Poland-Ukraine. Look upon the border -1

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GEOMETR.IT  isp.org.pl

At first let us look at the sources of information on the basis of which Poles and Ukrainians form their mutual perceptions. Knowledge, alongside emotions, forms a sort of a fundamental building block of an image of a country or a nation.

There are many sources of knowledge about the neighbouring country and they all can be grouped into two types: direct and indirect sources4.

The first type includes visits to the neighbouring country and personal contacts: family contacts, friendships or business relations.

The second type includes the media, books and films, educational institutions or even conversations with acquaintances.

Poles gain information about Ukraine from more diversified sources of knowledge than Ukrainians about Poland, even though mass media remain the most popular source of information for both peoples. One of the most important sources of knowledge about Ukraine for Poles are school textbooks (predominantly history books). It should not be surprising thus that history is an important element of the image of Ukraine in the eyes of Poles.

On the contrary, for Ukrainians, the significance of school books as a source of knowledge about Poland as well as history as an element of the image of Poland is considerably smaller. For a large number of Ukrainians the media are the only source of information about the neighbouring country.

About 20% of Poles and 16% of Ukrainians have visited the neighbouring country at least once after 1991. Poles who visited Ukraine usually went there only once, whereas Ukrainians tended to come back several times. In comparison to the results of the IPA research in 2010, the percentage of

Ukrainians who visited Poland has increased by 6 percentage points5 and has reached the level of 20006 , when there was still visa-free regime between Poland and Ukraine.

Personal contacts with the neighbours from across the Polish-Ukrainian border are maintained by 23% of Poles and 29% of Ukrainians. Poles and Ukrainians who have personal contacts in the neighbouring country, most frequently have friends and close acquaintances: 16% of Ukrainians have acquaintances in Poland and 12% of Poles have acquaintances in Ukraine


The present study reveals positive changes in the relations between the two neighbouring nations that have taken place rather recently. The current picture is very different from the one even thirteen years ago, when the last study of mutual perception was conducted by the IPA. Even though the stereotypes of the Polish and Ukrainian national characters still point to the perceived unequal status of the two nations, the social distance between Poles and Ukrainians has decreased considerably.

Representatives of both nations tend to focus on similarities rather than differences between

themselves with regard to values and attitudes and eagerly accept one another in different social roles, including such as family members or bosses.

The biggest differences in the mutual perception of Poles and Ukrainians are reflected in their evaluations of ‘‘typical representatives’’ of the neighbouring nation. The respondents were asked to describe a typical Pole and a typical Ukrainian according to fifteen pairs of contrasting characteristics referring to one’s character and skills (see Graphs 4 and 5). The results shown on Graphs 4 and 5 present the image of Ukrainians as ‘‘simple people’’ from the olden days, who are not very well suited for the contemporary world, but are charming thanks to their openness, hospitality and positive attitude towards life.

A Ukrainian in comparison to a Pole is more cheerful and sociable, kind, honest, hospitable and enjoys alcohol. The image of Poles in the eyes of Ukrainians is advantageous to their own perception of themselves in almost all aspects. Poles according to Ukrainians are successful people, who deal with civilizational challenges much better than Ukrainians and besides are also more religious. Only in two cases Ukrainians thought of themselves better than of Poles: hospitality and sociability. What is interesting, both in case of Poles and Ukrainians the stereotype and self-stereotype are very similar



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  1. The antagonistic relationship between Poland and Ukraine can be traced to its roots as far as fourteenth century. This relationship eventually evolved into an intense religious, social, ethnic and military conflict that lasted for over 600 years and into the twentieth century as well as permeated into all aspects of life in Ukraine.

  2. The conquest of Ukraine took place following a 1339 treaty between the Polish monarch Casimir the Great and king Louis of Hungary, which stipulated that the two kings would cooperate in conquering the territory. The main concentration of the seizure was the Polish territories of Volhynia and Galitsia. The Poles, aided by the Hungarians fought against the Ukrainians who were helped by the Lithuanians for more than two decades.

  3. In 1991, when the Soviet government fell apart, Ukraine finally became an independent state, an achievement that took over six centuries to accomplish. With their new found independence, Ukrainian people resent most of their geographical neighbors such as Germany, Russia and Poland, learning from history that independence is a sacred virtue that should be guarded from foreign invasions and especially influences from both the east and the west. Ukraine’s belligerent relationship with Poland throughout history had enormous effects on the development of Ukrainian nationalist, finally leading in complete national independence.

  4. Although Poland, together with three Baltic states, has shown itself a strong supporter of Ukraine’s pro-European push, relations between the two have recently chilled to a dangerous level of mutual mistrust and animosity.

  5. Director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, Volodymir Vyatrovich, called Poland’s resolution “historical nonsense” and “the result of growing anti-Ukrainian hysteria… provoked by political forces.”

  6. Many Ukrainian politicians are fighting not for the truth but for political benefits, and perceive relations with Poland as confrontational

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