we want to help Ukrainians, but not people on the border with Belarus [SONDAŻ]

Shortly after the start of Russian aggression, Ukrainians and Ukrainians fleeing the war met with an enthusiastic and empathetic reception from Poles. The popular social uprising of support was unprecedented in our history – in the March Ipsos poll for OKO.press, no less than 61%. of respondents said they had taken part in aid actions in one form or another. Moreover, the attitude towards Ukrainians staying in Poland at that time was de facto unanimously positive: 92% said so. topics.

The question was how long the wave of enthusiasm will last, one would have assumed that with the weeks that brought the first problems and conflicts, the situation would start to worsen. Even if it is so in the future, not today. According to the May Ipsos survey for the More in Common association, 75 percent subjects always declares a positive attitude towards Ukrainians residing in Poland, and only 4 percent negativeand until 90 percent support take in refugees from Ukraine.

According to the latest Eurobarometer, Poland is the leader of the European Union’s outpouring of sympathy and solidarity towards Ukraine and the refugees from Ukraine, which is surprisingly strong (with the exception of the attitudes of Greeks, Cypriots, Bulgarians, Hungarians and Slovaks). In this poll, no less than 87 percent. Polish men and women (mostly in the EU) expressed their approval for our society’s reaction to the war and its consequences.

The May Ipsos survey raises an alarm signal.

We are beginning to realize that the presence of a large number of Ukrainians in Poland can lead to social conflicts, he believes 44 percent subjectsthe contrary is of opinion 51 percent

The Ipsos survey for the association More in Common is entirely devoted to the perception of refugees by Poles. OKO.press is the first media in Poland to publish the results of this study.

“More in Common is an international initiative founded in 2017, which aims to build strong, more united societies that are resilient to the threat of growing polarization and social divisions,” says Adam Traczyk of MiC.

He adds: “The Ipsos survey is part of a larger research project in which we look at companies in Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Poland in times of pandemic uncertainty. But of course we also react to the news – the Ipsos survey is a kind of intervention in the refugee crisis.

We want it to be a seed of some sort of early warning system that will allow us to identify potential tensions early and disarm them.”

And the dangers are seen, especially when we compare the reaction of the Poles to the various refugee crises. The responses show that our reception of refugees is not unconditional, it results less from the commonly shared idea of ​​helping, more from the political and cultural narratives of particular crises. And these, as we know, can change quickly depending on political interests and needs.

Let’s help the Ukrainians, those in Belarus do not deserve

Ipsos for More in Common asked Poles if migrants and refugees trying to get to Poland across the border with Belarus deserve the same help as refugees from Ukraine? It turns out that our compassion for refugees and migrants splashes like a soap bubble. 60 percent of respondents answered this question negatively.

The graph above shows how sensitive the issue of refugee and migrant assistance is to political interpretations in Poland. The fate of a person seeking help is less important, more where he comes from, what motivations he follows, more why he seeks help in Poland, less whether he really needs it. In this case, the fact that refugees and migrants were used by the regime of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko to destabilize the situation on Poland’s eastern border proves more important than the dramas of specific people asking us to aid.

The proportions described are also the triumph of the propaganda story of the rulers – Law and Justice and the media emanations from the ruling camp were not limited, as we remember, to the conclusion that the migratory pressure was artificially created by Belarus, but also depicted people trying to reach the Polish side in black colors, which, on the basis of poor premises, was accused of terrorist connections, the desire to financially feed on Poles, and even zoophilia.

This relationship can be observed when we cut respondents’ opinions by their partisan sympathies.

In this context, the age-old question arises; which came first, like or the hen? Did the PiS respond effectively to the genuine fears and opinions of the majority of Poles, or did it effectively and creatively create a state of emergency? The answer is unclear. On the one hand, the ruling camp must have correctly recognized the needs of its own constituents and of the Confederacy. On the other hand, although voters on the Left (but also in most of the Civic Coalition) are largely steeped in anti-refugee rhetoric, supporters of Poland 2050 and the PSL accept it in a relatively large percentage,

which proves that opinions on this issue do not simply reflect the party’s power-opposition divide.

This last hypothesis is confirmed by another question posed by Ipsos: in view of the current situation, how do you assess the refusal to accept several thousand refugees from Syria by the Polish authorities in 2015? Most respondents (55%) positively assess the decision of Beata Szydło’s government:

Cross-checked by partisan sympathies, the graph looks almost identical to the question about refugees and migrants from the Polish-Belarusian border:

We did it, the government less. Fear of what’s next

One could argue that comparing these three refugee crises is the classic mistake of juxtaposing pears with apples: different contexts, different international situations, different emotions. However, the situation of a refugee or an immigrant is the same: he has been expelled from his home or has left it, seeking safety in Poland or a better life for himself or for himself and his family.

The differences of opinion on its aid to Poland therefore show that our aid is not unconditional, there are several “buts” hidden behind it.

This is important news in the context of creating policies towards refugees from Ukraine in such a way as to prevent conflict as much as possible. Because it shows that the current positive attitude towards Ukrainians is a social exception, not a rule. In the case of Ukrainians, there are no obvious antagonistic factors, such as racial or cultural differences, but

As long as the acceptance of a refugee, a foreigner, another in Poland is a kind of social favor, not a norm, a “good refugee” can very quickly turn into a “bad refugee”.

This concern is reflected in the qualitative research that More in Common has supplemented with the quantitative research on Ipsos. Here are two statements from people participating in research groups:

A woman before 40 from the province. Lublin, secondary education, pro-government sympathies“We, as a Polish nation, do not necessarily feel safe in our territory, and the influx increases the fear of getting a job even for the lowest national employment. We may not be in a vicious circle, but it generates anxiety. It would be nice if we adults could afford an apartment, but we earn the lowest national wage and that’s not enough for the bills. And there again humanity coming from a foreign country, it engenders rebellion. We are in Poland and it is our country and the government that must take care of our people”.

A woman before 30 from Katowice, university education, opposition sympathies: “At some point, we will be able to tame Ukraine and this situation, I am very afraid that we will tame it so much that we will start eating again, we will share again and we will start fighting again. a probable scenario.

Social uncertainty is also fueled by an ambivalent attitude towards the government’s response to the refugee crisis. While we positively rate ourselves, non-governmental organizations and charities, local governments, the government’s assessment among Poles is much more nuanced:

This, in turn, over time, can give Polish women and Poles a clearer sense that when it comes to helping refugees, they have been on their own, than most efforts and costs are on their shoulders. And this can trigger the process of a self-fulfilling prophecy: discouragement and fatigue, also resulting from the government’s feeling of inactivity, will more and more often turn into hostility, which will be politically leveraged and used by reluctant forces to the refugees, including the leaders.

Therefore, although, contrary to the predictions of pessimists, solidarity with Ukrainian refugees in Poland still remains at a high level, problems are looming on the horizon. It is important that optimism does not make us helpless when problems become reality.


Ipsos survey for More in Common, telephone survey (CATI) from 4 to 7 May 2022, sample of 1000 people, representative of adult Poles

Michal Danielewski
Michal Danielewski

She comes from Sieradz. Sociologist, editor, journalist. Longtime journalist and editor of “Gazeta Wyborcza”.


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