Read the original text at Neue Osnabrucker Zeitung.
Western Bus Station in Warsaw: hundreds of people from Ukraine come here every day. A bus from Kyiv arrives. 50 tired passengers slowly get out of the bus. They spent the whole night and half of the day in uncomfortable sitting with their dreams, hopes, and worries. Many of them had to leave their country because their earnings could no longer hold water. Now they are looking for a better life in Poland.
It is easy to go from one world to another: the western bus station for them is a Ukrainian exclave in the middle of Warsaw. Russian or Ukrainian languages can be heard everywhere, even advertisement is written in Cyrillic: McDonalds is looking for employees; some hostel is offering rooms where service is in the language of the visitors. High-rise buildings could be seen kilometer behind the bus station in the direction of the city center, embodying the well-being, which everyone here hopes to get.
Dmytro Pidhorny also arrived here four years ago. Everything that a 27-year-old man had from home could be easily fit in two large bags. Today he owns a construction firm with 15 employees.
It is estimated that about a million Ukrainians now live in Poland. Most of them arrived in the last four years, after the outbreak of war on the east of the country and because of the economic crisis that followed. A number of immigrants that arrive in Poland can be quantitatively compared with the flow of immigrants that come from the Middle East and Africa to Germany. However, it does not attract so much media attention, because Ukrainians in Poland are seen primarily as a valuable acquisition, not as a threat.
The country has serious demographic problems. According to the Polish statistical office, currently 2.4 million Poles are living abroad. After joining the EU in 2004, hundreds of thousands of Poles took advantage of the chance for a better life and moved to the UK or Germany. In addition, Polish population is one of the fastest growing in Europe. The economy is constantly growing in the country as well. There are not enough workers in the gastronomy, construction industry, agriculture and IT sector and this demand is mostly covered by Ukrainians now.
Dmytro Pidhorny is one of them. When he came here, he did not know a single word in Polish. He had to find a job quickly to obtain a residence permit. Dmytro, PR-manager in the past, had never been engaged in manual labor before, but he had no choice and went for twelve-hour construction job six days a week. "When you want to achieve something like a foreigner, you have to work twice as much," he explains. He earned three euros per hour. He had enough to save something to create his own company. Like most Ukrainian immigrants, he is very unpretentious. The average salary in Poland starts at 1,000 euros, in Ukraine - around 200 euros.
Six months later he established his firm, at first he hired two workers from Ukraine, today 15 people work for him. The demand for his services is very high, as the construction business in Poland is booming.
Pidhorny stands in a helmet on a scaffolding on the fourth floor and monitors work of his employees. They are plastering a five-story building. "Good," he says in Russian. There is not a single Pole in his firm. He hires only Belarusians and Ukrainians, because "they work better". He himself works seven days a week, for twelve hours. "Without Ukrainians, nothing would work here."
Polish "Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers" (ZPP) has the same belief. It issued one document, which purposefully requires hiring Ukrainians to help solve the problem with a shortage of labor. In the report titled "How to avoid a demographic catastrophe in Poland" of November 2016, ZPP writes that Ukrainians will "work hard and with pleasure, because they do not rely on social payments and want to earn for living themselves." In addition, they are not inclined to crime, the report says.
The other groups of immigrants are assessed differently: "Immigrants from Africa and the Middle East do not want to get a job." This was the experience Western Europe received, primarily Belgium, France, and Switzerland. In addition, they have "an obvious propensity to crime." Thus, ZPP fully supports the line of the right-conservative government of the party "Right and Justice" ("PiS"), which does not want to receive refugees from Syria, but at the same time demonstrates are open towards visitors from Ukraine.
"PiS" recognizes the fact that Poland cannot cope without the foreign visitors. The new head of government, Mateusz Morawiecki, recently said at the economic forum in Krynica that Poland might easily receive from one to two millions of Ukrainians in subsequent years if it does not manage to cover the labor demand at the expense of the Polish workers. According to the forecast of the Polish Central Statistical Office (CSO), the population of the country by 2050 will decrease from the current 38 million to 34 million people. The reason is the low birth rates.
The government believes that if Poland is forced to take migrants, then only from countries with a similar culture. The ZPP Union expressed this opinion in its report: "Ideal would be migrants who would willingly work and easily assimilate, with a very similar culture, a similar system of values and ideas about morality."
The ethnic and cultural similarity between the Poles and the Ukrainians is the reason there is no tension between these groups, although Poland is currently experiencing one of the largest waves of migration in its history. Violence against Ukrainians due to their origin is still very rare, while the number of crimes with racist motivation is increasing. Demonstrations against Muslim refugees are constantly organized, but there are no protests against Ukrainian migrants. According to a poll conducted in April 2017, 27% of Poles are positive towards Ukrainians, while only 8% are against the Syrians.
So neither the liberal opposition nor the right "PiS" is trying to use this problem. Only right extremists discovered this topic for themselves. In any case, the "National Movement" party, which was ignored by voters, warns at various events and press conferences about the "Ukrainianization of Poland." But it has not achieved any particular success.
Dmytro Pidhorny wants to stay in Poland anyway. Until now, neither he nor his Ukrainian colleagues had any troubles because of their origin. He looks out from the frame of a five-story building in the direction of the Warsaw skyscrapers: "I want us to build the tallest building in Warsaw in five years," he says. "Five years from now, I want to have 50 employees. All Ukrainians and Belarusians should know that they will always find work in my firm."