Migration by Ukrainians to Poland to work was slow to arrive where I live. Despite being one of the wealthier and historically better run large cities in Poland, since the end of communism it hasn’t been among the first places migrants show up in whether Vietnamese in the 1990s and early 2000s or Ukrainians starting a few years ago. But the Ukrainian movement is so large now that it’s become very visible and audible here too.
Bulletin board in Warsaw
I was seeing off a visitor at the bus station a few days ago and noticed that there are at least ten buses every day arriving and departing to Ukraine (and apparently an air connection or two as well) and there were several on the bus the person I was with was taking as well (headed generally East).
A few days later, on Corpus Christi I took a walk in the city’s botanical garden with a friend. It was unusually hot for the end of May and there weren’t as many people as would normally be there but two thirds or more of the other people there could be heard speaking Russian or Ukrainian (or some mix thereof).
“Are we being colonized?” my friend asked jokingly.
I mentioned that when I go for walks on Sunday the presence of Ukrainians is a lot more salient than on other days (that is they make up a higher percentage of those out and about).
A sign of the times. The largest grocery chain in Poland (owned by a Portuguese company) is recruiting in Ukrainian.
“Well, most are just here to work and living in rented rooms or hostels” I explained “When they have free time they’re more likely to want to go out instead of sitting around at home like Poles do.”
We talked a little then about how many might end up staying versus going back. The conventional wisdom is that most will eventually return to Ukraine (or maybe head further west) but no one is concerned about how many might end up staying (except for a few idiots here and there). This is of course because of the general linguistic and cultural compatibility. There are some problems of adaptation but they’re not hard to overcome. What’s surprising isn’t that there is some tension. Wha’ts surprising is that there so little and that it’s so… tractable.
“I guess most will go back” he said at the bus stop after we’d left. A young couple speaking Russian was also waiting. She had a mouth full of new dental work and they had a baby in a carriage and a small dog in tow.
“But I think some of them aren’t going anywhere” I said.