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In Poland, the war in Ukraine upsets the priorities of opponents of power

People await the arrival of US President Joe Biden at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, March 26, 2022.

They marched against the toughening of the law on abortion – which came into force in January 2021 –, shouted at the bringing to heel of the judiciary, alerted to the danger of the climate or even denounced the relentlessness of the leaders against the LGBT community. . They are activists or simple progressive citizens, and for seven years have been worried and fought tirelessly against the ultra-conservatives of the Law and Justice Party (PiS), in power in Poland since 2015. But the invasion of Ukraine by the Russia, the hated enemy, has suddenly reversed the priorities.

From February 24, Poland, which already had more than a million Ukrainians on its soil before the war, opened its arms wide to its very close neighbours. A collective and remarkable momentum: more than 2.3 million Ukrainians arrived in the country in one month, 300,000 of whom opted for Warsaw. In the big Polish cities, we hear Russian or Ukrainian spoken on every street corner, the blue and yellow flag adorns buses and trams. ” Wholeheartedly with you “, say the urban billboards of four by three meters. Here, posters in Cyrillic offer screening tests for Covid-19; there, the telephone operators provide free chips and kits to newcomers. In the countryside as in the city, the Poles have opened their sofa bed. Gymnasiums, theaters and concert halls have been transformed into dormitories, schools have educated more than 80,000 Ukrainian children.

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The power encouraged these initiatives. While, since the summer, the guards at the Polish-Belarusian border, applying new legislation to the letter, relentlessly turn back migrants from the Middle East, the national conservative government has given in a few weeks a formal framework to all expressions of hospitality to Ukrainian refugees. It has just authorized the residence and work of the latter for a period of eighteen months and grants them the same allowances as the Poles thanks to a number called “Pesel”, essential sesame for any administrative procedure in the country. “We don’t call Ukrainians ‘refugees’, but ‘our guests’, ‘our brothers’, ‘our neighbors from Ukraine’”, explained the president, Andrzej Duda, on March 25. These chosen words pulled the rug out from under his opponents.

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Russia’s entry into the war on February 24 brought about a truce on the domestic political scene. On March 2, President Duda vetoed a reform of the education system which deeply divided the Poles. The next day, he appeared with Rafal Trzaskowski, the progressive mayor of Warsaw, his big rival in the 2020 presidential election, to consult him on the help to be given to refugees from Ukraine. The Diet also experienced a rare unity: on March 11, 450 deputies voted to increase the defense budget (5 others abstained and the last 5 did not take part in the vote), and the Senate followed suit the step a few days later.

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