UN General Assembly: Eleventh Emergency Special Session, February 28, 2022.

Poland’s remarks by H. E. Krzysztof Szczerski

Must read

Publisher’s note:
Ukraine: Not since the founding of the United Nations in 1945 has there been such a moment as today – when 193 member states will, or ought, re-energize Hope while under threat of nuclear annihilation.

Mister President,

Distinguished Delegates,

Poland fully agrees with the text of the resolution to be tabled by Ukraine and calls on each member state to stand firmly behind it. We deeply believe that through this act we will demonstrate our adherence to the principles enshrined in the UN Charter. Only by upholding those fundamental principles can we seek the truly peaceful and long-term solution to the conflict caused by the Russian aggression in Ukraine. In that sense, the resolution we are about to vote paves the way to a meaningful diplomatic effort to end the atrocities of this war.

To achieve peace, Poland, as the current Chairmanship-in-Office of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, called yesterday for the immediate ceasefire in Ukraine to let humanitarian organizations deliver assistance.

But these appeals for peace are even more urgent when you look at the events in Ukraine from a close-distance perspective. Let me tell you how we, Poles, see and respond to the horrors of this war as neighbors and friends of Ukraine.

There is no doubt that we are confronted with one of the biggest humanitarian crises in Europe since World War II. In the first three days of the Russian aggression, facilitated by the complicity of the Belarussian regime of Aleksandr Lukashenka, we witnessed almost 500,000 people fleeing Ukraine – 300,000 of which found refuge in my home country. We keep our borders open, our diplomatic missions help those who seek refuge in Poland. The nationals of all countries who suffered from Russian aggression, or whose life is at risk, can seek shelter in my country. Only for first half of today we have welcomed people of 125 nationalities fleeing Ukraine, including more than 100 with Russian passports. The list is too long to be read here. Let me just mention those with more than 100 nationals: Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, India, Morocco, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Poland, Belarus, Iran, Turkey, Algeria and Russia. This applies also to students, which I understand is a serious concern for some colleagues. They were given offer to continue studies in Poland. We know that some of the missions here in New York were targeted by disinformation suggesting discriminatory practices at the Polish-Ukrainian border based on race or religion. This is a complete lie and a terrible insult to us.

Besides giving refuge, Poland delivers to those who suffer a very practical and tangible help. My government organized special trains for the elderly and mothers with small babies, as well as convoys with supplies and medical aid. There are 7 thousand beds in 20 hospitals ready for those wounded and sick and I want to announce that first Ukrainian refugee babies were born in Polish in the 24 hours and first life-saving operations were carried out on the elderly. Poland stands ready to cooperate closely with UN OCHA, International Committee of the Red Cross and any other humanitarian organizations to ease the burden on civilians targeted by Russian aggression.

But what I am most proud of is the outpour of spontaneous readiness to help by individuals. Polish families are opening their homes to refugees. They offer clothes, food, and accommodation. Thousands of private cars are coming from all over Poland to pick up those who crossed the border. On the first two days, we experienced long traffic jams because of the number of cars coming from all corners of Poland. Polish people stand in lines for hours to donate blood. The scale of help offered was so big that the government opened a special website “Helping Ukraine” where volunteers can register and get guidance on those in need. While diplomats in my mission are fulfilling our diplomatic duties here in New York, our family members and friends are welcoming refugees coming directly from the war zone. In this conflict, Poland may not be a geopolitical superpower, but we want to be a solidarity superpower. And that is how we want to change the grim reality for better.

At the same time, I would like to pay tribute to those Ukrainians who defend their motherland and continue to stand for their country’s freedom. Those are not only soldiers, but also people like Vasylina, a 30-year old mother of two small daughters, living in a village near the Polish-Ukrainian border. When offered a trip to Poland by my family, she answered: “I cannot leave Ukraine now, this is my country, I have to stay and take care of it. Now she is cooking food for soldiers and refugees at the border”.

A similar answer was given by our diplomats in Ukraine. We keep our embassies and consulates open and they keep fulfilling their diplomatic and consular duties. Let me share the message to you I received today from our ambassador Bartosz Cichocki in Kyiv: “I am the Polish ambassador to Ukraine. I work in Kiev – a city the size of Berlin – inhabited by over 4 million people. From Thursday morning, I have to hide from the bombing in a basement several times a day. I wake to exchanges of machine gun fire. Windows are shaking from missile detonations. I am convinced that right now, when you are deciding in New York, hundreds of thousands of terrified residents of Kharkiv, Dniper, Zhytomyr, Mariupol, Lviv and Kiev look at you with hope and faith in the power of international law”.

I wish to conclude by a reference to the warning expressed by a nineteenth-century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevski in his book with a meaningful title “Crime and Punishment”. The message of the book is the following: when someone, just like Raskolnikov, thinks he is exceptional and free from moral obligations, and therefore feels entitled to committing a crime of murder, in the end, he faces the punishment from the crime itself. Because committing a crime is already one’s biggest punishment. There’s no crime without punishment.

Thank you very much.


More articles

Latest article