War in Ukraine: When Poles Prepare for the “Worst”

the necessary
Report from our special correspondent in Poland where the population fears an attack from the Russian neighbor after the invasion of Ukraine.

After Ukraine, Poland? They only half-heartedly admit it, but the Poles have cause for concern, because the fear of an attack by the Kremlin army has become more and more apparent over the past few days. Admittedly, the conflicted relations between the two neighboring countries are not new. And all Poles who have met in recent days, especially many volunteers helping Ukrainian refugees, do not hide their concern about the sequence of events.

No one doubts it, after the airstrikes that hit a NATO military base just 25 km from the Polish border on Saturday, March 12. A volunteer at the refugee reception center in Hrubenne, a Polish border post 70 km from the city of Lviv in Ukraine, Hiacynta, 22, originally from southern Poland and a law student, says he is very concerned about the Russian army’s invasion of Ukraine. “Yes, we are concerned in Poland, but my sadness is alleviated by the fact that I volunteer and help others,” she confesses. From everything I can read or hear on TV, it’s clear that the Russians are our enemies and we can’t really be sure what Putin will or won’t do. †

“Right now we only talk about the war,” admits Monika, 52, a humanitarian aid volunteer. I recently called my mom and it’s a recurring topic. My mother, who lives in Poznan (north-western Poland, nldr), told me: we are ready. In addition, we have already received the list of bunkers or air-raid shelters that have been reopened by text message.” There is an ancestral “hatred” between Poland and the Russian Ogre dating back to the latter’s occupations in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Bunkers for shelter

Recently, Monika’s mother, Elisabeth Schubert, aged 76, received an email from Poznan City Hall that says a lot about the sense of fear that is spreading in the country chaired by Andrzej Duda. “There are more and more requests from our voters about security because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” said Poznan City Hall. Given the current situation, it is better to inform the population in advance. We tell you about bunkers, shelters and other places where you can take cover in the event of an attack. This is not to cause panic, but the security specialist confirms that it is better to be prepared for anything. †

Ukrainian refugees on the Polish border.
AFP – LOUISA GOULIAMAKIA

The Renaissance-style city of Poznan, which borders the Warta River and is famous for its universities, informed its citizens that it “has 436 air-raid shelters and 34 air-raid shelters, each of which can accommodate up to 10,000 people. In addition, 339 shelters can hold up to 39,000 people for the rest of the population.” The email also specifies the number of bunkers that will be opened according to the districts of the city with more than 500,000 inhabitants: 223 bomb shelters for the old city, 180 for the “new city”, etc.…

Elisabeth Schubert, who lives in the Lechicka district of Poznan, already knows that the bunker, a former fortress, can “accommodate 990 people” in case of bombing. But there is no “access to water or electricity”.

‘The arrival of the Russians is a matter of days’

Some Polish women, who have no doubts about Vladimir Putin’s motives outside Ukraine, are preparing to wield weapons. This is especially the case for Ewelina, 47 years old, who also lives in western Poland.

“I take classes to learn how to handle weapons,” she says. To be ready in case we join the Polish army if we are attacked by the Russians. I had never touched a gun before, but when I volunteer in the military I want to have a minimum of knowledge so as not to be caught off guard. I paid for the lessons out of my own pocket, it cost me 150 zloty (about 32 euros)”.

Poland, which is leading the way in hosting Ukrainian refugees on its territory — more than a million since the war started on February 24 — is wary. “For us citizens, we are sure that the arrival of the Russians will be a matter of days, Monika is concerned. They hate us and they have for a long time. We don’t like them either, that’s an old story. Putin said he wanted to take back what was his, and Poland was still a communist regime after World War II, just like Russia. But Putin will attack Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia first.”