Poland has a long history of being invaded by great powers. In the 20th century it was the Germans and then the Soviets. After enjoying over two decades of independence and freedom, Poles are in no mood to let their guard down again.
Since increased Russian military activity and interference in European capitals, Poland has decided to beef up its defense against Russian invasion with militia forces. Reuters reports, Spurred by the war in Ukraine, growing numbers of Poles are joining volunteer paramilitary groups to get basic military training and prepare to defend their homeland from what some see as a looming Russian invasion.
The Polish government has kept its distance from the unofficial civilian militias but, with anxieties about Moscow’s intentions growing, the professional military is now looking for ways to harness the volunteer groups.
There are an estimated 120 such groups in Poland, with total membership around 10,000. Eight hundred members gathered on Friday in Warsaw at a meeting organized by the Defense Ministry, the first time they have been given official recognition.
“Until recently, paramilitary organizations treated defense as a pastime,” he said. “Today, as we face a war across our border, they realize that this pastime could contribute to the country’s security,” said Poland’s chief security advisor to the president. Estimates of the volunteer militia groups numbers is approximately 10,000.
Poland has a long history of partisan forces who fought famously against the Nazis and then the Soviets.
Again from Reuters, Robert Przybyl, a 42-year-old project manager, joined a civilian militia unit after Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 came down over eastern Ukraine in July last year, killing all 298 passengers and crew.
Kiev and its Western allies blamed Russia and the Moscow-backed separatists, who responded that Ukraine’s military had shot the plane down.
Przybyl said he was shocked at what happened and started to worry Poland was again coming under attack by a foreign power.
“I want to decide what country my son lives in, and what language he speaks,” he said.
His unit, also part of the National Defense militia, was carrying out exercises in a forest near Otwock, near Warsaw. New recruits took 5-km (3-mile) marches to test their stamina.
“Let’s be honest, at war we would likely be cannon fodder,” Przybyl said in an interview. But he said it was his duty to serve if war does break out.
“I never considered running away,” he said.