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The number of Ukrainian war refugees who have fled to Poland has surpassed the population of the Central European country’s capital, Warsaw. They’ve largely received a warm reception, a stark contrast to how Polish officials welcomed migrants who have fled the Middle East and other war-torn regions in the past seven years or so, as a Politico opinion piece described.
Now Polish officials might be rolling up the welcome mat. “Warsaw is at capacity,” Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski told the New York Times recently. “We accepted more than 300,000 people but we cannot accept more. With the escalation by Russia in eastern Ukraine we could have a second wave.”
Of the more than five million Ukrainians who have become refugees, around 2.8 million, mostly women and children, have settled in Poland, according to Business Insider India.
Russian President Vladimir Putin might be happy to cause a refugee crisis. As the New York Times editorial board suggested, a crisis that destabilizes the West serves Putin’s interests.
That said, as Mayor Trzaskowski’s comments illustrate, waves of refugees take a toll on a host country. Many are traumatized and need medical help, Al Jazeera reported, noting how many refugees feel guilt for surviving when they know they have left family and friends behind to combat the Russian invasion.
Some are living in office spaces due to a lack of other housing, as a CNN broadcast explained. Refugees can receive $1,500 in cash assistance to find a place to live. As Time wrote, many are not sure what to do now that they have arrived in Poland and feel relatively safe. The EU has allowed them to travel anywhere in the bloc for three months without a visa or applying for asylum. Some are hoping to return home soon.
“For many, Poland is a place to wait out the war,” explained the Deseret News. “They saw Russia’s withdrawal from the Kyiv region as a sign that Ukrainian forces are gaining the upper hand, despite a now renewed invasion along the country’s eastern front.”
Accepting refugees is one way that Poland is taking a stand against Russia. Poland has sent significant military aid to Ukrainian forces and has pushed the US to act as a go-between for a grant of warplanes. Russia recently cut off gas sales to Poland because the country refused to pay its gas bills in rubles, NBC added.
Poland has stepped up. But whether it can continue to do so is an open question.