Kielce Support Center for Foreigners

Kieleckie Centrum Wsparcia Cudzoziemców

Stowarzyszenie Homo Politicus/Homo Politicus Association

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I’m leaving the country… What to take with me? 

A flower is not always able to blossom there where it springs up …

I’m leaving now…

There may be some moments in our life when we have to move to a new distant place. On the emerging horizon, expectedly or unexpectedly, there appears a non-touristic trip, full of emotions and attractions. It’s only the beginning of our new life in a foreign country. Circumstances force us to leave our cosy old house and build a nest for ourselves in an unknown new place. What to take and not to take on this trip to a new world? Let’s think about that.

 

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It may be that you have only recently come to Warsaw with your family, you don’t know Polish and are wondering how to cope with all the things you have to do:  how to choose an interesting place to live; where to send your children to school; how to take out health insurance for the whole family; how to obtain a Polish driving licence so that you can drive your children to school; is it necessary to get a babysitter for your child, and if so, where to find her; where to buy fresh vegetables; where to enrol on Polish language classes, and, most importantly, how to get in touch with people who speak your language or at least English?

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I have taken part in numerous discussion panels, conferences and workshops. Most of them have been organised by non-governmental organisations, sometimes also by the public administration. The last Forum was held in Warsaw and its subject was the migration policy of three Polish cities: Cracow, Lublin and Warsaw. That was also the order in which workshops were organised in the three cities, each time at the invitation of the main partner of the Forum – one of the following non-governmental organisations: Interkulturalni (the Intercultural), Homo Faber and the Inna Przestrzeń (Other Space) Foundation.

The third sector has its merits in the development of democracy, resolution of various social issues and numerous untypical problems. I sometimes wonder: if the third sector had existed in the Middle Ages, would have Galileo had a good protector and defender in his confrontation with the church authorities? The effectiveness of NGOs is simply unparalleled in certain matters. 

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Such is human nature that one always wants more money and believes that there is a better world elsewhere… I think this quality manifests itself particularly strongly among Ukrainians  –  it is better OVER THERE… Many people think that their problems revolve around day-to-day living and money. But when they leave the country, it turns out that the problem lies in themselves – in their hang-ups, stereotypes, behaviours, beliefs, emotions and laziness…

Once…

…as a child, when I lived in a small village in the Subcarpathian region of Ukraine, I saw many of my friends’ parents go abroad to earn some money and leave their kids under the care of their grandparents. Those parents seemed to me to be extremely courageous people, almost supermen, because their children stood out with their new clothes, shoes and toys which were quite extraordinary for us. The neighbours who stayed put at home were jealous of those people and often judged them, when family fell apart because they could not bear separation (or maybe that separation was the final part of a break-up caused by weak family ties, a lack of love and understanding). Judging and criticising, devoid of any sympathy, were especially harsh towards the children who got into trouble in the absence of their parents.  

When someone didn’t fare well abroad and died there, people generally sympathised with the family. When someone was not successful abroad and came back home, he or she was mocked. People gossiped about everyone, also about young women who must have turned to prostitution or other immoral trade, because there was certainly no other possibility for them to earn money.

A village like mine always listens out for scraps of new information and gossips  –  someone comes back for holidays from abroad and the village looks at him carefully, judges, criticizes and eagerly receives the latest news.  And no matter what those wage earners said, no matter how frank, authentic and complicated their feelings, experiences or stories of adaptation to life in a foreign country were, others still considered them lucky devils who had hit the jackpot.  Problems do not exist, money is the only visible thing. Those who came back only to take their family abroad and bid farewell to the village were considered the luckiest.

What is it like there?

Travel, so the saying goes, broadens the mind. But this is sometimes only at a huge cost. The situation of Ukrainian female migrants is perceived primarily from the vantage point of the considerable benefits that the host societies reap from their work. In comparison with local service providers, they are cheap labour. Migrants do not burden the budget of the host country with the obligations of the citizens towards their employees. Moreover, getting familiar with Poland and its people, migrants do more for bringing closer the two countries and building their mutual understanding than grand-scale political enterprises. If migrants draw pleasant experiences from their stay in Poland, they will become the country’s ambassadors in Ukraine. One of the biggest problems migrants encounter is flat rental. Female migrants often undertake work with accommodation provided, frequently as 24-hour carers for the infirm. This results in their isolation and heavy dependence on the employers. Female migrants often have little awareness of their rights, do not demand to have their work registered and may be misled as to the consequences of illegal work, or work for an employer different than the one named in the application for a work permit in Poland.

Once…

...I left my village, too. I realized that my village could not offer me any life opportunities, so I emigrated to Kiev to work and study there.  Although, strictly speaking, Kiev is not abroad, it was inaccessible for my friends from the village. My rose-tinted glasses got broken after a month or so, when I took a job at McDonald’s to somehow survive. During my first week there, I had to clean the toilets. Later I became a cashier, which was only psychically lighter work. A toilet stood for me as a symbol of my debasement, a phase in my life that I was starting to leave behind. The city did not accept me and I felt strange.  Every day, every minute ‒ challenges and trials. Within the boundaries of the same country, the same worldview, I had heard so many times that my inborn industriousness, typical of West Ukraine, “did not allow inhabitants of Kiev to have some rest and live peacefully, but stole their jobs.” It hurt at first, but later I started to take it as a compliment.

What is it like there?

I was walking through Warsaw on a Sunday afternoon and talking on the mobile phone in Ukrainian, when suddenly a young man stopped in front of me and started a conversation: you are from the East, you’ve come here to steal work from people like me.  I looked carefully at my interlocutor – he was wasted and staggered. I replied that I did not steal work from anyone, least of all from him. My another memory goes back to 2003, when, together with my employer, I first applied for a work permit. Both then and now, over 10 years later, the Polish law required and requires an employer who takes on a foreigner to obtain the opinion of a storoste stating that there is no suitable candidate for the job among Polish citizens. Only after obtaining such an opinion can the employer take on the foreigner. The validity of such opinions and the procedure of applying for them has raised questions and caused misunderstandings. Governments keep changing and ruling coalitions are being formed in most unbelievable combinations. Poland is free, but not Polish employers – before taking on an employer, they have to test the labour market in order to obtain the opinion of a storost stating that he or she accepts this candidate, and not another one. My employer wanted to take me on as a babysitter for her several-month-old son, but she was required by the procedure for obtaining an opinion to hold an interview with the unemployed people registered in the employment agency in Wołomin. During the course of 2 weeks, only one woman put herself up as a candidate for a babysitter.  She must have been drunk the previous day because she had weary eyes and smelt of alcohol. She did not need a job from my employer (God forbid!),  but rather her signature on a letter of referral from the employment agency stating that she was present at the interview with the employer and did not meet her expectations. The Agency  received the necessary papers, while my employer got the opinion of a staroste. And after we had completed several other procedures, discriminating me as a foreigner, our little Jurek got a loving babysitter.  

Once…

... I rented a room in Kiev from a woman who went to Germany to work. In a frank conversation, in which I got rid of naive fantasies acquired in my village, I realized what obstacles she had to overcome to survive in a foreign country as a divorcee with a child. She worked as a cleaning lady at several houses, studied, paid sky-high taxes and experienced having her rights limited, all at the same time…  Such was her situation until she had completed her studies, got a better job, a permanent residence permit and, finally, citizenship. Despite all the difficulties, she managed to turn the corner and got back on her feet. She developed a more positive view of life. She invited me to come to her place in Germany, but I was afraid. I knew already then that a new city and a new country meant primarily tremendous adaptation, cultural and financial challenges. I had only just began to adapt to life in the capital of my country.

What is it like there?

Prolonged isolation accompanied by separation from family and familiar environment is psychologically straining, leads to depression, deepens helplessness and confusion. Some time ago, I  encouraged people on Internet forums and conferences to set up hostels where migrant workers could at the same time be independent and stay in touch with other migrants, gaining knowledge and skills useful in finding a safe and legal job. Working on grey market, migrants are exposed to abuse on the part of their employers and stand a lesser chance of gaining positive experiences with Poles. This also contributes to the strengthening of organized groups who reap profits from illegal employment, issuing fictitious invitations and employing migrants illegally. Therefore, it is in the interest of the host country to create conditions in which migrants would be aware of their rights and how to assert them as well as would see the benefits of legal residence and employment. There are no hostels for migrant workers in Poland at the moment. Migrants come to Poland at their own risk and look for a job on their own. It is common practice, however, in the industrial, food and agricultural sectors to provide accommodation near the workplace. As for agriculture, the conditions are uneven, but as for manufacturing plants, there are well-functioning hostels for migrants across the country – they are cheap or even free. Employers often invite married couples if  they can offer only a family room.  After all, it is common knowledge that family ties strengthen good relations between the employer and the employee.

And what’s the conclusion? To go or not to go??

Authors – two women from Ukraine. Written down and commented by Marija Jakubowycz    

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Migrants and development

When we touch upon the topic of migrations, we focus on two things. First, what a society can do as a host to integrate the newcomers. Secondly, what the newcomers should do to be received in a peaceful way. Today, I would like to refer to different expectations – those of the migrants’ families. What does a family, who very often pays for the journey, expect, what are the thoughts of those who are left in the so called third countries? What migrants do to help in the development of their place of birth? The problem of the migrations and development has not beenconsidered in Poland as yet.

Irregular immigration, either legal or not, contributes to the progress, to the development of the third countries. Those people are the actors of the progress, solid progress. They start different projects for the development of their villages or regions. Usually these projects are aimed at such places, forgotten by the central authority, where there is no school or health centre.

The migrations are the potential engine of growth and development for all engaged parties: receiving countries, countries of origin and for the immigrants themselves. The advantages for the society of the receiving country are obvious: the rejuvenation of the labour force at no expense, the increase of the profitability of such sectors as agriculture and services, important contribution to the system of social care, the response to the needs of the branch of new technologies.Migrants’ countries of origin gain a positive capital investment (money orders as well as investments) through the transfer of technology and competences.

 

A new perspective on the development aid


In a broader view, projects created by the immigrants in their countries of origin engage the authorities, international aid organisations, and EU countries’ governments, which have been providing humanitarian and development aid for years. It is a new direction for African countries, the outside alternative for the officially set public development aid which is not always effective. I often read that billions of dollars have been pumped in Africa for the last 50 years. The logical question appears: when is it all going to end? The answer is not simple. The questioner may pretend ignorance and do not take all aspects of this aid into account. They do not ask, how much from those billions goes to farmers, breeders or ordinary inhabitants of any village in the countries that receive help. How many agents, companies from the supporting country are involved in the realization of the projects? In other words, how much money goes back, through different ways (purchases of equipment and various materials, hiring research or project departments), how many things must be acquired at the companies from the funding country.

In France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Poland or the USA, an immigrant from Senegal supports their family in many things, such as everyday products, health issues, education, funerals, baptisms… The money order is the most important thing for their family. It is fast and simple. Money Gram or Western Union, which is popular in Poland, have six thousand agent locations in Senegal. The motto of the latter is: „Join a number of people who for over 150 years have been entrusting us with their money to transfer it to their families.” A withdrawal is possible in over 200 countries and territories throughout the world. Despite high commissions, this form of transferring money is indispensable for the immigrants.Thanks to that, every year, people in different African countries receive money that is several times the value of the so called development aid from the rich North. These good practices of the immigrants should inspire decision makers throughout the world to change the obsolete and sometimes amoral approach towards the cooperation with poorer countries.

 

Between the immigrants and their villages


These finances can be a capital injection for savings and credit cooperatives in the villages thanks to the money ordersto families, for the equipment, or to provide the means for loans to the local borrowers.In the past, the migrants limited themselves to supporting their family relations and to financing the rural infrastructure (they were the founders or the sponsors of health centres, mosques, schools etc.). They promoted a less effective modelof development, which gave them prestige in the eyes of the villagers. Today everything looks different. The emergence of the formal organisations for development, for instance associations, as well as new forms of funding change the relations between the migrants and their villages.Rural organisations are getting more involved. The migrants become the creditors. Unfortunately, more projects are realised in the cities, mainly in the field of immovables and transport, which are the profitable sectors.

Almost 30% of the money orders received via money transfer agencies comes from siblings, 20% from parents and 14% from a spouse. The money transfer is also a common practice at the workplace; the money is sent by colleagues or even by customers.

Apart from the money orders in Senegal, there are also considerable transfers from France, Italy, Spain or the USA. In Africa itself, the countries such as Gabon, Mali or Morocco are also an important source of the money transfers. The Senegalese are the real nomads. Who is not, actually? Is there a place in the world where it is impossible to find Polish diaspora?

The money transfers have a potential to bring real positive changes in the migrants’ countries of origin. Their significance becomes enormous when we compare them with the officially set development aid. The valorisation of the experience of the migrants returning to their countries of origin is a completely different subject, which is very important as far as the programmes or projects for the development of the third countries are concerned. I think that the role of the migrants in the development of their countries of origin will be increasing, thanks to their experience from their stay in the "first” or "second” countries and thanks to their competences and money transfers. The effectiveness is an essential aspect. It is obvious that one is more willing to help one’s own family or friends.

 

By Mamadou Diouf

Translation: Alicja Kosim

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Dear readers! I would like to address the people who have been considering the idea of setting up an organisation. I would like to share my experience with you.

I have been leading a life among quite interesting people. My studies at the University of Warsaw and the Graduate School for Social Research at the Polish Academy of Sciences have taught me to express my ideas openly and loudly, carry out bold projects and listen carefully to advice offered by experienced people.

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Anyone who travels knows this first barrier when arriving to a new place. This barrier is native speech of course!

None of adults wants to become voiceless suddenly because of language barrier. A riddle: universal language, neither English, nor Esperanto. What’s the language? The answer  is: body language – your hands and face expressions, gesticulation in general. This will help in some situations. Unfortunately, it is useless when asking more detailed questions concerning living or everyday problems. Quite frankly, as a newcomer I would not have any idea how to ask: “where’s the foreigners office, my visa is about to expire”. Language is the basic tool, useful not only for integration.

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