Concerning the problem of Polish repatriates in Kazakhstan

Vadim N. Alexandrovich, political expert, Moscow, 23.02.2010.

February 12, 2010 was held the meeting of the heads of Foreign Ministries of Belarus and Poland Radoslaw Sikorski and Sergei Martynov. Among other issues, during the meeting, special attention was paid to the situation over the Polish minority in Belarus. The head of the Polish Foreign Ministry, in particular, emphasized that “would like to see the relations of the Belarusian authorities to the Polish diaspora relevant to international standards”. As Minister Sikorski, “Our support depends on the Belarusian authorities respect the rights of the opposition and ethnic minorities. Poland attaches particular importance to this issue. We note with particular attention the situation of Poles in Belarus “.

There is reason to believe that during the Ministerial meeting was addressed the scandal surrounding the seizure by Belarusian authorities the building of Polish House in Iventse (February 8, 2010), which greatly offended the Poles. Union of Poles of Belarus believes the authorities’ actions are provocative and confident that the authorities want to put a loyal man on the position of head of the local organization.

The scandal over the Polish House in Iventse is just episode of the overall situation, in which the Polish diaspora is located in Belarus, where at the same time, there are two organizations representing the interests of ethnic Poles. One of them (led by Stanislav Semashko) is loyal to the official policy of Minsk. Other one (led by Angelica Borys) is not recognized by Minsk, but is supported by Warsaw. Since 2005, the split between the two Polish organizations in the Republic of Belarus has become a serious factor complicating the inter-state relations.

Moreover, the problems of the diaspora is closely related to the problem of refugees and repatriates in Poland itself. Reacting to the recent information about the intention of the Polish authorities to deport in the coming months from Poland nearly 4 000 people from the Caucasus region, Polish Ombudsman Janusz Kochanowski has expressed concern at the prevailing conditions of political refugees in Poland. He said: “We have no an integration policy, in principle. But we should accord to refugees and other foreigners an opportunities to integrate not only in Polish society, but also to create conditions so that they might in the future feel like the residents of Europe.” This problem relates not only to the Georgians and Chechens, but, above all, to the ethnic Poles.

In fact, introducing in 2007, “Polish Charter”, the leadership of Poland continued implementation of the ambitious project of reunification of all Poles of the world in their native state. A decade before, Warsaw became encourage the return of compatriots in the Homeland. In 2000, the Act came into force on repatriation.

This program in its main features and objectives reminds the program of national reunification of Germans held by the Government of Germany for Soviet Germans in the late 1980’s — early 1990’s. However, in this their similarity ends.

If “Reich” was able to provide housing for immigrants and the work on European standards, the returning Poles became, in fact, uninvited guests in their ethnic Homeland. The Polish state was unable to fulfill its assurances. Many of the returning Poles felt betrayed. Here is a simple and illustrative example.

Recently, the magazine “Lodz” (Dziennik Lodzki, 4.02.2010) has published a report about the life of a family of immigrants whose fate is typical of thousands of Poles who have moved in the 1990s from Kazakhstan to Poland.

In 1930s Marian Wachowski’s parents were deported from Ukraine to Kazakhstan by Stalin’s regime . In 1998, Wachowski’s family arrived on the repatriation program in the Polish city Lowicz. In Kazakhstan, the family lived in a new private house, built by the head of the family at his own expense for several years before moving. In the ethnic Homeland immigrants found that actually to live nowhere else.

One and a half year, the family huddled in one room of the local school until, finally, the Lowicz municipality has transferred them for housing an abandoned building, which once housed a kindergarten, library and post office. The building needs major repairs, but the city does not intend to take. The only thing that it offers to immigrants — to buy a building in the property and carry out repairs on their funds. Retired Marian Wachowski unable to do so.

“In Kazakhstan, we had a new house, and here we got some ruins” — lamented immigrant.

Lowicz Mayor Andrzej Barylski refers to the absence of a legal framework to assist the displaced. He hints at what they should, after all, only themselves to blame. “The city has only one free social housing, and it is intended at the event of a disaster. This means that I have nowhere to relocate the family Wachowski. Money for repairs we can not give them, because it is not required by law. They do not want to invest in this property. But I suspect that Wachowski would like to get this apartment for free. But it is also impossible.”

Municipal authorities of Lowicz are trying to solve the bureaucratic conundrum. They suggested to Wachowski actually use “their” part of the building without compensation. But this does not eliminate the problem.

“When I made the decision to return to Poland, I figured that I would own a home” — says a disillusioned immigrant.

There are other examples.

In 1996, numerous Brodovski clan (29 people) from Kazakhstan settled at village Nemstov  (near Lublin). They had leased 600 hectares of former state farms. Two years later, some Brodovski families returned to Kazakhstan, another part moved to the city hoping to find a more easy money. In the Polish village there were only four couples from previously numerous clan.

Paczkowski family from Kazakhstan settled near Zagan. Two years later, it could not resist to the difficulties, collapsed. Ex-wife and two children decided to emigrate to Germany. Ex-husband returned to Kazakhstan.

In fact, each year the number of returning to Kazakhstan from Poland is growing. True, the majority remains. But this, according to sociologists, not to say that they managed to find a new place. Most immigrants live on state benefits, which in Poland is several times higher than in Russia, Belarus or Kazakhstan. Now works less than half of the returnees, most of them have found jobs themselves, rather than through the promised assistance of the state.

As said Artur Kozlovski, an official of the Ministry of the Interior, “Our new citizens create their image of Poland, coming to us on a pilgrimage and in summer camps, that is on the base of brief visits, during which they are surrounded by affection and care. After these visits, many of our compatriots think that our country is no less grandmotherly, than Germany or Sweden. When they are moving here permanently, illusions crumble.”

But the resettlement of Polish immigrants in the European manner requires money, which the state does not. “Meanwhile, the Poles both at home and abroad are attracted by picture of the Great Return, like return of the Germans in Germany or the Jews in Israel. But these states allocate for such purposes hundreds of millions dollars annually. In Poland governement has no such money, so we are facing a creeping repatriation. Nobody tells the whole truth about the real amount of expenditure, wich requires for the content of the new citizens. It is at least six times greater than planned” — noted the Polish journalists Marian Kaminski and Magda Richter in “New Poland” (Novaya Polsha, 2001, №1).

Thus, Poland was unable to fulfill their promises in terms of returning countrymen. Wide assurances turned out to be baseless. These and similar examples probably would make think seriously many people, who plan the move for permanent residence from Kazakhstan and other ex-Soviet republics to Poland, with “Polish Charter” or not. Does it make sense to throw the property for the sake of empty promises and years of ordeal? Even optimistic analysts and employees of the Polish media recognize that the benefits of repatriation will be able to really feel only children or even grandchildren of immigrants.