The Republic of Poland is a sizeable country in Central Europe. Formally under communist rule, the trade union shipyard workers’ protests in 1980 led eventually to the 1989 Revolution which allowed Poland to develop into the ‘Third Polish Republic’. The capital of Poland is Warsaw and the official language is Polish. Russian was formerly the second language but that has now been replaced by English and German. The currency at present is the zloty although Poland hopes to adopt the Euro in 2012.
Since the collapse of communism, Poland has become a member of the European Union and NATO. Its membership into the EU was controversial as it gave all of Poland’s 38 million people the rights to European citizenship. An estimated 2 million Poles traveled across the newly opened borders of Europe seeking work and are now to be found in large enclaves in most European cities. Generally the population of Poland is falling, due to massive emigration and a falling birthrate. Unemployment in Poland is running at over 10% so jobs are hard to find and pay is comparatively low. Average annual salaries are just 1200 Euros or 2000 US dollars in Warsaw, which is higher than other areas. The current economic downturn in Europe has halted emigration, and some workers are expected to return to Poland again if it continues. Cars and transport, electronics, locomotives, ships, planes, tanks, helicopters and buses are all manufactured in Poland. Food, clothing, pottery, chemicals and medicines are also produced and exported.
Winters in Poland, particularly in the north are very harsh with average temperatures well below freezing. Summers are warm and can reach 30C (86F) but plenty of rain falls throughout the year. Real estate is very cheap but conditions of city apartments are not always to a very high standard. Renting may be a better option than owning for short-term visitors to Poland. There is a state health care program which also covers EU Nationals carrying an E-111 form. Other visitors will have to pay for healthcare, but standards and costs are not as high as in other countries. EU and American residents as well as other nationalities do not need a visa to stay in Poland for up to 90 days. After that a visa may be required.
The population of Poland is just under 37 million and almost 95% consider themselves to be ethnically Polish. Other minorities include Germans, Silesians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Russians and other former communist residents. The Vietnamese are the largest ethnic group in Poland, followed by the Greeks and the Armenians.
Since the fall of communism, Poland has steadfastly built a healthy economy with the restructuring of its coal, rail and steel sectors. It still produces a great deal of agriculture on its private farms.