Kuznica, Poland, on the border with Belarus—Mayor Pawel Miklasz remembers like it was yesterday when Belarusian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko—a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin—tried to funnel thousands of primarily Iraqi and Afghan immigrants into the European Union through his quiet farming town in 2021.
A “catastrophe” of chaos and violence broke out in and around the village, Mayor Miklasz recalled, when Poland’s conservative government ordered the military and Polish Border Guard to wage pitched battles, using water hoses, tear gas, and clubs, against the riotous mobs of illegal immigrants constantly mounting violent incursions to break through the Polish police lines.
The Polish forces staved off many thousands for months until a 116-mile steel wall, eighteen feet high and reinforced with barbed wire, electronic sensors, and cameras, finished construction in 2022. That structure, alongside crucial policy changes, restored quiet to the Belarusian forests, although frosty, Cold-War-like relations between the two countries remain.
But a recent shift from the political Right to Left in Poland’s national government now threatens those two-plus years of tranquility in Kuznica and all along Poland’s now-famed steel fence—widely credited as emblematic of how walls stop illegal immigration.
“I’m worried,” the mayor told me. “I can’t tell the future but if we allow these people to come in here freely and without consequence, it will lead to big problems.”
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