatives living in Poland. Relatives will offer accommodation to family members.
  • Cultural closeness. Ukrainians and Polish are both Eastern European cultures which share many things.
  • Xenophobia: Poles are probably somewhat xenophobic with a relatively low amount of foreigners (except Ukrainians) living in Poland. But I don't think that already makes them racist. I'm not sure Poles feel superior to others, but surely they prefer to stay among themselves.
  • Their common stance in the actual war. All Eastern European countries made more or less the same experience during Cold War and that made them want to drift away from Russia as quickly as possible. Poland knows that if Ukraine falls, Russia is on their border (even more than already now). They probably feel that the fates of Ukraine and Poland are connected in this case and that surely makes them want to help even more than in some more remote conflict more far away where they have no stakes in.

The exception to the rule is actually Germany taking in one million Syrians in 2015/16. You cannot explain it by geographical proximity, cultural or familiar ties and realistically also no shared political interests.

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You are wrong in that Poland is inherently anti-refugees. The thing that make Ukrainian refugees much friendlier than middle-east arab refugee to Poles is :

  1. Cultural proximity Ukrainian refugees are also slavic people thus with a similar language, neighbour country, many ukrainian people mary polish people and have relative abroad. Thus even if they stay in the country the ukrainians will integrate quickly into Polish society.
  2. One common enemy Poland is and have been historically hostile to Russia since at least the 1780s, Russia having invaded and persecuted poles multiple times thoguh history, the most significant being 1945-1989 when they forced Poland being a soviet-puppet dictatorship against the will of the people.

For Hungary it's almost exactly the same, except the language is very different but still there's Hungarian villages in Ukraine thus both countries are close.

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    Disagree a bit about slavic people, as russian are also slavic people but would defenetly not be welcomed in Poland.
    – convert
    Mar 10 at 23:14
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  • Parts of Ukraine used to be parts of Poland before WWII, which was started by the USSR (Russian majority) dictator Stalin and Nazi Germany dictator Hitler when they invaded Poland.
  • Centuries ago, Polish-Lithuanian state used to occupy parts of Ukraine. That occupation was more or less benevolent (by the contemporary medieval standards). It was certainly less vicious that the occupations by the 20th century dictatorships, most notably the genocidal Soviet Communist regime.
  • Poland and Ukraine endured multiple vicious and humiliating occupations by a criminal gang of thieves that were Russian monarchs and that were and are Russian dictators.
  • Poland and Ukraine are both Christian Slavic countries, as implied in the comment by H Huang. Syria is a majority Muslim Arab country. One can, and definitely should, make the case that other majority Muslim Arab countries must absorb the Syrian refugees in toto. They can and should spend some of the "free" wealth from the massive sales of oil and gas for the betterment of other fellow Muslim Arabs. that wealth is something they did not have to labor very hard, other than pumping it out.
  • Poland and the United Kingdom recently entered into an alliance with Ukraine. Both of these countries are on the list of the imaginary Russian enemies.
  • I do not remember dictator-led Syria and democratic-led Poland sharing a whole lot of values. Recall the wars of 1948, 1967, 1974 between democratic-led Israel and autocratic-led Syria and similarly led Arab states. Recall support of terrorism by Syria. Poland does not lead wars with Israel, and does not support terrorism. Naturally, accepting the population that might support this is not a forgone conclusion. I don't want as a neighbor someone who supports a dictator, would you?

References provided upon request by the community.

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    I am downvoting principally for this: ". One can, and definitely should, make the case that other majority Muslim Arab countries must absorb the Syrian refugees in toto." But there is a lot more to dislike and disagree with as well.
    – Obie 2.0
    Feb 27 at 3:32
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    I haven't downvoted yet, but if you're writing an answer don't ask me to recall anything, I'd rather see an actual source underlying the statement. Otherwise your answer reads more like you're pushing. You may have a good perspective to share, but as someone who isn't at all familiar with Polish politics you're going to have to spell it out a bit more for me to understand what you're trying to convey. We shouldn't have to request your references. Feb 27 at 5:33
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    @JeffLambert Thanks for the constructive advice!!I will try to improve this and my next questions. Sorry for the rush now. Not my usual style. :) Feb 27 at 5:53
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    Regarding the Christian connection, keep in mind that Poland is mostly Catholic. And yes, I request references. This is not a discussion board, posts are expected to stay for years or decades and you might no longer be active here when somebody reads and wonders.
    – o.m.
    Feb 27 at 7:02
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    references definitely needed and please down play (i.e. get rid of) all of the provocative wording. "gang of thieves" "genocidal" etc etc.
    – CGCampbell
    Mar 2 at 13:33
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It is economical migrants who are in disrespect. People, just attracted by better living standards. Also refugees from countries where the disaster comes from the internal conflict only are more in disrespect.

These groups are somewhat perceived to be partially responsible for the reasons of they migration. This may not be correct, and often is not, but this is how often understood. Refugees from remote places risk to meet people who are just not aware what is going on, and be misinterpreted as economic migrants, regardless whoever they may actually be.

Ukrainians are not economical migrants and they country is attacked by external aggressor, so they do not get this problem.

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    I think this answer really needs a source to back up the claim. If it were just economical vs war refugees, Syrian refugees would have been welcomed with open arms. And the idea that people would blame refugees for "internal conflicts" in the areas they fled from and thus reject them seems far-fetched to me (and also wouldn't explain rejection of eg Afghan refugees). The much more likely reason seems to be racism.
    – tim
    Mar 8 at 8:24
  • Almost every country differentiates between economic migrants and other migrants.
    – eee
    Mar 8 at 9:13
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    But the idea that people fleeing a (civil) war are economic migrants is itself rooted in racism.
    – tim
    Mar 8 at 9:20

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