So why is it a sucha big difference between these two countries? Both have been "free" since the ealy 90's.
Why didnt Ukraine follow Poland and the rest of the ex-communist countries after the fall of the Iron Curtain?
There is a sequence of factors which resulted in slow economical development of Ukraine nowadays:
Ukraine was occupied by Russia and Poland since 1667. Revolts of 1648-54 and 1768 were brutaly suppressed by the two. When finally the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empire collapsed and Ukraine declared its independance Polish and Russian armies again ravaged the country and tore it apart: Poland occupied its western part, Russia - eastern. Both made sure the word "Ukrainian" and "education" or "political activity" don't mix together. Poland closed Ukrainian schools, burnt Churches, openned concentration camp for Ukrainian nationalists. The Russians under Stalin murdered 6 million Ukrainians by Holodomor and executed thousands during forced collectivization in 1928-1931. Came the WWII. Ukraine lost 7.5 million people (3 million soldiers). The rest one can say both Poland and Ukraine followed the same path, except: Poland was not part of the USSR, had its own currency, borrowed huge amounts of money from the West, had Polish as official language, haven't had people singing songs, writing scientific works in native language called nationalists and incarcerated. I remember watching Polish TV caught by the ladder-like antenna as something foreign and with more interesting things than 3-channel Soviet BS with its on and on glorification of a "big brother".
One might say Ok, Nathan, you whiny d*ck, you had 20 years, for Christ sake! Look at Poland! I saw Poland and I am amazed. Your roads, economy and other stuff is uncomparably better. In Ukraine a lot changed from what it was in 1991, a lot remained unchanged. The historical background I've shown made something that still tortures the country: those millions Ukrainians who died in Holodomor and during the war were replaced with Russian citizens who after independance were, unfortunately, given Ukrainian passports. Now, those are part of the fifth column, which does everything and I mean EVERYTHING possible to undermine the country. They don't care to compare the European and Russian lifestyle. They'll die to live like pigs as long as a pigsty is named in Russian. Quite literaly. They constantly have problems with the flag, with the anthem, with the past. Officially, there around 18% Russians having Ukrainian passports and despising the country where those as*holes were born in. But when told to get the fcuk off from here, they go into obscenities I even don't want to repeat. Another part of the society are Ukrainians who were Russified to the point they lost their roots to the point that they are neither Ukrainians, nor Russians. They are mankurts, homo sovieticus which still live in their minds in the SU.
Another huge problem is corruption. This eats away the reconstruction of roads, infrastructure development, health, wages, spendings of regular people. It is heart-breaking. What can I say?!
So, all this time the fight goes not for the sake of the developing Ukraine as a European economic entity, but to find the common language while the politicians use the situation to steal the budget and spit in the face of both.
It will take more years for that to change. Euro2012 will have a huge impact on the country. A bit over the half of the population made already their choice for the West, but it is now for time and economical recovery to wake up the rest for the real progress to start.