Soon, two million people from Ukraine arrived in Poland. This makes Poland the country to which most Ukrainians have fled so far. In the capital Warsaw alone, which is home to 1.9 million people, 300,000 refugees have arrived in recent weeks. Roman Wellinger, SRF’s Eastern Europe correspondent, was in Warsaw on Thursday and visited a reception center, among other things.
Eastern Europe Correspondent, SRF
Roman Willinger is SRF Radio’s Eastern Europe correspondent. From 2007 to 2018, he worked in various positions at “Echo der Zeit”, the last of which was moderator and deputy editor-in-chief.
SRF News: How do you face the situation in the capital?
Roman Wellinger: On the one hand, this city seemed completely normal to me. On the other hand, the situation was very tragic. It really depends, these days in Warsaw, on where you look closely – where you go. At first glance, people shop, go to work, as usual, go out to eat, as always. But when you visit certain places, for example Warsaw Central Station, the normal life definitely comes to an end.
Above all, I saw a lot of insanely tired sad people.
A lot of Ukrainians arrived at this station, what did you notice?
Above all, I saw a lot of insanely tired sad people. This station has a showroom and there are people who have tried to sleep on mattresses on the floor, surrounded by bags, plastic bags and portable cat cages. On the ground floor of this station, the situation is slightly different. There, volunteers at improvised stands give information on accommodation options or subsequent travel options. There is a large tent where free food is distributed. And despite all the activity, despite all the people out there, it’s surprisingly quiet. My impression was that many of these refugees – almost all women, children or elderly people – were simply too tired to do more than is absolutely necessary at the moment.
The mayor of Warsaw has already requested international assistance. How can Warsaw – and all of Poland – handle so many refugees?
No one knows at the moment how this will continue in the long term. In Poland, everyone, regardless of their political convictions, is proud of the willingness of the Polish people to help. But I also spoke to voivode – the highest representative of the central government in this region – and he said that without help from outside, without more help from other European countries, it won’t work out in the long run.
In Poland, everyone is currently proud of the willingness to help the Polish population.
But asking for such help is not easy for the Polish government from a political point of view. During the refugee crisis in 2015, when refugees mainly arrived in southern Europe, I strongly resisted the collective responsibility of the people who fled. For example, I flatly refused the key to the European distribution. You do not want to give up this position now. But of course one hopes to get more money from the rest of Europe.
The conversation was conducted by Sandra Whitmer.
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