Anxiety Is Sparked By A Russian Missile Strike Near Nato’s Poland

Fears that the war could cut off supplies or perhaps spill over into Poland have prompted Poles to rush to passport offices and stockpile goods after a Russian missile attack killed at least 35 people in western Ukraine, just 15 miles from NATO member Poland. On Monday, a large line of applicants gathered outside Warsaw’s main passport office on Krucza Street, which had not been seen in decades. Shoppers’ baskets were brimming with canned goods, bottled water, torches, and batteries. People on the street exchanged news and expressed their concerns about the future. Justyna Winnicka, 44, was filling out the passport form for her 16-year-old daughter, Michalina, on the street outside the passport office.

“We want to have a passport because the last one expired and we want to be able to go on vacation, but also want to be able to travel abroad in case something happens here in Poland,” Winnicka told The Associated Press. Asked if she was afraid because of the fighting just across Poland’s border, she said “Everybody is a little bit afraid today.” “We all believe that the fact that we are in NATO will protect us in some way, but each of us also remembers the history of World War II and the (failed) alliances of those times,” Winnicka said.

“Things can turn out in different ways. In Poland people are a bit afraid,” she said. Anna Kwiatkowska, 42, a mother of two, said on Sunday that a friend who works for a foreign corporation recommended the family to have their passports ready, as well as some cash. Kwiatkowska’s children, ages 10 and 8, have never traveled outside of Poland. All of this is despite the fact that NATO, to which Poland has belonged since 1999, is beefing up its military presence in eastern Poland, near the Ukraine border, and insisting that the alliance is doing its job of assuring Poland’s protection.

However, Russia’s strike on a Ukrainian military training center in Yavoriv, less than 15 miles (25 kilometres) from Poland’s border, shook Poles living near the border’s confidence and caused anxiety among those who are all too aware of Russia’s and the Soviet Union’s past control of Poland’s territory. “So I will apply for passports to be done for my children,” The attack, which occurred near a refugee route into Poland, was also designed to “provoke panic among civilians” fleeing the “horrors of the conflict,” according to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

Since Feb. 24, when Russian troops invaded Ukraine and launched attacks on hospitals, schools, and residential areas, Poland has taken in more than 1.8 million Ukrainian refugees, virtually all of them are women and children. The attack on Yavoriv and others on civilians, according to Morawiecki, is aimed at “defeating this humanitarian endeavor… of relief being supplied to innocent people, women, and children.” Marcin Przydacz, Poland’s deputy foreign minister, said he doesn’t believe Russia would try to attack a NATO country because it “visibly isn’t coping” in Ukraine. Despite this, he emphasized that “one should be careful, and we are cautious.”

People in Warsaw, Poland’s capital, were all too aware of the potential threat to Eastern bloc countries that, like Poland, had been under Soviet authority for more than four decades following World War II. “We’ve been safe so far; I thought the pandemic was the worst I’d have to deal with, but now there’s a war right across our border,” Emilia Gancarz, a 61-year-old retiree, said. “I don’t want to experience war; it’s the worst thing in the world,” she added, adding that she is preparing for the worst by storing up on candles, dry food, nuts, and canned items. She stated that some of her acquaintances are purchasing modest solar panels to use in the event of a power outage. Rafal Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw, encouraged calm. “We’re all keeping an eye on President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy. We don’t panic if he doesn’t panic. Please, don’t make me laugh. At a press conference, Trzaskowski stated, “There is no panic.”

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“Of course, people ask questions — what if a rocket goes astray? We also ask what if there is a chemical attack. But there is no panic. We feel safe. We have those very important assurances from President (Joe) Biden and the secretary-general of NATO and other friends from NATO countries … who visit us daily,” Trzaskowski said.

In the meantime, some Poles are trying everything they can to sway public opinion in Russia and its partner Belarus. They block the road to the Polish-Belarusian border crossing with Ukrainian blue-and-yellow flags, blocking trucks with Russian or Belarusian registration plates. They inform the drivers about Russian soldiers targeting people in Ukraine, but the drivers either deny knowing anything or are simply going about their business, according to Poland’s private TNV24. Residents of Wielkie Oczy, a small Polish village just over a mile (two kilometers) border Ukraine, were awoken early Sunday by the Yavoriv attack and the barking of dogs. They could see the brightness of explosions and billowing smoke from their balconies.

Later, they gathered to Mass at the local Roman Catholic church to relate their experiences and seek solace from their fellow parishioners. The entire family was “shocked.” Lucyna Lesicka, 56, stated, “We were scared.” The pastor at the Immaculate Conception Church, Rev. Jozef Florek, expressed his concern.

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