Over the years in Poland, as in other Central and Eastern European countries, temporary migration has prevailed while rates of migrants’ settlement remained low. However, Poland has gradually transformed from a migrant-sending to a migrant-receiving state, being a target country for the economic immigration of former Soviet Union citizens, mainly migrants from Ukraine. The Russian Federation’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, followed by the armed conflict in Donbas, and a deepening economic recession, stimulated a sharp increase in the inflow from Ukraine, which, however, did not transform into humanitarian migration. Instead, according to the data of the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Policy, Poland experienced a mass increase in labor migration with significant growth in employers’ declarations of entrusting work to Ukrainian nationals and the number of residence and work permits. As a result, the group of Ukrainians working or residing in Poland was estimated at around 1.35 million. The changing dynamics of Ukrainian migration also concern the individual characteristics of migrants. They were younger and came not only from Western Ukraine (which was typical in the 90s) but also from other regions, including urban areas. They were Ukrainian and Russian speakers. Moreover, Ukrainian migrants increasingly arrived in Poland with their family members, seeking employment in various sectors and geographical regions.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine that started on 24 February 2022 opened a new chapter in migration flows from Ukraine to neighboring countries, especially Poland, the main receiving country in absolute numbers. The Russian aggression has caused a humanitarian and refugee crisis, with close to 5 million refugees from Ukraine recorded across OECD countries by mid-September 2022. The majority (6 million, mainly women with children) crossed the border with Poland, with many in the first weeks of the war using the existing social networks with migrants or Polish acquaintances. As of mid-September 2022, 1.38 million refugees from Ukraine had been recorded for temporary protection in Poland.

The Lifeboat project serves as an example of humanity and solidarity by providing assistance and resources to meet the needs of refugees and host communities. These initiatives strengthen social cohesion by supporting the integration of migrants and play a significant role in overcoming refugee crises.