Repatriates. How Gdansk helps Poles from the East
Gdansk is one of the few Polish cities that consistently and independently of the political climate are implementing the repatriation program of our compatriots from the East. Poles from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, and Asian parts of Russia, who in the past were exiled from their homeland to these far-away places, now get a chance to return to Poland. In Gdansk they receive housing support, help in refreshing Polish language, finding work and adapting to our local community.
There are currently 51 families in Gdansk who came to us from the aforementioned countries, including 31 families who responded to my personal invitation. The first repatriates began to be invited back in the second half of the 1990s, which was before the adoption of the Repatriation Act in 2000. Each year, we invite 2 or 3 families to settle in Gdansk. As a rule, one family is selected by us, and the other one comes to us on the basis of a list maintained by the Department of Repatriation of the Ministry of Interior and Administration.
Gdansk’s experiences in bringing repatriates are viewed as exemplary, also by the central administration.
The main challenge that determines the number of incoming families are the housing conditions in the city. Repatriates are offered to stay in communal apartments after renovation or newly built premises. There are representatives of almost all professional groups among the repatriates. We have doctors, beauticians, drivers, and teachers. They find work in private companies, sometimes in city administration offices.
I am especially pleased that some repatriates have joined the work of the Council of Immigrants and Immigrants established in 2016. Their experiences and that of city officials in implementation of the repatriation program were used in the creation of the local integration and migration policy called the Model of Integration of Immigrants http://www.gdansk.pl/migrations.
Every repatriation story is different, usually dramatic. Their ancestors did not voluntarily find themselves far from Poland. Today’s descendants of the exiles embark on the courageous challenge of starting a new life in Gdansk. Of the 51 families we helped, I will mention three in this short text:
In November 2015 the three room subsidized apartment in Wrzeszcz was rented to Natalia and Dmitry and their two daughters. Natalia is an English teacher and her husband is a professional driver. Parents and children participated in intensive activities to improve their knowledge of Polish. Apart from housing support, the family received a substantial financial help from the city.
In October 2016 a three-person family from Georgia came to us, and was placed in a newly built communal block in the south of Gdansk. The children had a great time and integrated well in the new school. This year we expect a three-person family from Kazakhstan: Irene with her husband Ilia and their son Stefan, who will live in an apartment in Orunia that is being renovated. Irena is currently pregnant, so there is a chance that the child will be born in Gdansk! In this case I am happy to see a family reunion, because a few years ago I helped to repatriate Ilia’s sister - Krystyna.
Lack of substantial support from the government
We counted on greater support from the central government in helping to refurbish repatriates’ homes, and for repatriates’ development. Reduced financial support naturally hampers the activity of local governments in this area.
It also seems that there are gaps in the law that do not take into account the situation when mixed families are repatriated in which only one of the spouses is of Polish nationality. The other spouse is not formally recognized as a repatriate, so at present there is no support for her integration in a new place.
Regardless of the difficulty and defective new law on repatriates, Gdansk and I will personally continue to participate fully in the repatriation of our fellow Poles from the post-soviet East.