At a Polish military base southwest of Warsaw, 200 Poles are firing guns, throwing imitation grenades and learning about military tactics as war rages in neighbouring Ukraine and tensions rise on the border with Moscow ally Belarus.

The session on a summer weekend is one of 20 programmes for civilians run by the Polish army.

"I have two children, so I wanted to learn the basics of survival and what to do in a dangerous situation," said Monika Ludwiczak, 41, a school secretary.

"Maybe one day I will have to defend my own children".

Some participants, like Ludwiczak, are holding a weapon for the first time. Others have previous experience and want to catch up on new weapons and tactics.

"I don't know in which direction everything will go, but we would like to be prepared," said Tomasz Sandkowski, a 54-year-old investor who previously served in the military.


"These last two years here have heightened that need," he said, referring to the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Poland, a critical ally of Ukraine, has also been faced with security concerns along its eastern border with Russian ally Belarus.

Warsaw accuses Belarusian authorities of encouraging migrants to cross the EU border in a form of "hybrid warfare".

In June, a Polish soldier died after being stabbed as migrants attempted to cross the border in circumstances that are still under investigation.

The Polish military also views the free eight-hour training sessions as an opportunity to spark interest among potential recruits.

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Washington praised Poland’s role and contribution to NATO and said the loan would help modernize the Polish military and bolster NATO’s eastern flank.

"By participating in a given project, a volunteer can see a little from the inside of what life in the army is like," Second Lieutenant Borek, from the Military Recruitment Centre in Tomaszow Mazowiecki, told AFP.

"Each year we have more volunteers."

Of the 200 participants, 10 percent formally expressed an interest in future recruitment possibilities.

"We see what is happening in Ukraine," said Lieutenant Colonel Zbigniew Kowalski, of the 25th Air Cavalry Brigade.


"We see what knowledge society should have in order to cope in today's environment."

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