Many Poles believe that more needs to be done to support refugees and thereby ease the burden on volunteers and charities. But no one knows who to blame.
Polish opposition leaders have criticized the conservative nationalist Law and Justice party for doing too little and taking credit for the work of ordinary people. Others point the finger at the European Union for not granting Poland more emergency funds to respond to the crisis.
Poland’s central government insists its response has been vigorous.
Poland’s parliament has allowed Ukrainian refugees to stay legally in the country for 18 months, granted them access to social security and healthcare systems and introduced programs to provide small cash payments to families Polish women who take refugees into their homes.
These efforts have won Poland wide acclaim and helped the government restore an international image damaged by the ruling Law and Justice party’s past hostility to non-EU immigrants and asylum seekers.
Many Ukrainians say the Poles have been incredibly welcoming and generous. But Trzaskowski said Poles could become increasingly reluctant to support refugees if nothing is done to help cities like Warsaw.
“As this crisis continues and city services are strained…then we might expect a bit of a backlash,” he said. “That’s why we need a system, we have to share the burden.”
Potential cracks loom large in public services such as education. Although remote learning is still an option for many refugee students, Polish Education Minister Przemyslaw Czarnek said more than 190,000 Ukrainian children have enrolled in Polish schools, and this number could reach 700,000 students.
Ewa Petrykiewicz, principal of St. Stainslaw Kostka School in Warsaw, a private school with experience teaching children from countries like Belarus, said her school is ideally placed to welcome students from Ukraine. .
When refugees started arriving in Poland, she rented additional classrooms, hired more teachers, and doubled class sizes. But while the school receives money from the government to help Ukrainians, she says, it relies heavily on private donations.
Petrykiewicz is determined not to turn away any refugee students, but the school is running out of space. And even before the war, Poland faced a shortage of teachers.
“We can expand and rent more space, but we don’t have the money left to do that,” she said. “Buying basic supplies like toilet paper is a challenge.”