Prince William visits Poland to thank soldiers for ‘all that you’re doing’ in Ukraine

·5-min read
prince william poland - Yui Mok/PA Wire
prince william poland - Yui Mok/PA Wire

The Prince of Wales has made a surprise visit to Poland to “personally thank” British and Polish soldiers involved in the war in Ukraine for “defending our shared freedoms”.

Prince William landed in the southeastern city of Rzeszow, around 60 miles from the Ukrainian border, on Wednesday afternoon amid tight security to show his support for the troops responding to the ongoing humanitarian situation.

He said he was “struck by their passion as well as their shared determination to defend our shared freedoms” in the face of the conflict, telling them: “Everyone back home thoroughly supports you.”

William added that the joint cooperation of Britain and Poland “in support of the people of Ukraine and their freedom” has strengthened the ties between the two countries.

prince william - Yui Mok/PA Wire
prince william - Yui Mok/PA Wire

The prince told the British soldiers at an air defence military base: “I just wanted to come here in person to say thank you for all that you’re doing, keeping everyone safe out here and keeping an eye on what’s going on.

“You’re doing a really important job out here.”

The prince spent around 20 minutes chatting to service personnel inside a military tent before being shown a vast array of equipment, including a Polish self-propelled howitzer artillery system that had a British turret.

The soldiers described how they spent 26 weeks training to use the high-tech surface-to-air Sky Sabre missile defence system, which Britain first delivered to Poland last May before extending the deployment in October.

Lance Corporal Molly Pettifer, 28, who is two weeks into a six-month tour of Poland, told the prince about her work training troops in first aid and later revealed that her grandmother’s friend had delivered the royal at birth.

LCpl Pettifer, from Enfield, north London, said the prince’s visit was a “big deal” and people were “very excited” he was there.”

“It was quite special. My nan’s friend delivered him as a baby.”

The prince, who was greeted by Poland’s defence minister and deputy prime minister Mariusz Blaszczak, was also given a private confidential briefing on the situation on the Polish Ukrainian border.

william poland - Yui Mok/PA Wire
william poland - Yui Mok/PA Wire

Speaking afterwards, William said that he also wanted to pay tribute to the “inspiring humanity of the Polish people” adding: “You have opened your hearts as much as your homes.”

More than 10 million Ukrainian refugees have crossed the border into Poland since the beginning of the war last February.

On Wednesday evening, the prince also visited an accommodation centre in Warsaw to meet Ukrainians who have fled the war.

The converted office building currently houses 300 Ukrainian women and children and it opened its doors as soon as the conflict began.

William toured the building, taking selfies with children and even trying his hand at a ping pong game with some teenagers.

The Telegraph understands that the prince very much wanted to see the humanitarian side of the conflict for himself while in Poland and felt it was important to show his support.

Through a translator, he took the time to sit and talk with families who have been living in Poland for the last year after fleeing the war and he was also shown around some of the bedrooms.

The visit marks the prince’s first trip to the country since 2017. He said it was “fantastic” to be back, adding that “our nations have strong ties”.

william poland - Chris Jackson - Pool/Getty Images
william poland - Chris Jackson - Pool/Getty Images

The visit will be considered an important show of public support for Ukraine as the country marks just over one year since the beginning of the invasion.

It comes after The Royal Foundation joined forces with Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s First Lady, to assist her mental health initiative for displaced families now living in the UK.

In November, the Princess of Wales visited a Ukrainian community centre to meet displaced families and both the prince and princess met aid workers involved in the humanitarian response and members of the military helping to train Ukrainian troops in Britain.

william poland - Chris Jackson - Pool/Getty Images
william poland - Chris Jackson - Pool/Getty Images

The King hosted President Volodymyr Zelensky at Buckingham Palace last month and in a message marking the 12-month anniversary of the beginning of the conflict, commended the people of Ukraine for showing “truly remarkable courage and resilience in the face of such human tragedy”.

The Prince was later due to visit an accommodation centre in Warsaw, to meet Ukrainians who have fled the war.

On Thursday, he is due to meet Andrzej Duda, the president of Poland, after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument dedicated to Polish soldiers who lost their lives in conflict.

The visit will conclude with a visit to a local food hall to meet Ukrainian refugees and hear about their experiences of settling into life in the neighbouring country.