Saturday, March 25, 2017

Notes From a White Country, Part I

Being Polish is more than just a passport.
If diversity is a strength, one expat lives in one of the weakest places on earth.
I have called Poland my home for almost two decades. In that time, I have come to learn what it’s like to live among people who enjoy the bonds of a common culture and a shared ethnic heritage. Poles have a distinct collective identity and it is expressed in every aspect of what is effectively an ethno-state. In percentage terms, Poland is as Polish as Japan is Japanese.
Being Polish isn’t an abstraction the way being American or Canadian or Australian has become. It means something.
Poland is a monoracial, monocultural society, without a single statistically significant ethnic or religious minority. If there was a silver lining to the awful cloud of Communism, it was that the Iron Curtain shielded this part of Europe from the waves of immigration that hit Western Europe. The lag in general economic prosperity that resulted from nearly 50 years of central planning means that Poland is still not a prime immigrant destination even 30 years after Soviet troops pulled out. Migrants and “refugees,” whether legitimately looking for jobs or shopping for generous welfare policies, go to Germany, Britain, or Scandinavia. It literally doesn’t pay to stop in Poland after coming all the way from North Africa, the Middle East or elsewhere.
The biggest non-white ethnic group in Poland are the Vietnamese—mostly a legacy of past ties and student exchanges during the Communist era—who number around 40,000. In a country of 40 million, that makes Poland’s biggest non-European minority one tenth of one percent of the population. Ukrainians are the biggest foreign ethnic group in Poland and they are as culturally and linguistically close to Poles as anyone can be. This “minority,” such as it is, blends in perfectly, with only their accents giving them away, like Austrians in Germany or Irish in England. Every non-white face in all of Poland combined might add up to one-half of one percent of the population. This is a white country.

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