Ukraine Poland: Destined for strategic cooperation

2024-03-02 09:00:01

Their complicated common history is marked by economic confrontations, yet it has also witnessed a genuine popular outpouring of sympathy since the beginning of the full-scale russian invasion. The two nations share a common sense of existence – freedom.

 

Recently, the Ukrinform national news agency presented a book by Yurii Shcherbak, distinguished writer and diplomat. Mr. Shcherbak, who serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Independent Ukrainian Media Center in Europe and is a member of the Presidium of the Ukrainian Peace Council, entitled his work "Ukraine in Poland’s Embrace. Realities and Prophecies". This publication is a clarion call to maintain and multiply the achievements of Ukrainian-Polish friendship and strategic cooperation. In addition, it serves as another documentation of the war crimes and repercussions that Ukrainians are facing both in Ukraine and abroad today.

 

From the very outset of russian aggression, Poland has become Ukraine's closest and staunchest ally across political, military, economic, information, and humanitarian domains. In particular, the author recounts his firsthand experiences and observations at the beginning of the war, when he had to relocate to Poland.

 

"I witnessed an incredible event – a 'biblical' exodus of our people, mainly women with children," said Yurii Shcherbak during the book presentation at the Ukrinform media center. "I saw endless columns of cars and buses in front of the Polish border crossing. It was an unprecedented demographic catastrophe, as women with children, our genetic wealth, were fleeing. Unfortunately, not all these children will return to Ukraine; they will enrich the gene pool of other nations. That is what the book is about – about millions of people who crossed the border with Poland, and this country providing refuge for our people. I sought to thank the Poles for their wonderful attitude towards Ukrainians.”

 

According to the author, what has happened in Polish-Ukrainian relations since February 24, 2022, is unique in modern history, as it was "a real popular explosion of Poles' compassion for their neighbors, friendship, desire to help, feed, caress children, relieve terrible stress, and resolve problems with education and employment."

 

Yurii Shcherbak writes that Ukrainian refugees were amazed to see that there were blue and yellow flags all over Poland, and that volunteers, who were proficient in Ukrainian, were attentive, they provided food and gifts, including children's clothes and beauty care products, at refugee centers. The author believes many studies of this phenomenon will be conducted in the future.

 

During the presentation, Yurii Shcherbak cited several figures. According to official data, 77% of Poles helped refugees. Reportedly, people raised even more money to help Ukrainians than the Polish government contributed.

"Of course, we know about other cases," says the author. "As a matter of fact, there were individuals who were not very friendly to Ukrainians, and there were outright enemies of Ukrainians who put forward the program ‘Stop the Banderization of Poland’ – it was a marginal party that lost the [parliamentary] elections to the Sejm.”

 

When the honeymoon period of support was over, Ukrainian-Polish relations faced new challenges and friction began. According to Yurii Shcherbak, a politician from the team of incumbent Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk noted that perhaps disagreements are based on historical codes say  Poles feel like ‘szlachta’ (Polish gentry) and Ukrainians feel like ‘Cossacks’ (free persons).

 

"I don't know how much these historical codes affect our relations, but I know for sure that they are affected by the clash of national interests," asserts Mr. Shcherbak. "I am convinced that there is no one right or wrong in this situation. Both parties might have sat down to the negotiating table and begun a serious conversation. Indeed, our grain exports in large quantities affect the interests of Polish farmers. Today, however, the border has begun to play the role of an instrument of pressure on the Polish government, which has nothing to do with Ukrainian mistakes, while Ukrainians suffer from it.”

 

In his book, the author refers to the events of the summer and fall of 2023, when two Polish-Ukrainian crises arose: the grain crisis, caused by protests by Polish farmers over the import of large quantities of low-priced Ukrainian grain into Poland, and the crisis provoked by Polish truckers who opposed the EU's decision to entitle Ukrainian truckers to enter the competition for the Polish and European road transport sector without restrictions. February 2024 saw horrifying scenes of Polish farmers spilling Ukrainian grain on roads.

 

As recently as last year, according to Yurii Shcherbak, this gave one of the author's Ukrainian friends reason to remark that the title of the book could be interpreted differently, say "the embrace is too tight," and in fact it is dependence, because Poland is a critical corridor for the supply of weapons, ammunition, and other strategic goods. Nevertheless, the author was not going to change the book’s title for the sake of the changing political situation, because he believes “the Ukrainian-Polish unity was not an accidental episode of our coexistence, but the expression of strong sentiments shared by both societies in spite of hostile rhetoric or variable calculations by cynical politicians”.

 

This view was supported by Prof. Volodymyr Lipkan, President of the Global Organization of Allied Leadership. He said: "There were different historical events in the history of the two countries, different approaches to their interpretation. However, we cannot reverse history, nor were we engaged to make it in the past. Instead, we are creating the current history of Ukrainian-Polish relations, and we will be responsible for the consequences to our descendants and future generations. Yurii Shcherbak denounces ably and strongly those politicians who, with the intention of flirting with the electorate, seek to question the strategic events that historically have led to the unification of the Ukrainian and Polish peoples into a lasting strategic alliance."

Professor Lipkan acknowledges that although it is not yet known how long Ukraine’s path to join the EU and NATO will take, Yurii Shcherbak, like many other politicians and scholars, points to an alternative path – bilateral agreements. Recently, a bilateral security agreement was signed with Britain, and Volodymyr Lipkan believes the next one should be concluded with Poland. Mr. Shcherbak elaborated on this vision, noting that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has confirmed of late that Poland is joining the process of working out such agreement. "My concept is in tune with the ideas of many Poles to form a very strong strategic alliance between Ukraine and Poland," the author added.

 

Yurii Shcherbak's impressions and assessments in the new book are supplemented by his articles published in mainstream Polish publications between 2022 and 2023. A separate story is devoted to the Ukrainian-Polish Information and Analytical Center that goes under the name of the Independent Media Forum. At present, it boasts a powerful Internet portal in three languages – Ukrainian, Polish and English ( www.uacenter.media), with an organizing center in Kyiv, headquarters in Poland, offices and a network of correspondents based in many countries. The Poles also helped establish and develop the Forum. Hence, it is not without reason that there are plans in the pipeline to publish the book in Polish.

 

According to Ganna Krasnostup, Director of the Information Policy and Information Security Department under the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine (MCIP), the book was published in cooperation between the MCIP and the state-owned enterprise, Center for the Protection of the Ukrainian Information Space, within the framework of the ‘’Book for Strengthening National Unity" project. Specifically, it was published in the "Library of the ‘Monuments of Ukraine’ magazine” series for distribution free of charge.

 

To conclude, it is worth quoting from Yurii Shcherbak's book: "A common future, our unity and embrace as a protective wall against moscow's aggression is dictated by the vital necessity of the very existence of our countries and peoples. For there is no independent Poland without independent Ukraine."

 

Dmytro SHULIKIN


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