Push to repatriate Poles from Kazakhstan
PR dla Zagranicy
A parliamentary committee is proposing legislation to facilitate the repatriation of Poles and their descendants from Kazakhstan, which supporters have described as the country’s ‘moral duty.’
Poland's lower house of parliament (Sejm). Photo: PAP/Jacek Turczyk
“Parliament believes that the current lack of adequate support for the descendants of Polish exiles, in particular the lack of an effective repatriation system, is a significant failure of the Polish state,” reads the committee’s proposal.
“Parliament acknowledges that a rapid repatriation of Poles from Kazakhstan as well as other places of historic suffering is today one of the most important moral duties of the Polish nation.”
In 1936 the Soviet authorities decided to deport 70,000 Poles from their western territories, such as Ukraine and Belarus, to Kazakhstan. Although many died from the harsh conditions it is thought that currently over 30,000 descendants of Poles still live in Kazakhstan.
Legislation on repatriation was passed in 2000 but is considered to have been ineffective, with just 5,000 people repatriated to Poland between January 2001 and the end of December 2014.
Michał Dworczyk, the Law and Justice (PiS) MP who heads the committee, added that this is also about honouring the Polish victims of Soviet repression.
Dworczyk stated that it would be symbolic should parliament pass new legislation on repatriation on the 28th of April this year, which will be the 80th anniversary of the deportations.
During the Second World War, thousands who had lived in Poland's eastern provinces annexed by Stalin in 1939 experienced a similar fate. Most of the latter did not remain in Kazakhstan following the war, but those from the pre-war waves of deportations, who were Soviet citizens, were hindered in the legal sphere.
Additional rights for eastern Polonia
The committee is also working on changes to the ‘Pole's Card,’ a document created in 2008 which confirms a person’s membership of the Polish nation without requiring Polish citizenship. This card is only available to residents of former USSR countries.
It has been proposed to give holders of the card the same rights as Polish citizens under certain specific circumstances, such as life-threatening scenarios. The changes would also make it easier for holders of the card to acquire Polish citizenship, if resident in the country. (sl/nh)