Absent an Integration Policy, Poland Offers Patchy Support to Ukrainian Refugees

Like many other Ukrainian refugees, upon arriving in Warsaw Iryna and her daughter were quickly hosted by a Polish family. But, as it was in many cases, the offer for housing was only short term, so mother and child had to move to another home, then a third one, all within one month of reaching Poland.

"It was just too stressful to keep moving again and again - and too lonely," Iryna explained her decision to leave Poland. "Once Ukrainians started returning to Kyiv, I waited two more weeks to be sure, then decided to go back myself."

Iryna's story is not uncommon. Data from the Polish Border Guard indicates that up to 1 million Ukrainians have made the reverse trip from Poland back to Ukraine since the start of the war. While some are those who were living in Poland before the invasion and wanted to join the war effort, many are refugees who returned once the situation in their towns became more stable.

The Centre of Migration Research at Warsaw University estimates that about 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees remain in Poland, out of the over 3 million who entered the country after Russia invaded on February 24.

Over a million have registered to obtain a Polish social security number, or PESEL, which gives them access to health and social care, among other services. This indicates they are likely to stay for at least a few more months. Based on the demographics of those applying for a PESEL, it's clear that about half of the refugees are children and the vast majority female.

"This is a very volatile population," Pawel Kaczmarczyk, head of the Centre of Migration Research, tells BIRN, referring to the Ukrainian refugees fleeing to Poland since the war started. "Some of them have moved further west, some of them have gone back home...

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