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The Polish refugee magnet: How Warsaw became the exile capital of the East

By Jan Puhl, Karolina Jeznach

03 Jan 2023 · 14 min read

Thousands of Belarusians, Ukrainians and Chechens have found refuge from authoritarianism and invasion in Poland's capital. Der Spiegel describes the city as a new cultural melting pot of solidarity.

Curated by informed

It was in a supermarket that Ivan Aleksandrovich Vyrypaev of Russia, who has lived in Warsaw for several years, received a reminder that he is a foreigner here. The Polish cashier had detected Vyrypaev's Russian accent and refused to serve him, the enemy. "I'm not selling you anything," the cashier told him. It was two Ukrainian women, of all people, who stepped out of the line to defend the Russian.

Vyrypaev, with his hipster knitted cap, slim-fitting suit and sneakers, talks about this moment of unexpected solidarity among refugees as he wanders through the foyer of the Teatr Polski. A stage director, Vyrypaev stops for a moment next to the bust of a benefactor. With its angular head, the bust looks a bit like Putin from the side, Vyrypaev quips. Vladimir Putin, the man who drove him and so many others to Warsaw.

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