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Possibility of Racial Discrimination in Poland?

Since my wonderful 5-week visit to Poland last year, I've been talking up the country to my sister-in-law, who is partially of Polish extraction. Her best friend is African-American, and they often travel together. My sister-in-law asked me today if there might be racial issues in Poland. Being white and not a Polish-speaker, I couldn't answer the question with any confidence. I mean, how would I know? I probably wouldn't have recognized something like racist graffiti if it had been present.

Does anyone have information--encouraging or discouraging--that I should pass along?

Thanks.

Posted by
4835 posts

I do not consider myself authoritative, and would not have personal experience (White, old guy), but my hunch would be they would have little concern.

Probably before 2010, I would say no issues, Poland spent a long time always on the other side of the wall, and welcomed about everyone from the West with open arms. Poland has changed, adopting a more Nationalistic approach, chafing with the EU, upset about migrant policy over the last few years. Being overwhelming Catholic, they are also conservative, causing concern among LGQBT travelers. I think these issues are more common to former Eastern Block countries than Western Europe.

While not a positive, there is some backlash against migrants, but that seems to be directed at more Muslim and Middle Eastern, rather than African. Also her friend will most likely be recognized as an American and a tourist, rather than a migrant. It sounds like her friend may be older than a teenager or college aged, that will help as well.

I do think urban areas less a concern than small towns or rural, but I do not think I would fear violence, or even outright harassment, but maybe indifference or exclusion.

There are some resources, blogs, and other forums that might more specifically address, but maybe this is a start.

Posted by
4637 posts

I think that in all former communist countries there is a migrant phobia. No wonder - most migrants nowadays are muslims. But I don't think there is outright racism there with the exception of gypsies but IMHO that has something to do with their way of life than with the color of their skin. I think friend of your sister in law can go to Poland without fear. I think (s)he would be safer there than let's say in Alabama.

Posted by
5541 posts

More than just the former Communist countries are exhibiting migrant phobia. Right wing anti-immigrant populism is even happening in some North American countries. Discrimination is directed the poor huddled masses who yearning to breathe free, not prosperous tourist spending coin of the realm. While I haven't traveled in Poland, Europeans are happy to accomodate this English only speaker while I make my purchases, order meals or check in at hotels.

Posted by
6 posts

Poland, as others have commented, is an extremely homogeneous country. During my six months living in Krakow's Stare Miasto I only recall seeing one or two African Americans. In cities such as Krakow and Gdansk travelers are frequent and overall safety is quite high. Are some extended gazes possible? Absolutely. However, the country (particularly the major cities) should be overall welcoming.

Posted by
242 posts

I agree that your friend should feel safe but a black person outside of the big cities is a rarity. As a matter of fact, most outsiders receive strange glances and skin color doesn't matter. I think the Polish people's unfortunate history of being occupied by the Germans and Russians has caused them to be more on guard and suspicious. Poles are very friendly and kind when you break through that barrier. Please realize they have good reason to feel the way they do!

Posted by
17012 posts

I appreciate all these comments. I'm going to send a link to this thread to my sister-in-law.

Additional input would be welcome.

Posted by
3992 posts

I've visited Warsaw and Krakow on a number of occasions (the two main tourist destinations) and I cannot recall seeing any black people although it's fair to say that I wasn't consciously looking out for any except at Warsaw airport as a result of a conversation with friends regarding Poland's anti immigrant stance and I made a conscious effort to look at all the people surrounding me. With the exception of a South East Asian man the rest of the people were white.

I can't say whether or not your sister-in-law's friend would experience discrimination but at the very least she might find herself uncomfortably conspicuous.

Posted by
5121 posts

We were told by local guides that Poland was a country people migrated from, not to, so they had no history of dealing with migrant populations, other than Ukrainians and Russians. Per news reports, the country did not accept any southern migrants from the last waves (nor did migrants want to go there), so they're unlikely to mistake an African-American for a migrant. But what they will likely be is curious.

Posted by
11015 posts

I think that in all former communist countries there is a migrant
phobia. No wonder - most migrants nowadays are muslims. But I don't
think there is outright racism there with the exception of gypsies.

That's a load of manure. There is a lot of stress in the region, but its a lot more complicated than religion. Labeling folks does not find solutions; just makes matters worse.

As for your concerns; as tourists I suspect they will be well received.

Posted by
6421 posts

Nah, no problem. For years there was a well attended Made in Chicago Jazz Fest held in Poznan where a good % of the musicians were Black folk from Chicago some of my friends collaborating with local Polish musicians. That connection was formed by the fact that Chicago has the 2nd largest Polish neighborhood population outside of Warsaw

Posted by
4835 posts

That's a load of manure

....and you saw the "cleaned up" version of the post.

Posted by
2442 posts

Ilya, most of the dangers to African-Americans in Alabama are from other African-Americans, mostly in the inner city. If you look at Alabama news, you will see that most crimes against African-Americans are by other African-Americans. I don't have much experience in the rural or low-income areas, but in the circles I travel they are treated the same as everyone else.

Posted by
11015 posts

Its not unusual or inappropriate to say, compared to where I live, is ___________ safe? You can always use the "I feel safe", therefore I am safe; which is obviously flawed. Or you can read statistics which can also be a flawed endeavor. For instance the murder rate in the US is twice that of France. But in the US the vast majority of it is Gang related or between individuals involved in illegal activity. We really do have a dangerous side of town here. But thats not the whole town. Most crime in the US is intraracial (black on black or white on white). Among homicides its 93% for Blacks and 84% for whites. As most of the RS gang is not into gang crime, we all read the statistics, but few of us actually live the statistics. Since the question of hate crime victims came up: Of the 1,749 victims of anti-religious hate crimes: 58.1 percent were victims of crimes motivated by their offenders’ anti-Jewish bias. 18.6 percent were victims of anti-Islamic (Muslim) bias. 4.3 percent were victims of anti-Catholic bias.

Posted by
1884 posts

While this may not be directly related to the question, a local progressive activist group in Poland have recently released an interactive map called the "Atlas of Hate", mapping out parts of the country that have discriminatory laws (especially anti-LQBTQ) on the books - may be interesting for travelers who want to avoid some of the more backward/discriminatory parts of Poland. The map - https://atlasnienawisci.pl/