(NewsNation) — Millions of Ukrainian refugees have flowed into neighboring Poland since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine nearly two months ago. The massive influx of people is taxing Poland’s resources, according to Adam Krzywosądzki, Deputy Chief of Mission and a top official at the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C.
While Poland’s citizens have welcomed refugees and galvanized around them to help, Krzywosądzki told NewsNation his country needs more help, especially as fears mount of a possible invasion of Poland.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Before the invasion, people were bracing for a refugee crisis. There are now 2.7 million refugees in your country and it seems to be going fairly smoothly. Why is that?
A: Even before the war started, we had a significant Ukrainian diaspora in Poland — up to 1.5 million people — so we had those ties. But we have seen this true outpouring of empathy on the part of the Polish people, something truly unprecedented, I believe, in modern history. Polish people have opened not only their hearts in a symbolic way, but their homes to so many Ukrainians.
Q: If this war continues, is it sustainable for Poland to continue to support these refugees in the months to come? Is there a plan for these millions of refugees?
A: The most important part is that we are definitely not going to change our policy in this respect. We are willing and determined to keep our borders open to every single individual from Ukraine that seeks safe haven on the Polish territory.
But it is a fair question in the sense that we are reaching our capacity. There is a significant strain on our systems, in health care or education, but we have to deal with that. We do need assistance from the international community.
Q: President Biden is accepting 100,000 refugees. Is that enough?
A: It is a step in the right direction. Let me put it this way: We know that given the size of the U.S., both geographically and in terms of population, there is more capacity on this side of the ocean than in Poland.
Q: Are the fears real inside Poland of Russia invading your country?
A: Yes, the Polish population is definitely worried about what it sees just next door. But, in general, on the state level, I would say that we are not really worried. We are clear-eyed about the Russia threat.
In terms of our own security, we do have to make sure that we have enough capabilities on the Eastern Flank of NATO. First and foremost, in the form of more NATO troops on our territory. Right now, we have almost 10,000 U.S. troops in Poland, but we do need more than that. We also have to shift from the rotational presence of those troops to a permanent one.
Q: What are your biggest fears for your family members and friends back home?
A: The main concern is surely about this risk of a spillover of this conflict onto our territory, that we are somehow dragged into the war. We have fought many wars with Russia. In fact, we only managed to regain our sovereignty and independence in 1989. It’s been just 33 years.
This is why we believe that we have to do everything we can to support Ukraine because the Ukrainians are not fighting just for their sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. They are also, in fact, fighting for our security.
Q: As far as sanctions, do you think NATO and EU countries are doing enough?
A: I believe that we’ve done a lot, but we see that there’s still a lot of room for further sanctions. We have to target Russian hydrocarbons, exports, oil, gas, coal. This is an area where Poland has advocated very strongly for banning all gas and coal in the EU. It’s not only about words, it’s also about tangible, concrete actions and we are trying to lead by example. I’m very proud that we will cease our imports of Russian natural gas by the end of this year.