Kielce Support Center for Foreigners

Kieleckie Centrum Wsparcia Cudzoziemców

Stowarzyszenie Homo Politicus/Homo Politicus Association

tel. 665 450 507601 090 096

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www.homopoliticus.org.pl

Events
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One of the most difficult choices in parents’ life is the school (or kindergarten) for their children. When you are abroad this choice becomes a little bit more complicated than in your homeland.

Language/system of teaching suddenly becomes a problem. When it comes to Poland, many parents find it difficult to help their kinds with language they also have to study. Sometimes they don’t want to learn language because they know that they are going to leave the country within a year or two. The necessity of safe system of education, that can be applied in any country in the world, is urgent and so that they often choose international school.

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A particular society at a particular time and place, the tastes in art and manners that are favoured by a social group, all the knowledge shared by the society – all of these can be considered as a culture.

When you arrive in India, it just takes only few minutes to understand that its biggest problem is omnipresent chaos, and it takes few years to understand the good sides of the country. When arriving in Poland however, the peaceful atmosphere is striking you during first minutes but after some years of living here you understand what is actually wrong about the country.

This brief introduction sums up our personal experience with two different cultures. No two cultures are the same, and Polish and Indian cultures differ a lot. It seems impossible to define and to understand every aspect of any culture. However, I’d try to point major cultural differences which me and my family have experienced.

Religion and Language

Although India is a land of many religions whereas Poland is mainly a land of one creed, beliefs are the most important aspect of both Indian and Polish lives. The majority of Indians are vegetarians due to their belief in Hinduism, Jainism or Buddhism. It's worth to mention that even though Buddhism was founded in India, there are less its followers than in other Asian countries.  

India has 22 official languages and many religions. Now, try to imagine moving from one province to another within Poland and that you need to a learn a different language – this is something beyond imagination of the Poles since, almost whole country speaks one language and follows one religion. This makes the social system coherent whereas in India system adopts to many languages and religions which in turn makes it more complex. Besides local languages, most of Indians speak English (in fact there are more people using English in India than anywhere else in the world) so you can get along pretty easily even though if you don’t know the local language. At the same time in Poland, if you don’t know Polish it is not easy to communicate.

Family

We have found a common ground between Polish and Indian cultures – the family relations. Indians are very much family oriented, just like Poles. In Indian culture family values are given more prominence than the individual ones. For the sake of family, Indians may even forsake their individual wishes and one’s happiness. All the decisions made are concentrated around the family, and I think that Poles share the same feelings. However, time, place, tastes of society and exposure to other cultures are changing India fast. More and more Indians are becoming self-oriented and individual values are getting more prominence than the family values. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence...

Service versus Self-Sufficiency

India is a service based culture in every way. Walking into a store customer can find people following him around and offering help, even with the smallest things. There is virtually nothing that could not be done by a hired help at a relatively low cost. This is probably (and partially) a legacy of the caste system, which is deeply embedded in Indian culture, and most certainly a result of India’s two largest commodities, people and time. India is a home for more than 1 billion people now. Because in Poland labour costs are high, people are more independent than in India. Companies in Poland – from Biedronka to Costorama – are constantly developing self-service strategies so in the result their customers become more self-sufficient.

Law and Order

In Poland few people snub the road rules. If you are driving in India, you can notice quite easily that almost all Indians violate the road code, including red lights and obligation to wear helmets (on the contrary, the very same people are law abiding citizens when abroad). In India you need a skill to drive whereas in Poland you also need to follow the rules.

Judges are respected members of society, but this does not help in land disputes which in India can last generations without chances for solving the problem. Poland relies heavily on the law when settling down all disputes – one have to sign agreements for almost everything in here. The common factor between the countries are red tape procedures, in other words the bureaucracy. Currently Poland is adopting the western standards – from our personal experience we can say that it is now possible to find an official or a police officer who is able to speak a foreign language.

Food

Indians are bold in cooking and there is nothing that could be over spiced in their cuisine. Indian food is not only about being “spicy” – it is important to distinct the heat of the taste, from the richness of the spices. In India, the heat is generally applied selectively with the use of chilli, whereas adding spices is about flavouring.

We had this intriguing question, why do Poles eat relatively cold meat and food in general, mild in taste and without much seasonings. The answer may lie in the climate. Cold meat serves to produce heat which is essential to adopt to the climatic conditions. In India chilli's heat is valued for its ultimate cooling effect on the body while evoking perspiration. Other spices are used to bring the flavour to the food. Eating habits are entirely different in our countries. Indian food is full of spices and truly diversified as its culture. Polish food is bland and lacks variety. What is more, in India people who are obese are mostly wealthy. A box of cereal or a meal at KFC/McDonald’s costs equivalent of 40 to 50 PLN, while a bag of carrots or yoghurt costs less than 2 PLN. Water is served free in most of the restaurants across India – in Poland coke costs less than water. Snacks like crisps or fries, are cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables.

In India drinking alcohol in a company of your elders or family members is a taboo whereas it is socially accepted in Poland. Our law does not allow companies to advertise products related to alcohol and tobacco, which is a common practice in Poland.

Street signs Versus Landmarks

In Poland any street of a city is identified by a unique name. Usually, you can get into a cab and say where you want to go and most likely you reach your destination. In India a passenger almost always has to know where he goes and this almost always includes landmarks, as only few streets are properly labeled. In India you can find streets by numbers like “1st Cross” or “2nd Cross”. This may be a bit different in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi or Bangalore but in the other agglomerations maps are useless.

India being a huge country is diverse in every aspect of its culture, geography and climate, since we have many religions and due to the vastness of the land. Poland is unique in its own way (one religion and one language); also geographically it is less complex than India. But we are happy that we have experienced both worlds, and that for the last 7 years we have been calling Wroclaw our home.

By Preethi Nair

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Dear readers, in this article I would like to share my views on pros and cons of emigration to Poland.

There are two sides to every coin, and similarly, it is possible to find both positive and negative aspects of every new situation. Where should I start? It may sound banal but we should remember that we live in the era of globalization: the world is shrinking, the boundaries disappear and electronic networks allow people from different continents to communicate.

The decision about emigration is usually well thought over. However, according to the proverb “Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched,” obtaining a visa, getting on a plane and believing in a miracle are not enough. The problems arise after many years.

 

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It may seem surprising that the flag of Vietnam is an interesting, as well as a controversial issue. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam has a red flag with a yellow star in the middle. However, while entering „the flag of Vietnam” into the Google search, next to the red flag we can encounter another one – a yellow rectangle with three red stripes.

It appears that the flag is a very interesting issue, and a starting point for the discussions on the political dimension of the activity of Vietnamese migrants. One could say that it is a long-standing problem that causes the biggest arguments among the Vietnamese living abroad. Poland is no exception; Vietnamese community in Poland is also (politically) divided, and that division is very deep.

Some of the readers may not remember the history of Vietnam, but some Poles know that the country was united in 1975, when the USA abandoned their ally (South Vietnam), and it was easily conquered by the communist North Vietnam. Hence, the situation of Vietnam is different from the situation of Korea, where there are still two antagonistic states. People who are privy to the fact are aware of the division among the Vietnamese. Some accept the political system of the united communist country, but some do not. In particular, quite a big number of the Vietnamese living in the USA, namely a few millions of people, oppose the communist authorities. Currently, the Vietnamese start to speak openly about the ending of the Vietnam War as the fact of the conquering South Vietnam by the North, instead of referring to it as "the liberation of the South", the term which was frequently used in propaganda textbooks. Some do not remember that South Vietnam had the yellow flag with three red stripes in the middle. Although the country does not exist since 1975, so younger generations are not able to remember that flag, the Vietnamese who live in the USA and some Vietnamese in Europe insists that only that (former) flag is a symbol of freedom and it signifies the future of Vietnam.

What is the attitude towards the flag (and the political system) of the Vietnamese who live in Poland? It is a common knowledgle that most of them come from the North, i.e. the communist part of the country. The Vietnamese who live in Poland are familiar with the red flag, and, with the exception of just a few people, the yellow flag is not an object of their interest. Thanks to the "Solidarność" and the political transformation that took place in Poland, the majority of Vietnamese living here understand the meaning of democracy and freedom of speech. However, there are still some Vietnamese who miss their homeland in its current shape and perhaps dream of obtaining a position in the administration of the National Front for Liberation or other state institutions. Sometimes, they see their future, also in the context of their political acitivity, in the country of origin, i.e. Vietnam. Even though they have Polish citizenship and are no longer the citizens of Vietnam (it used to be necessary to resign from one's citizenship in order to obtain Polish one), they attempt to have it restituted (granted), but apparently no one has succeeded yet.

Hence, the Vietnamese should be made aware that if they live in Poland and declare it to be their second homeland, they should understand that communism is no longer tolerated here - and any acitivity propagating it is even forbidden by Polish Constitution.

In order to get the message across to the Vietnamese and to thoroughly explain to them what were the prodemocratic transformations in Poland, as well as to encourage them to integrate with the Poles, it is necessary to reach their leaders. The leaders of the Vietnamese community, people who know that group from the inside, are the best candidates to be the experts who will allow for getting to know each other and the mutual integration.

What are the features of the perfect expert?

Of course, it needs to be a person who speaks Vietnamese and knows not only the situation of the Vietnamese community in Poland but also the reality of contemporary Vietnam, as migrants who live in Poland are constantly in touch with their country of origin and they often think of returning to their homeland in the future. So it cannot be a person who left Vietnam when they were a child and do not travel there any more, because such a person may have very limited knowledge about contemporary Vietnam. Moreover, a good expert cannot be a person who has very limited contacts with the Vietnamese as he/she is not accepted by the majority of the community because of his/her sharp and controversial political views. In other words, it needs to be someone who is accepted by that community, in particular, someone who often talks with them, regardless of their political views or religious beliefs.

The Vietnamese are "allergic" to people who by all means look for the "class enemy," trying rather to gain popularity among Polish audiences (e.g. by their constant presence in Polish media) than to represent the interests of the Vietnamese migrants.

It ought to be stated that these Vietnamese who participated in the, so called, first wave of migrations and graduated from Polish universities within the helping programme for Vietnam should prove to be good candidates for the role of the experts. They have been residing in Poland for many years, and thanks to it, they managed to integrate with Polish society. Furthermore, thanks to the fact of being brought up in Vietnam, they speak Vietnamese fluently, and keeping in touch with their relatives and friends in the country of origin provides them with some knowledge about the situation in Vietnam. It should be noted that studies in Poland were available only for few chosen people - students from Vietnamese schools who got the best results in the entrance exams.

As far as Vietnamese students in Poland are concerned, it is worth remembering that not only did they have to be the best students in Vietnam but they also had to work very hard during their studies. The lack of progress in their studies could cause the deportation to Vietnam, and the situation od the expelled students in their country was very difficult.

Perhaps it is difficult for Poles to understand the fact that during the 5 years of studying (or 6 years, including a preparatory year to learn Polish), a Vietnamese student could visit their family only once - at their own expense. In addition, it was necessary to receive good marks in order to obtain a return visa to Vietnam (no, it is not a mistake - they needed entry visas!). What is more, when the transformations were beginning to take place in Poland, the Embassy of Vietnam confiscated students' passports. The students had only their student cards and certificates confirming that they were the citizens of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Some Vietnamese, who after graduation decided to stay in Poland (e.g. to start a family), had to pay (pay back to the Embassy of Vietnam) a big amount of money - almost the whole sum of the scholarships they had been receiving during their studies - in order to get their passports back and to receive the certificates about their marital status, which were necessary for the procedure of solemnising marriage with Polish citizens and of obtaining the residence card.

When one takes a look into the biographies of the Vietnamese who graduated in Poland, one can easily notice that they went through a lot: they experienced not only the period of wars with the USA, but also the wars with Cambodia and China, and the martial law in Poland. It was a real school of life for them. It is high time they use their experience to cooperate towards the rapproachment between the Poles and Vietnamese. For instance, the experts should act as advisors while organising the cultural events for the Vietnamese community, to prevent such events as those held to honour the army, involving innocent Vietnamese children (born in the democratic Poland), dressed in uniforms and infantry's neckerchiefs, which are unambiguously associated with the communist system. The Vietnamese who live in Poland should realise that such parades and marches, referring openly to the communist model, are not approved in contemporary Poland. It should be noted that the majority of the participants of such events - not only children, but also their parents, involved in the subsequent waves of migrations - just want to take part in a cultural event gathering their compatriots, and do not realise that they are being used by the procommunist propaganda.

However, graduates from Polish universities who are still living in Poland are well aware of the character of such events and of the way they are received by Polish society. In other words, they know a lot, but some of them do not want to protest. Perhaps they are afraid of the potential lack of the possibility to visit their families in their old country.

Admittedly, if they are Polish citizens, in such a case they should receive help from their new homeland. But how does that look in practice?

Currently, Poland has achieved a strong position and good opinion in Europe and worldwide. Hence, it can help not only the Vietnamese community in Poland, but also the whole Vietnamese nation. By deliberate and wise actions, with the assistance of the experts coming from the group of the Vietnamese who have integrated with Poland, Poland has a chance to contribute to the positive change of the political situation in Vietnam.

By Ngo Hoang Minh

Translation: Alicja Kosim


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Polish organisations have submitted applications on behalf or for the benefit of immigrants on numerous occasions. In the very beginning, it should be emphasised that there is an obvious qualitative difference between applications “on behalf” and “for the benefit.” As for the former, there is certain cooperation between an organisation and a group of immigrants. This means that there are immigrants in a group which works on the general idea of the project, its preparation and goals. A project “for the benefit” of immigrants, by contrast, sounds worse in my opinion. Still, much depends on the area of activity.

The European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (EIF) was launched in Poland in 2007. In the first years of its functioning, the Fund seemed to me a suspicious, even Mafia-like entity. Everyone kept too quiet about it. Its members did not appear in the media. There were no promotional campaigns, posters or anything that would have informed Poles about how they could help immigrants to integrate with the new society.

 

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"Oh, don't be silly - EVERYONE wants this. Everyone wants to be ‘us’".  (From the film Devil Wears Prada).

People move all the time, for many different reasons. Warsaw is not the kind of place you would move to for pleasure. Most of the people I know in Warsaw, came here for work with their whole families, sent by a company to stay for a couple of year, sometimes more, sometimes they don’t even know for how long. Such international “working-migrants” are called by companies the “expats”.

The expatriation brings a lot of benefits to the families: international schools, health insurance – privileges that are not affordable for them in the countries of origin. They get new, higher social status. However, the price they must pay is usually very high. Very often all these changes trigger off major family problems. Women find themselves in a new situation, when they used to work in their homelands. Now, their full time job is taking care of the children, usually alone as husbands are working out, and traveling very often. They have to deal with teachers, doctors, nannies who doesn’t speak their language or have a different attitude to basic issues like education of their kids. Without grandparents, uncles or any other relatives nearby, kids put all of their anxiety and feeling on their parents’ shoulders. If you add a long, dark winter you will get an explosive mixture. Many families broke apart. Women get depressed, sometimes their husbands start to cheat on them, have love affairs with local women.

In media the feminism in back – in a fashionable way. Emma Watson, Hillary Clinton, the Pussy Riot, Angela Merkel. Every day the list of the most influential women in the world extends. There are thousands of articles concerning women employed in places considered to be men’s domain. Many journalists write about gender. Sheryl Sandberg (the famous Facebook CEO) repeats all the time that “women can have it all”. That means to be young, have children and a prestigious job that brings you a lot of money. We are talking all the time about female power, women empowerment. But the key issue is still the same: men earn more money than women. So when it comes to migration, women quit their less profitable jobs. Of course, the world is full of examples of women who have no other choice, and would love to spend more time at home, with their kids. Instead, they are full time working as a supermarket cashiers or babysit someone’s else children. In theory, there’s no better life than such: wife devotes herself to home, kids and husband, while he is earning the money. But this happens because men earn more than women. So when the offer of expatriation appears on the horizon, it is very hard to say “no” – a woman has to admit that she earns less and accept the situation. I also know cases of women earning good salaries, which still remained nothing to compare with benefits the family could get living abroad.
So, the wife quits her job, and from this time she deals with classic “poison envy” image. Friends think that everything she does is shopping, parents ask why she stays the whole day at home instead of earning for a living, husband controls the credit card because he pays the bills.

 

Most of expat women I have met in Warsaw, would have agreed with this meme. Many times we have discussed all this issues (money, kids, the way marriage changes when one of the spouses stops to work outside, etc.). We have started our friendships accidently, in schools our kids attended. We all have shared the same problems: how the personal project became a family one, difficulty to adopt in Warsaw. But the largest one is loneliness.

A very close friend of mine, who has been an expat for many year, told me once: “If you do not see it as a family project, you’re dead”. Ana stayed in Warsaw for one year, then she moved to Greece. “Expatriation would be almost perfect if all members of the family would see it as a family project. The problem is: if you are someone with both feet on the ground, it’s very hard to change the attitude. Firstly, it’s difficult because of the feeling of self-sacrifice for the family, then for husband’s career and finally, your own husband does not see it as a family project. They think that what we do is less important. We are like ants, our work is not a priority because it consists of simple things – but all of them are part of life. Someone has to deal with everyday tasks (cloths, lunches, buses, clubs, etc.). Some think that nanny can take care of all these things, but not. And if you think so, I invite you to try.”

Ana is 40 years old, she has a degree in marketing and is experienced account supervisor. Before she expatriated to Poland, she worked in event company in Madrid. Her previous expatriation was in Portugal, where she did not have difficulties with language and without children, she had no problem finding a job. However, this did not applied to Poland and Greece. This is why her professional career became less important than her husband’s.

“When I left to Portugal, my first expatriation, I worked at Wanadoo. It was the era of  “dot-coms”. My career was not spectacular, but the salary was above average, just like my position in the company. At that time I was single and I did not have children. I've always joked that I found it easier at that time to find another job, another boyfriend. Those were different times and now I think it was not just a joke, it was a big truth. Now we have a huge economical crisis, I had too long break in my professional life. Now I’m 40 years old, and I have two daughters. Is much easier for me to change a husband, rather than profession!”
The family seems to be the only project that fits expatriation. All mothers I have spoke to say that: “if we had stayed in our home countries, I would have worked and probably would not have spent so much time with my children”.

We have easy motherhood, paid household help, time to help children with a homework and possibility of sending them to international schools. But at the same time our children have to rise without grandparents and uncles, away from unconditioned help.

But this project has a limit – the school age of children. Life comes to the point when kids become more independent, spend the whole day at schools ¬– mother, left behind wonders all the time what happened with her professional life.

They have quit their jobs to follow their husbands, and if they arrived for example to Poland, they encounter the difficulty of learning complex language to work in their profession. A language that perhaps they have never planned to learn. Salaries paid in Polish currency are not sufficient to pay for the baby sitter and every day bills.

The language barrier is the most difficult to overcome. Polish language schools for foreigners are full of  “expats”. Many of them speak Polish on a very high level, but they limit the use of it to shopping and solving minor problems. There is not more need to communicate. Nobody’s waiting for your emails in Polish.

“Our husbands frequently change offices, have assistants or secretaries who often speak their language, or in worst case, communicate in English – better or worse, but in the second case companies provide language courses to improve your linguistic skills”.In the meantime you are trying to say “milk” in Polish, Greek, Russian or Arabic, or trying to understand the owner’s manual of the washing machine with the help of Google translator. Ana told me: “We must learn to live in the environment that does not know a single word in our language. I laugh when people say “everyone here speaks English”. Where, in which world? Yours, or ours? The cleaning lady doesn’t speak English, salesman does not speak English, the guy who sales the bus tickets does not speak English. Multilingualism exists inside skyscrapers and in certain circles, but is not a part of housekeeper’s life”.

Ana concludes: “The good sided of expatriation? Well, I guess that I have balanced and stable family where mother is the main bond. I really hope that my daughters will have better future because of that. Although, I hope they will not do the same. If this lifestyle is so great as people say, I would like to ask those people if they want their daughters to be expats in the future. And I hope we are the last generation of expat women”.

Written by Julia Salerno

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Dear Mummies! I would like to give you some advice about how to secure a place for your children in a kindergarten or crèche. This applies in particular to female immigrants who have decided to spend their life in Poland.

I am from Azerbaijan. My husband, and the father of our 3-year-old Patrycja-Aisha, is a Pole. I was excited when my daughter was born because I had defended my PhD thesis just then. I was thinking of pursuing an academic career and developing the international scholarly magazine “New Prometheus,” the editor-in-chief of which I am now.

We came up against troubles when we started to search for a public crèche for Patrycja because we could not afford a private one. We live in Warsaw. We had believed we would find a place in a municipal unit in the capital city quite quickly. Quite the contrary. Due to a lack of places in the crèche, I had to suspend my academic career and devote all 3 years completely to my daughter. Of course, this was wonderful! Thanks to me little Patrycja knows almost all the letters, can count to twenty, knows some basic social rules, can use a computer and recite poems in three languages (by the way, I write poems and fairy tales for my daughter by myself). Still, I felt as if someone had deprived me of a chance to pursue a career, and Patricia of a possibility to learn Polish well.

 

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The answer could be instantaneous: “Yes! Of course it is necessary”.

But no, the Vietnamese are active all the time, though it seems that only in their own community. So what should be done to make them more active in Warsaw, among Poles and other residents of the capital?

Now, the answer to the next question will not be so instantaneous as we could wish. As it was mentioned in other articles about the Vietnamese, they form quite a big community and have been present in Poland since the 1950s. So how come that in the 21st century this community is still thought to be so hermetic? Are the characteristics of the Vietnamese to blame, or should we look for the reasons elsewhere?

 

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I have a fear of state institutions…

While writing an article about foreigners and Polish public offices together with my friend from Ukraine, I decided to show how Ukrainian public office workers treat their customers. A rhetorical question asked by me friend working for a non-governmental organisation gives an idea of what dealing with administrative matters means for Poles: “Is it also so difficult to do anything in public offices there in Ukraine?”

Anything that concerns dealing with administrative matters creates negative emotions in most of people. Such is also the attitude of many, if not all, foreigners who come to Poland. I will not write, however, about what waits in store for them in Poland; I will write about the Ukrainian experience which has shaped the consciousness and beliefs also of those who begin new lives in new countries with a negative attitude towards public offices.

And the ever-helpful Janusz Weiss from the first channel of the Polish radio, always striking a chord with the spirit of the times with his programme “Everything you don’t know and are not afraid to ask” addressed to a Polish citizen in a public office (and here comes this fear again…).

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My friend once told me, “Be more wary of the tax office than of the police.” In retrospect, it seems to me that he forgot to add that no one had ever won with the Polish Social Insurance Institution, ZUS for short in Polish. I had no idea what kind of institution it is. This sounds strange but that was really the case at the time. I had never been employed on a full time basis. Common sense told me: “Dude, what is a social insurance pension for immigrants?”

Over five years ago, being in a hurry, I took the wrong train. This sometimes happens when you are late but know which platform the train departs from. The train was supposed to have gone to Zakopane. It turned out that that it was an express to ZUS. That’s how troubles began, much fuss about with money and insurance.

It has always puzzled me why insurance is obligatory. Why can’t you insure yourself there where you want or put aside a sum of money on your bank account to use in the event of an illness or accident. Some procedures, however, have to be completed “ex officio.” That’s always the case when something is regulated by laws and regulations.

Social Insurance Institution. In Polish, ZUS for short. I am allergic to the very abbreviation, so popular in Poland. By no means is ZUS brave. Not all artists know that their performances are treated as a form of economic activity by ZUS. It’s enough that you are on the register of artists held by the Ministry of Culture (you don’t have to either have a NIP or REGON number or keep the books as is the case with a typical economic activity). As for me, ZUS told me to pay the insurance contributions for the previous years. A considerable sum of money had accumulated in no time (I wish it had been the Polish national lottery). Even installments were of little help because the law prohibits spreading payments over a period longer than five years. It is something that is called “voluntary” health insurance! A social security fund, health insurance, a labour fund … I don’t remember how many times I had to fill in, with capital letters and numbers, the blank spaces below these phrases sounding like
a mantra

For several days, I was considering an idea of bringing the case before the European Tribunal of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Something was definitely amiss with my case. Finally, my warm feelings towards the country on the Vistula River prevailed. I didn’t want to do anything against the country that had received me so warmly some years ago. After all, when any case is brought before international institutions, the image of the country gets tarnished to some extent. I had to pay even though the validity of the request made by ZUS was doubtful. The case, however, was later brought before the European Commission on the request of ZUS after I had submitted an application for redemption of the debt. Halfway through 2014, I already see the end of the stairway or maybe it’s the terminus of the train I wrote about in the beginning. At this point I finish my personal story.

I’m thinking of making use of my six-year-long experience: various contacts, meetings, appeals, applications for spreading out the payments, submitted to ZUS. I’m thinking of piecing it all together in order to organise meetings with international students and immigrants all over Poland. These will be workshops, during which I will talk about my own ignorance in the face of the significance of the situation. In fact, ZUS and the tax office are both equally inaccessible.

Every student and immigrant (if he or she works) is obliged to secure himself or herself. In the beginning, it is obviously far more important to complete formalities required to obtain a visa and register our residence. An official announcement published by ZUS is as follows: “If a person insures himself or herself voluntarily, he or she is required to report to ZUS the fact of having concluded a voluntary health insurance contract with the provincial division of the National Health Fund (NFZ for short in Polish).” That’s what I did a few years ago, believing that I would be paying insurance contributions from that moment on. It turned out that ZUS had charged money even before it even learnt about my existence. That’s what immigrants should strive to avoid. It’s not worth their nerves, a constantly empty bank account and unnecessary installments. I will talk to them about health insurance. Similar meetings, workshops and panels will be particularly helpful for those who are responsible only for themselves (have no children and spouse, and are in good health for the time being). These people probably are not especially interested in matters concerning insurance.

I think that workshops concerning such questions as why the social insurance system is so important, how and where you can insure yourself in Poland, whether you can check if the employer has insured the employee (something that is particularly important for footballers playing in lower leagues), to what benefits an insured person is entitled to and how old-age and disability pensions are granted may prove very useful. Even ZUS itself could be willing to send its experts to answer questions of young immigrants. Someone should explain to them that it’s beneficial for them to pay insurance contributions. I’m curious what percentage of immigrants takes into consideration the perspective of spending their retirement in Poland. We can fall ill or have an accident today or tomorrow. Retirement is a marathon. We don’t always think about how our life will look like in 20 or 30 years’ time.

There is, however, one privileged group of foreigners who are not subject to social insurance. These are citizens of foreign countries (this turn of phrase sounds better than the word “immigrants” although it is the proper definition of a foreigner!) whose residence in Poland is not permanent and who are employed at foreign diplomatic representations, consular posts, international institutions or in special missions. Those who study at state higher education institutions have the problem off their heads. At every such an institution, there is some nice person (a deputy dean for students’ affairs) who helps with all matters concerning social assistance. The situation looks much glimmer when it comes to immigrants working illegally, for instance at markets. I’m curious how much immigants know about ZUS.

By Mammadou Diouf

Translation: Anna Orzechowska

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Projekt ‘MIEJSKI SYSTEM INFORMACYJNY I AKTYWIZACYJNY DLA MIGRANTÓW’ jest współfinansowany z Programu Krajowego Funduszu Azylu, Migracji i Integracji oraz budżetu państwa. Wyłączna odpowiedzialność spoczywa na autorze. Komisja Europejska nie ponosi odpowiedzialności za sposób wykorzystania udostępnionych informacji.

Projekt LOKALNE MIĘDZYSEKTOROWE POLITYKI NA RZECZ INTEGRACJI IMIGRANTÓW realizowany był w ramach programu Obywatele dla Demokracji, finansowanego z Funduszy EOG.

Projekt LOKALNE POLITYKI MIGRACYJNE - MIĘDZYNARODOWA WYMIANA DOŚWIADCZEŃ W ZARZĄDZANIU MIGRACJAMI W MIASTACH był współfinansowany ze środków Unii Europejskiej w ramach Europejskiego Funduszu na rzecz Integracji Obywateli Państw Trzecich oraz budżetu państwa. Wyłączna odpowiedzialność spoczywa na autorze. Komisja Europejska nie ponosi odpowiedzialności za sposób wykorzystania udostępnionych informacji.

Projekt LOKALNE MIĘDZYSEKTOROWE POLITYKI NA RZECZ INTEGRACJI IMIGRANTÓW był współfinansowany ze środków Unii Europejskiej w ramach Europejskiego Funduszu na rzecz Integracji Obywateli Państw Trzecich oraz budżetu państwa. Wyłączna odpowiedzialność spoczywa na autorze. Komisja Europejska nie ponosi odpowiedzialności za sposób wykorzystania udostępnionych informacji.

Projekt ‘WARSZAWSKIE CENTRUM WIELOKULTUROWE’ był współfinansowany ze środków Unii Europejskiej w ramach Europejskiego Funduszu na rzecz Integracji Obywateli Państw Trzecich oraz budżetu państwa. Wyłączna odpowiedzialność spoczywa na autorze. Komisja Europejska nie ponosi odpowiedzialności za sposób wykorzystania udostępnionych informacji.

LOKALNE MIĘDZYSEKTOROWE POLITYKI NA RZECZ INTEGRACJI IMIGRANTÓW Projekt realizowany był przy wsparciu Szwajcarii w ramach szwajcarskiego programu współpracy z nowymi krajami członkowskimi Unii Europejskiej.