A MATTER OF POLES, A MATTER OF POLAND
On the Eastern border nearly fifty thousand people live who admit to their Polish origin. About five hundred of them own the Pole’s Charter. Facing the war, about a hundred people arrived in Poland. Other two hundred people declared their willingness to arrive in Poland
Protests and fights on Majdan in November 2013 did not presage a war in Ukraine. Today, after a year of fights between legal Ukrainian forces and separatists supported by the Russians, many cities remind the times of the Second World War. There was shortage of water, electricity. On the areas seized by separatists, salaries and pensions were stopped. Most shops were closed down. People were killed not only in fights, but also indirectly – because of hunger or lack of help for the ill. Many cities – both the small and big ones – changed into barricades. An example is Donieck of a million of inhabitants, where not so long time ago, did the Ukrainians live with the Russians in peace. Also many Poles, Germans, Czechs lived in the city who were ‘settled down’ there by Stalin.
In the mid of April last year, there was a shooting near Donieck. Soon in the city some ‘dirty people’ appeared. Generally they were drunk, sometimes having a very aggressive attitude to inhabitants. They were already with guns. And, suddenly, this peaceful city was attacked by hostile forces – as those who survived this war, say.
After a few months of fights in Eastern Ukraine people are already divided. Some of them are for separatists, and the others are for indivisible Ukrainian country.
- However, gradually, inhabitants of Donieck started getting used to the new situation. Within these several weeks, the man somehow lived three or four lives – as a Polish woman Wiktoria Charczenko, a wife, mother of a nearly 7-year-old boy says, who is a violinist by profession and an organist in a Polish church in Donieck, and a vice-president of the Society of Polish Culture of Donbas, and who teaches in a music school. Her grandfather and mother are Poles, and her father is Russian. – In the very centre of the city – she says – it is somehow all right. But its other parts are ruins. People come to the centre from there in elegant clothes, as if they were going on a trip to another world. Others sit in cellars of destroyed houses and beg for a piece of bread. It happens that they die from hunger. The city is trying to pretend, that nothing bad is happening. But it is similar to an animal whose paw has been cut off, but is still trying to run and keep its head up. However, it is still a shock to me. On the one hand the city cannot function normally, because there is no electricity, water, but, on the other hand, it is fighting for its life…Communal services are working, tidying rubbish, glass, rubbles. People go to work although they do not receive their salaries from the self-proclaimed government. They give lessons at schools. There are very few shops where they still work, but what is worse, is the fact that people do not have money to do shopping. There has been a cafeteria so far, which gave away soups for free. Now it is not there anymore.
Discrediting the government, discrediting Poland
The international society came with help to the Ukrainians but not at once. Poland also joined this action. Support came from the Church and non-governmental organizations. Also from the Foundation Freedom and Democracy. Polish newspapers, including the newspaper ‘Sunday’ started writing about the dramatic situation on the areas of Eastern Ukraine. However, our government did not react on the areas overwhelmed by the war. Only the appeal of Poles in Donbas, which was addressed to the Senate in the beginning of December last year, attracted the attention of the Polish authorities to the problem. As the vice-president of the Commission of Emigration and Contacts with Poles Abroad, and a senator Barbara Borys-Damięcka said, the problem is that Poles living there are….’the citizens of Ukraine’. But soon after a debate of the Senate commission, the situation of Poles in Donbas was publicized by the Foundation Freedom and Democracy. It also made an appeal for giving a possibility of coming to Poland to those who want to. There was also a meeting attended by Poles from eastern Ukraine, the Seym Commission of Contacts with Poles Abroad, during which representatives of the government declared to help Poles living in Donbas. Financial support was given. Officials of the Foreign Ministry also declared that Poles living in Donbas would be brought to Poland before Christmas.
- In fact the Polish country should help three groups of Poles from Donbas - says Michał Dworczyk, the chairperson of the Foundation Freedom and Democracy. The first group are people who decide to stay in Dombas and are not going to leave this place. It is good that financial benefits have been prepared for them. Because of the situation on the demarcation line, material help does not reach there. The second group are those who must be evacuated from here. These are Poles whom we should make it possible to arrive in Poland as soon as possible. Especially that their trustfulness to our country has already been questioned: the date of evacuation announced by the Polish authorities – on 29 December 2014 was not kept. We should remember that every other day of being on the area controlled by separatists, puts their life at danger. The third group are Poles who left Donbas on their own and live in Poland today. So far they have received help from: the Church, private people and non-governmental organizations. However, this all should be included in the emergency assistance. They also need systematic support from the Polish administration. Without this help, most of them do not have any chance to start a normal life in Poland.
Every several days the government announced that Poles from eastern Ukraine would return to Poland soon. On 10 January 2014 Edyta Pierszała from the Press Office of the Foreign Ministry informed that the date of Poles’ arrival is kept in secret, in respect of their safety. On the same day media informed that their evacuation had been begun.