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Is Poland a safe country?

After arriving home after having been out, I've was thinking that I should write this article about Poland's safety, although in this case, my comments and analysis are only of the city of Łódź, because this is where I am doing my Erasmus, as you well know.

I have to say, first of all, that in the words of many people from the city, is that Łódź is one of the safest cities in Poland, so you can apply my comments to the country as a whole. But first, I will talk a bit in general about Poland, before talking about the city itself.

According to the "Global peace index" in 2012, Poland was placed 24th in the rank of the safest countries in the world, ahead of Spain (number 25), France (number 40), the Netherlands (number 28) or England (number 29). I do not know exactly at what this data this index uses, but I do know which pieces of data I would like to share with you, so that you can see that not everything said in the rankings are true and that the reality is different from the theory. For this reason, we will compare Poland and Spain, that are found, as I already said, in the 24th and 25th position of the "Global peace index" ranking.


Number of homicides per 100. 000 inhabitants (data from EU reports of 2006 until 2010): Poland 1. 29 vs España 1. 02.

Fatalities from car accidents per million inhabitants, with data from 2008 to 2010 (for which the road quality was not to blame, instead for driving errors): Poland 143 (the second highest after Lituania) vs España 68.

Convicted criminals per per 100. 000 inhabitants between 2006 to 2010: Poland 229 vs España 153.

Well, these are some statistics I found online, but in reality they are nothing more than statistics.

What is the reality then?

So, now talking about day to day life in the city of Łódź, I have to say that there is not a day in which I do not see a fight. I have arrived at class and seen, a few meters in front of me, two Polish guys get out of their respective cars and one started punching the other until he was left on the ground bleeding. Really creepy, but is very clear; when this is what happens every day, you start questioning what is going on with the safety. I have seen lots of fights in nightclubs (not only in Łódź, I also saw some in Warsaw and Krakow, I even saw 3 in a single night at the same club in Krakow), also at nighttime near to clubs and pubs; in queues when waiting to enter; at the entrance to the faculty; in the main streets during the day, etc etc, and it is not nice, really. One thing was always the same, and it was that there was always a smaller person versus a larger person, stronger but fatter, and the latter was always the one who clearly won.



And they were not normal or imaginable fights; for instance, the one I saw on my way to uni, where one guy was not even defending himself, while the other, the big guy, didn't stop punching him in the face, until the thin guy fell to the ground, it does not make much sense. In Krakow I saw one where the guy was kicking the others' mouth even when he was on the floor, and punching, using his arms and hands as hammers; and, truly, these things have affected me.

The worst thing about the fights is that they could start by just beeping at car in front, for jumping a queue, for touching someone while you dance by accident; any excuse is enough when someone is not happy with themselves, they deal with it by fighting or seeking out fights with others. It is insane that you can find these people in the streets, and is shameful that there are so many of them.

Many of my of Erasmus mates that have been punched, normally in the main street and always following the same pattern: during the night and when they were alone. Some had even less luck and had their things stolen. Others only had stuff stolen (overall I am not sure which is worse, to be punched 4 or 5 times or to be robbed all your monthly money). Moreover, apart from being punched without reason, there is always a group of them and trying to find people who are on their own; they do not fight when they themselves are alone, they are cowards.

There is a good side to this story, which is that during 2010/2011 the Widzew Łódź goes up to the first division, the division in which you could also find ŁKS Łódź; in 2011/12 the latter descended to second division and makes both supporters hate each other, the number of supporters decreases, thus fewer radicals, resulting in it being more safe. Because the rivalry between the two supporters is crazy, some Polish people said that if they find themselves within a few kilometres of the ŁKS Łódź supporters, the Widzew Łódź supporters would not hesitate to go to them and throw a punch. It doesn't matter if you did nothing; it's a reason enough to receive a few hits. The hooligans of Poland are the most dangerous in the world, so it would be stupid for us to go and see sports matches. The flares and fires are always there but there are football courts where even guns are permitted. Moreover, I have been told that even women felt worried when walking around in the streets; because they have also been beaten up and the people who did so don't care if you're a woman or man, only if you're a supporter of the other team. But, I have to say, that things change and evolve and that things are more calm now.

The "bad guys" who we have been hearing a lot about and who we have been warned to be careful around still exist. If one gets close to you (normally wearing a black tracksuit, white socks and is a skinhead), you better run away, otherwise it's likely that you will be punched. They do not reason or talk with you; if you simply cross their path and they pick you as their victim, you will be their victim, bad luck.

On the other hand, there are also the "ustawka", which are countryside fights which happen outside the city and are organised through sms or online messages, in which hundreds of people meet to beat-up one another (which doesn't make any sense in my opinion). On youtube there are several examples of this type of "meeting". But the problem is bigger than simply crazy football supporters that go mad when they see their rival team. The press also helps in creating anger with lots of provocative news, during the Eurocup, in which Germany and Poland were playing (Germany won 2-0 thanks to a German nationalised Polish guy). And so, the Polish lost and the Polish supporters considered going to the German embassy to burn it down (whilst avoiding the police obviously).

Going back to the question; today I saw someone with a shaved head wearing a tracksuit start on a friend of mine who was out for some beers. Who knows what might have happened if he was alone or out of the student complex, we will never know, but it seems he wanted to win a fight. And tonight, I cannot relax because there are suspicious things happening all the time.

In conclusion: I have never felt unsafe in Spain until now, and in Poland there are times where you feel 8 eyes staring at you after everything that you have heard, seen and has happened to other Erasmus students. The safety index of 2012 puts Poland ahead of Spain; but this is not true, in my opinion, Poland is far more unsafe than the majority of the Spanish cities. But we should not over exaggerate, I haven't felt scared at any time, same as in Spain and the final conclusion has to be that Poland is a safe and civilised country. You cannot go out into the streets feeling nervous and scared because your fears are not the reality. The vast majority of Polish people are very kind and helpful. Maybe a bit serious, but educated and with nice views (always with exceptions, like in all places).

¿Is Poland a safe country?

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