Marija Jakubowycz came to Poland in 2001 from a village near Ternopil in Ukraine in search of a job. She was going to stay in Poland for a month, but she has been living in our county for as long as 13 years now. In the beginning Marija went through a baptism of fire, working as a cleaning lady, a carer for a sick lady and a child… Numbers of various jobs! For the last 8 years, she has worked as a teacher of Russian and Ukrainian, and a translator. In 2009, she set up the Ternopilska Foundation. She uses her skills and experiences in social work and volunteering for the benefit of Ukrainians. She feels best among books, in libraries and bookshops. Her long-standing dream is to read together with others. She likes Turkish coffee and Ukrainian poppy-seed cakes (Ukrainian: palanyci z makom). She likes travelling and visiting foreign countries but also wants to explore as many corners of Ukraine as possible.
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…).
Administrative matters in Ukraine
In one scene in the excellent 1962 Ukrainian feature film The Gas Station Queen (Koroleva Benzokolonki), two friends, Galushka and Borshch, quarrel over which one of them should renovate a bridge. Quarreling so fiercely and for so long, they lose cautiousness and fall into the river. Some time has passed since the first screenings of the film… Now we’re into the 21st century, but the red tape continues to hold lengthy debates over matters of utmost importance (of utmost importance certainly only for itself), following in the footsteps of the aforementioned friends.
The moves made by office workers resemble an endless football match, where the citizen plays the role of a ball while the nosy office worker with a nasty grin uses his body language to say “you won’t get anything” and adds in mind (or sometimes aloud in slightly different words) “get out of my sight right now.” You can’t change the rules of the game, in which the office worker sends the customer from office to office; nor is it possible to prove the fault of the state official because the court, which should be an arbiter in a well functioning state, is in a state of degradation as if after a nuclear explosion.
Ten years ago I worked as an assistant to the director of a sushi catering start-up. After less than 6 months, our business became a place of daily meetings of the fire service, sanitary and epidemiological service and tax militia. What was the reason? We had gone into the fish business, in which everything is “occupied and bought out.” Several similar circus performances which I not only witnessed but also took part in discouraged me from working in a senior position in any food-processing establishment in the capital of Ukraine. My self-preservation instinct told me not to follow the routes that cross with state institutions. In a better case, this will ruin your health; in a worse case – this will crush you.
It took me seven years to get rid of these reservations and a banal, but real, fear of the magnitude of the state apparatus. Even now that I conduct my own small business against all odds, I have to struggle with neurosis, wondering whether my dear motherland will start to rearrange the pieces of this jigsaw called the Ukrainian tax system, to which I have already got accustomed. I have fears not because I don’t want my country to change; I just want these changes to be irreversible and want the rules for businesses to be stable and equal. But for the time being one is still looking in legislative acts, served with a sauce of “improvements” so to speak, for mechanisms aimed at swindling us, small entrepreneurs. How could it be otherwise? The system has taught us to do so! But not only the authorities in the capital are so audacious. You should just go out of the city.
I met a friend who shared with me his experience of collecting documents concerning the property that had already been in his possession.
“That resembled a fairy tale – go God knows where, bring God knows what… First of all, you had to collect a bagful of documents, including a certificate issued by a specific branch of the Savings Union bank in the village of Vasylkiv in the Kiev Oblast, in which in the 1950s my late parents were given an installment loan for the purchase of building materials for the construction of a house.
The bank clerks were dumbfounded at the strange demands made by the office workers. It is hard to describe those feelings. All debts on such loans were repaid long time ago or remitted as early as in the 1960s. But I got some piece of paper.”
Another friend of mine, a notary public, came up against similar difficulties. In the district where he lives, an office worker sees customers once a week at given hours. A long queue of people – similar to those in front of Lenin’s mausoleum at the heyday of the USRR, builds up. “His professional competences are definitely not sufficient for the tasks he carries out. Instead of the village of Kożuchiwka, he wrote Kalyniwka. I have to be cautious as never before.”
The most “fascinating” situations occur when an average citizen decides to document, in accordance with the procedures, the privatisation of land or real estate on his own. He enters the folk game „find your documents.” An application submitted to the district office goes to the regional administration, then to the provincial authorities and then … somewhere else, for sure. But it is virtually impossible to keep track of where your application goes; as my friend says: “no one knows anything; everyone sends you elsewhere, as far as possible, because the case is outside his remit. In order to get to any office, you have to take a place in a queue as early as at four in the morning and wait in the queue only to learn that it is not the right room. When I went into hysterics and threw a tantrum because I couldn’t find my application with documents that I had been collecting for a long time, the office workers politely advised me to go to a commercial organisation that deals with similar cases. The organisation was anointed by the district office. I paid a fee of 3,000 hryvnias and was promised that the case would be dealt with within a year. And so it was.”
The state system was created in such a way as to make an average citizen want to run far, far away when confronted with it. The system works for itself and for those within in, not for an individual, a citizen, an inhabitant. Hence corruption, lawlessness, cronyism, nepotism and other “attractions” of the Ukrainian red tape.
By two Ukrainian women
Written down, translated and commented by Marija Jakubowycz
Translation into English: Anna Orzechowska
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I would like to start with some positive aspects but the first sentence goes as follows...
Unfortunately, a Polish employer is not willing to employ a foreigner and fulfil all standards of law. They do not have to be and indeed are not bad themselves nor are they a horror of a foreigner. However, complicated legal rules and disproportionately high costs of the employment cause the employers to look for easier ways of documenting all situations that take place in their firms or companies.
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R like registration of residence
The law has many faces – the theory may be helpful while dealing with them. However, the thing that encouraged me to write this article was the everyday experience of Foundation Ternopilska concerning registration of residence. Step by step, I will write how to register your place of stay in Poland.
When the registration of residence of a foreigner is necessary?
In order to receive PESEL number. Similar numerical identifications function in any country, where tax and evidence data of its citizens is collected and stored.
PESEL is given to a foreigner after two weeks, after registration of a stay for a period longer than 3 months – it may concern 92, 95, 100 or more days. If the stay is shorter than 3 months – PESEL number will not be given.
Why this article is concerned so much with PESEL, when it was meant to provide information about registration of residence? For a foreigner the registration of residence, as I have mentioned above, is the only way to receive PESEL number. Having such identification number makes the life in Poland easier.
We will be asked to provide our PESEL number in following institutions and situations:
- ZUS (Social Insurance Institution)
- tax office
- in a hospital, on ER
- when signing an agreement with employer
- university, higher education institution
If we do not have the PESEL number, we are obliged to present international passport, but still not all institutions are allowed to identify a person on the basis of this document, as the number of the passport may change, just like a surname – PESEL is always the same.
When the registration of residence is helpful?
- when applying for a residence card
- when registering as an unemployed
- for the sense of stability in a foreign country
When the registration of residence is substituted by other documents?
Very important institution for us foreigners is the Office for Foreigners, located in Voivodeship Offices. When applying for a residence card, it is necessary to deliver all the required documents certifying our stay in Poland, and providing certain place of residence. The department demands one of the following documents: confirmation of registration, rent contract, lending contract, deed of ownership of the apartment we live in. It is worth to obtain one of the documents required by the institution, but do not panic if you are not able to get the registration of residence or the rent contract.
I am emphasizing the moderation because in case of registration of residence the good will of the flat owner is crucial – if the owner does not want to register our stay there is nothing much we can do. Owner of the apartment has such right and registration of residence of the others is a right, not duty.
If the department insists on the certification of registration of residence, it’s worth to write a declaration: “I declare that the owner of the apartment I currently reside, has not assented to my registration of residence.” This should be enough to make our case carry on.
Registration – step by step
You would like to register your place of residence but you are convinced that it’s complicated and time consuming. I’ll prove you wrong – there is nothing easier.
You are no longer obliged to deregister your previous place of residence. Now all the formalities may be solved in the office. The whole procedure of registration of residence takes 10 minutes – you only need to collect necessary documents. You may already have some of them:
What else you should know? (Changes from January 1, 2013)
Foreigners other than mentioned before residing on the territory of Republic of Poland are obliged to register the place of residence 4 days at the latest, counting from the day of arrival, if the stay is longer than 3 months. But if the stay on the territory of the Republic of Poland does not exceed 14 days, there is no such obligation.
Source and more information: Ministry of the Interior
By Marija Jakubowycz (October 2014)
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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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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…
…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.
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.
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.