In an interview with the KYIV NOT KIEV project, Bartosz Ciсhocki, Ambassador of Poland to Ukraine, talked about how Poland sees the war started by Russia, why they advocate the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine, and what is the economic benefit of Poland from the influx of Ukrainian "guests".
Ambassador Cichocki was one of the few heads of foreign diplomatic missions who remained in Kyiv all the time after the start of the full-scale Russian invasion. The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded hourly updates on the development of the situation, and the huge queues of Ukrainians at the Polish border needed constant coordination with state and customs authorities.
"Different from many other world capitals, in Poland, we rejected this suspicion that Ukraine would fall within two or three days or a week. But back then, we had no illusions that after pushing out Russians from the Kyiv oblast, this would stop like this", the Ambassador shares his predictions about the war's duration in its early days.
For Poland, Ukraine's victory is vital. There is an opinion, widely shared view in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, that Russia would not stop at Ukraine.
"We perfectly understand that this Russian aggression is not about Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, or Mariupol. This is about changing the security system in Europe, created after the fall of the Soviet Union."
Poland would fall victim and feel the consequences strongly if Russia succeeded.
"You are also defending us. The more we help you, the safer our houses will be," Ambassador Cichocki is convinced.
The diplomat notes that there has been more mutual confidence in Ukrainian-Polish relations. And this helps a lot to solve issues from very symbolic decisions, like those lions in the Lychakiv cemetery, to other things related to identity, to history.
Poland was once called the advocate of European integration of Ukraine. Now, Ukraine is revitalizing the movement to the EU and NATO, and Poland maintains its role in supporting Ukraine's integration aspirations.
"We believe that there are important global processes within Europe that demand us to look forward and acknowledge that Ukraine's young, innovative, creative society would simply make us stronger," Mr. Ambassador says. "But you should not be naive. We are equally supportive of the enlargement of the EU and NATO, and we are equally critically respecting the quality of (Ukraine’s – ed.) membership."
A massive influx of refugees or, the way President Duda nicely called Ukrainians in Poland, "guests" usually causes economic and social tension. What we see is that since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Ukrainians paid over €2 billion in taxes in Poland. "Business insider Polska" reported that almost every 10th business opened in Poland in 2022 belongs to a Ukrainian owner.
"Most probably, the taxes that come from Ukrainians working in Poland have already overcome the expenses of managing this influx of refugees," admits the Ambassador.
He is also impressed by the flourishing of bilateral trade: due to the war circumstances, Ukraine and Poland gave up on most of the limits, tariffs, and quotas, and it helps to import and export more.
"Let's hope the positive side effects of this tragic aggression stay with us. But the war must be stopped, and the aggressor has to be punished first," says the Ambassador.
Bartosz Cichocki does not believe in "Ukraine fatigue", but he recognizes the brutal reality: Russia’s war against Ukraine is not the only crisis the world is facing. Sometimes in Europe there are different perspectives, as some countries are less sensitive to Russian neo imperialism because they never faced Soviet or Tzarist expansion. Some countries are much more vulnerable to Russia's gas and oil exports, and that's why every time the sanctions or support of Ukraine is being discussed, it takes effort.
At the same time, the diplomat pays tribute to the solidarity of Europeans around support for Ukraine:
"I would say this is a miracle. We are about to agree on the 10th package of sanctions on Russia. If somebody had told me a year ago that we would have any package of sanctions on Russia, frankly speaking, I would not have believed it. I would not have believed we would give up on the Nord Stream. Things are changing. Ukraine got more NATO weaponry than any NATO member got at any time."
Cichocki believes that the allies must be faster and braver in what they supply:
"We should not calculate everything because lives and sovereignty are the most precious things. They are not calculable in money."
Context. KYIV NOT KIEV is an English-language news blog about Ukraine that helps improve Ukraine's communication with the world, as well as a community of over 30,000 Ukraine-supporters from around the world. After the full-scale Russian invasion, KYIV NOT KIEV fights against Russian propaganda and disinformation. The project is known for a series of interviews with foreign ambassadors to Ukraine.
The project "KYIV NOT KIEV. Changemakers Season", which included an interview with the Ambassador of Poland, is implemented with the support of the European Union.