Preparing for Putin: Poles taking up arms over fears of Russian attack

Preparing for Putin: Thousands of Polish men and women are taking up arms over fears of Russian attack

  •  Polish shooting ranges boom in business in wake of Russia’s Ukraine invasion
  •  Julia Paszek is one of hundreds of men and women taking up arms over threat 
  • She says ‘ I’m no soldier… but I won’t  be a bystander or a helpless victim either’

Hefting a golden gun in a suburb of the Polish capital Warsaw, Julia Paszek says she is ready to defend Poland ‘at all costs.’

Admitting that the Desert Eagle semi-automatic pistol is ‘slightly too heavy’, the smiling insurance analyst told MailOnline: ‘I’m no soldier but I do not want to be a bystander or a helpless victim either.’

The 33-year-old added: ‘I am ready to do what I have to do. At all costs, I will defend Poland from Putin’s evil.’

The woman with the golden gun: Julia Paszek with her Desert Eagle semi-automatic pistol

Shooting instructor Paulina Ptaszyńska says ‘the profile of people who apply for gun permits has changed’ since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

As war continues to rage in Ukraine, over the border, Julia is just one of thousands of Poles now taking up arms.

Seeing themselves as a ‘frontline state’, Polish citizens are preparing for a ‘worst case scenario’ by buying up weapons en masse and taking up shooting lessons.

Although still having one of the lowest number of guns per capita in Europe, over a quarter of a million people in Poland now have a firearm licence, with last year seeing an increase of 37,000 over 2021.

Consequently, shooting ranges have also reported a boom in business as unprecedented numbers flock to clubs to sharpen their marksmanship skills.

One couple in their twenties who recently took up weapons said: ‘We wanted to come and find out what it’s like to fire a gun.

‘On one hand it’s cool, but on the other it’s a bit scary.’

Another called Marcin said: ‘When I saw what happened on 24 February, I thought to myself that I am completely unprepared if something like that happened in Poland.

‘It’s better to be prepared because none of us know what’s going to happen in the future.’

Piotr Mioduchowski, the owner of PM Shooters in Warsaw, told The First News Website: ‘Before the war in Ukraine started, we used to receive around 35 inquiries a day from people wanting to reserve slots for shooting.

‘Now we are getting over 200. On weekends, we are totally booked out.’

He added: ‘People are worried that Russia will come to Poland through Ukraine.

Brother and sisters in arms: A Polish woman blasts a pistol at a shooting PM Shooters range

PM Shooters in Warsaw was getting around 35 enquiries a day before the war compared with some 200 a day now. 

PM Shooters instructor demonstrates how to hold a pistol in front of participants at the range 

On target: A f PM Shooters instructor hands a visitor his target sheet. 

Shooting range boss Paweł Dyngosz says his ranges are training up to 300 people a day 

‘So a lot of people are interested in getting a gun licence or just want to learn the basics of how to fire a weapon.’

This is a sentiment echoed by Paweł Dyngosz, president of an association that runs a number of shooting ranges across Poland.

He said: ’Before the war, we trained a few dozen people a day at our facilities.

‘Now we have to squeeze up to 300 people into training.’

At another shooting range in an old car factory on the outskirts of Warsaw,

40-year-old dentist Pawel said: ‘It’s war. I have a wife, a son. I need to learn this.’

With demand being so high, reports say that shooting ranges and gun shops now regularly run out of ammunition.

Shooting instructor Paulina Ptaszyńska said: ‘The profile of people who apply for gun permits has changed.

‘Before the war, it was a kind of hobby. Today it is much more a need to acquire skills.’

In response to the demand and to increase gun awareness, Ptaszyńska is now planning to give lessons in schools.

Shooting instructor Paulina Ptaszyńska is now planning to give lessons in schools

Shooting instructor Paulina Ptaszyńska says ‘school children will be given the opportunity to fire a real gun’

Proposing semester-long classes, she said: ‘I believe that sports shooting is very good for children.

‘In the safety education programme, children are given the opportunity to fire a real gun.

‘It is a pity that during these classes only one hour per semester is reserved for shooting, which is too little.

‘Shooting consists of three elements: knowledge of techniques, kickbacks and grips.

‘The grip is always adjusted to the shooter’s hand and strength, there is no single way.

‘The second element is practicing techniques so that our body and muscles work automatically.

‘The third is to fire live ammunition. Shooting is not the ability to make a shot, but to deal with our psyche.’

At the inauguration of a high school shooting range in the southern town of Myszkow last year, Polish prime minster Mateusz Morawiecki said: ‘If Russia should ever think attacking Poland, Russia must know, the Kremlin must know, that in Poland, 40 million Poles are ready to stand up, arms in hand, to defend their homeland.’

Part of that 40 million are state-owned companies that have also started offering defence training to their staff.

Close to 5,000 employees of the oil and gas company PGNiG are to be given training to improve defence and crisis-management abilities, including cybersecurity and first-aid classes.

Staff can also volunteer for gun handling and shooting courses.

Meanwhile, Poland’s armed forces have seen a surge in new recruits.

In 2022, close to 14,000 new recruits signed up, the highest number since the end of compulsory military service in 2008.

In January this year, Poland’s defence minister Mariusz Błaszczak said: ‘This is only the first stage, because this year, in 2023, our campaign ‘Become a Soldier of Poland’ will only gain momentum.’

In addition, Poland’s territorial defence forces have reported a sevenfold increase in recruits.

Introducing new recruits to armed combat in a forest outside of the capital Warsaw, 40-year-old Lt. Pawel Pinkowski, a company commander and veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, told Stripes: ‘They want to defend themselves, their families and their homeland.

‘The situation in Ukraine has shown that, indeed, it is better to be prepared.’

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