"The Russians could come any time": Fear at Suwałki Gap on EU border

Bilas, the son of a Ukrainian forcibly resettled to the area by the Soviets in 1947 under Operation Vistula, Joseph Stalin’s attempt to de-Germanise territory under his control, was born and bred in this Polish village, Rudziszki, where the one road of 63 houses ends at a closed gate to a forest. Entrance is forbidden. Strangers to the village are not even allowed to walk as far as Bilas’s home.

That is because the trees mark where Poland stops and the 5,800 sq mile (15,000 sq km) exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea begins. Bilas’s small white-washed house is the last on the road, about 50 metres from the gate…

“I think about it every day,” says Bilas, knocking back another shot. “They could come any time. Kill us in our beds.” “What do I think of them?” he says, picking up a copy of a Polish-language biography of Ukraine’s president, Volodoymr Zelenskiy. “I’d better not say.”

This is “Suwałki Gap” territory, the 60-mile or so long strip of land around the border of Poland and Lithuania that is straddled to the west by the Russians and to the east by Kremlin-friendly Belarus.