Shooting training against fear of war: "The Poles are taking up arms"

The fear of an escalation of the Ukraine war is growing - especially in Poland.

Shooting training against fear of war: "The Poles are taking up arms"

The fear of an escalation of the Ukraine war is growing - especially in Poland. More and more people therefore want to get a firearms license in order to be able to defend their country in an emergency. "Shooting ranges operate with extended hours".

The three businessmen have come for training during their lunch break, two of them are wearing blue suits and elegant shoes. "Gentlemen, from the Kalashnikov - ten shots each," says Krzysztof Przepiorka. The instructor at a shooting range on the outskirts of Warsaw clamps a new target into the holder. Jerzy Ciszewski aims the heavy assault rifle, his hands are shaking a little. Then the marketing expert pulls the trigger. The accuracy is not yet optimal, but Ciszewski doesn't worry about that. "I've only been coming here for two months," he says. When war broke out in Ukraine, he decided to learn how to shoot and get a gun license. "We don't know what's in Putin's head, we have to be prepared for anything."

More and more people in Poland think like Ciszewski. They were alarmed by Russia's attack on neighboring Ukraine. They fear that the conflict could spread to their country - and want to defend themselves if necessary. "The Poles are taking up arms" was the headline in the political magazine "Polityka" and reported on the nationwide run on shooting ranges, shooting courses and gun shops.

"In March and April we had twice as many inquiries as usual," says Andrzej Martyniak, co-owner of the "B7" shooting range on the outskirts of Warsaw. Pawel Dyngosz, chairman of Poland's largest shooting club, Amator, reports something similar. "Right after the outbreak of the war, on some days we had more than 300 people interested in becoming a member." There were waiting times of up to three weeks for beginner shooting training. The rush has since slowed down a bit. "But our shooting ranges are working with extended opening hours."

Poland has very strict gun laws, and the hurdles to obtaining a gun license are high. Around 658,000 weapons are privately owned in the country with almost 38 million inhabitants. For comparison: According to the National Weapons Register, private individuals in Germany owned more than 5.4 million weapons in 2020.

Andrzej Gajewski does not have a gun license either. Before the Ukraine war, the 50-year-old finance expert says he went to shooting practice once or twice a year. Now he comes to the shooting range every month. "Ukraine's example shows that it's worth being able to defend yourself. And when I shoot here, I feel solidarity with the Ukrainians."

In the event of war, wouldn't defense primarily be the responsibility of the Polish army? "The Poles don't like to rely solely on the state, they take things into their own hands," says management consultant Piotr Piela, who is also taking part in the shooting training. The 52-year-old refers to how refugees are treated: "In Germany, the state takes care of it, in Poland it's mainly private individuals who help the refugees from Ukraine." He too has taken in a Ukrainian family.

"More than 70 years after the Second World War, the Europeans lost their instinct of self-preservation. We were only concerned with having, now it's suddenly about being," says shooting coach Przepiorek. The fit 64-year-old is a former lieutenant colonel in the Polish special unit Grom. He is currently in high demand not only as a shooting instructor, but also as a security consultant. Among other things, he trains teachers on how to get the children to safety in the event of an air raid.

There has been no general conscription in Poland for many years. So far, there has been no political discussion about reintroduction. However, with the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Poland's Ministry of Defense registered an increased interest in serving in the army and among the volunteer troops of the Homeland Security WOT. One of his 15 employees has just joined the Homeland Security WOT and is doing military training in his free time, says financial expert Gajewski. And the entire team has already said clearly where the next company outing should go: "To the shooting range - not to the restaurant."


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