Thursday, August 18

Warsaw becomes the new kyiv


Correspondent in Berlin

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Anastasia He crossed the border on March 3. Her family was one of the first to flee to Poland and she planned to continue on to Germany, but the treatment and reception of the Poles made her change her mind. “Then there was no infrastructure, but the citizens came out of their houses to give us food and clothes, hot coffee and above all affection, which at that time was the most important thing, so I thought it was best to stay in Warsaw,” she recalls. Now Anastasia works in a hairdressing salon and her two children are enrolled in a bilingual school. She is one of the most four million Ukrainian refugees who according to the border authorities have entered the country. Between February 24 and May 31, some 800,000 passed through the capital, representing up to 40% of the total population of Warsaw.

At the peak of the influx, some 300,000 refugees were sheltered in the city and all received help, from simple information to hospital care, accommodation and admission of children to kindergartens and schools. About two million have stayed in Poland and in Warsaw 10% of its current population are Ukrainian refugees, a very visible group in a city of two million inhabitants.

“Not everyone has managed to integrate into the labor market,” clarifies Piotr Dlugosz, from the Pedagogical University of Krakow, “the language barrier is often the main obstacle, because Polish is particularly difficult to learn and both those who do not speak English like those who work in sectors where language is important, they have a very difficult time». The unemployment rate in Poland is 5.2%, so you might think that there is work for newcomers, but the reality is that economic integration is complicated and many of them choose to return to their country. “Right now many more Ukrainians are leaving than arriving,” compares Dlugosz. According to the latest data from the border guard, the departure of Ukrainians back home exceeds 1.53 million, despite the fact that the law approved in March allows them to stay up to 18 months in the country, a period during which they enjoy the education and public health and have the right to work under the same conditions as Poles.

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Integration

“Most of those who leave are because they have been away from their homes for too long, they want to know if they are still standing or have lost contact with their relatives, almost always their husbands. We left thinking it would be a few weeks and we’ve been like this for months now,” he explains. Kateryna, who fled from kyiv and help with translations at the central station in Warsaw, “everyone is very grateful to the Polish attention, Ukraine will never forget this, but it is hard to get used to the idea of ​​staying here forever.” Upon arrival, each refugee receives an immediate one-time payment of 300 zlotys (64 euros) for each family member for their expenses, and thereafter 500 zlotys (106 euros) per child monthly plus a childcare allowance of 400 zlotys (85 euros) monthly until their integration into the labor market. According to the Ministry of the Family, more than 160,000 are already working, 29% of the total, most of them in stores or in the hotel industry. Integration occurs easily, without conflict.

Any properly registered Ukrainian refugee can receive free transport tickets to Germany, Italy or Sweden, that were in high demand in the first few months but are not so much anymore. Olda Sarrado, UNHCR spokesperson, highlights that “Poland has put in place a system to ensure legal stay, access to employment, education and health services, social welfare mechanisms, for a vulnerable group in which the 94% are women and children.

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