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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 June, 2003, 22:46 GMT 23:46 UK
Mixed feelings on Poland's decision day
By Krzysztof Dzieciolowski

Poland has said yes to a new chapter in its national history.

Deputy Prime Minister Marek Pol celebrates with a balloon
Today euphoria, tomorrow the hard work begins
Fourteen years after the collapse of communism, on a sunny June day, the Polish people made up their minds to join the European Union.

Poland is now on track to become a member in May 2004.

People's reactions to the referendum have shown that the EU means many things to different voters.

Twenty-five year old Dominika Zurawska from Warsaw cast her ballot and said yes for enlargement.

But she doesn't expect to see many benefits within the first few years of membership.

"At the beginning we will face hard times," she says.

"But when the nine other applicant countries enter the European structures, it will be stupid to stay outside.

"It really depends on us whether we are able to develop our own country."

Rural doubts

In the capital the mood is optimistic.

The political elite is beating the drum to encourage people for the hard work ahead in the run-up to membership.

Many voted with mixed feelings
But just outside Warsaw many are still unconvinced.

Slawomir, a pensioner from the Bozecice Duze, 20km north of Warsaw, spoke to the BBC before attending Sunday Mass.

"It's an investment for the future generations. Personally I don't see what good the EU can do me. Food prices will increase, while my pension will remain the same. I'd rather vote against."

Agnieszka Matuwzewska went to the polling station in the local primary school, where she teaches, in a mixed frame of mind.

Folding the voting paper and dropping it into the ballot box painted red and white, the colours of the Polish flag, she said: "My family is divided."

"But I do believe that being within the EU can help to develop the infrastructure of my region. Also, my pupils and I will get access to the internet and better educational facilities."

After decades of communism, Poland in the last 14 years has struggled with many problems, such as corruption, economic downturns, unstable government and a badly-organised health care system.

Many who did not vote expressed their distrust of the political elite through their absence from the polling stations.

Despite the fact that the government has won the battle of the referendum, a large part of Polish society remains unconvinced of the need for Europe.

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