Poland’s Tepid Welcome to Ukrainians Leaves Economy Vulnerable

The early days were especially tough. "Polish people would try to help me by recommending jobs, but they were always menial ones," Trofimova told BIRN in a phone interview. "It took a long time before I ran into Poles who don't automatically see me as a servant, but treat me as an equal." 

After several jobs in childcare, she eventually got a shot at a managerial position, working as a supplier manager at a translation company. She had made peace with her employment, which she found challenging enough, but then was forced to give it up. When her temporary residence expired, a clerical error meant she would have to wait months for the next one.

Her employer could not keep her on and she had to return to Ukraine. She later came back to Poland with a Schengen visa and is awaiting a new residence permit in the western city of Wroclaw.

"The migration experience as it is now is one of wasting people's potential: university professors work as nannies, lawyers work on construction sites," Trofimova said. "Not only Poland, but the whole of Europe loses enormously." 

Like Trofimova, millions of Ukrainians have crossed the Polish border over the past decade in what is one of the largest migratory waves in the world today. 

At a border crossing in the village of Medyka in southeastern Poland, passengers on a train from Lviv bound for the eastern Polish city of Przemysl included construction workers, students and entrepreneurs.

When armed Polish border guards got on, the Ukrainian passengers fell silent as they braced for the typically stern passport and visa checks. Guards barked questions, repeating themselves in ever louder tones when misunderstood. They rummaged through bags. They tore open packets of food and threw them away lest they...

Continue reading on: