So, you were born outside of Poland, elsewhere in the world. But at least
one of your parents or grandparents was Polish. You've never been to Poland -
hell, you can't even speak the language. Well, guess what? You're a Polish
citizen! And next time you travel to Poland you'd better have a Polish
passport, or you could be in trouble with the law!!
Sounds absurd? It certainly does. But it also happens to be true. Yep,
buddy, matey, pal, old chum - in the light of the current Polish law, you're
a Polak too. I know you hate flaczki (tripe) and you can barely stand the
smell of Old Grandpa Jozek's bimber (moonshine). It matters not. You're a
But, I hear you say, some of my friends, who were also born outside of
Poland, have travelled to Poland on an Australian passport in recent years.
Yeah, that's true, but if they did it in the last 18 months or so, they were
potentially risking detention in Poland, since they were technically in
breach of the new Polish law, which was revised and implemented in 2001.
Specifically, the new passport policy states that anybody with at least one
Polish parent, grandparent or any forebear for that matter, is a Polish
citizen and as such must have a Polish passport to enter Poland. Your
friends were simply unaware of the fact that they were Polish citizens. So
are you. So will your children, and their children, and so on. They just
won't know it.
Compulsory Citizens of the non-conscious kind.
And herein lies the problem with the new laws. When people, who do not know
the new Polish passport laws, apply for a Polish visa, they are asked a
simple question: "Are you a Polish citizen?" They answer "No" of course, and
are given a visa into their Australian, Canadian or American passport. They
are allowed to enter Poland and providing nothing untoward happens during
their stay in Poland, they are allowed to leave Poland.
What do you mean "untoward", I hear you ask? Well, anything that might alert
the Polish authorities that you have Polish ancestry. For example, you could
fall madly in love with one of those wholesome, busty young Polish girls
your Daddy told you about and try to extend your visa for another two weeks
at the district passport office. You happen to mention that the girl is from
the same village your father came from or something equally benign and
And BANG! pal, you're nicked !!
The lady with ABSOLUTELY no sense of humor behind the counter will tell you
that, as a Polish citizen, you do not have to have a Polish visa to stay in
Poland. In fact, you are welcome to stay in Poland as long as you want to -
you're a Citizen after all. Before you can think "You beauty!", the "I-am-
not-kidding" woman will add:
"BUT you can't leave Poland until you get a Polish passport sir!"
After you stop laughing and pick up your jaw off the floor you'll notice
that she's not laughing. "Fine, just give me a Polish passport then!" -
"Of course sir, just fill in these forms, which require your complete and
detailed life history (including birth certificates, marriage certificates,
your proof of ID (Australian passport is not enough!), your parents proof of
ID, etc., etc.), and we will send you your Polish passport in about...oh,
let's see, about TWO MONTHS..."
I am not kidding, this is serious mum. Two months is the standard minimum
waiting time for a Polish passport issued in Poland. You think that's bad?
Well, if you apply for it in Australia, the standard waiting time is 6
"So what are you complaining about?" - the joke-monster woman will say -
"just find something to do for the two months and you'll be just fine. Take
the chesty girl to the movies or something..."
Right about now you're probably thinking that the privilege of a dual
citizenship should not be compulsory, but rather should be a matter of
choice. You are an Australian citizen first, because you were born here. And
since you have Polish ancestry, you could be entitled to also becoming a
Polish citizen, if you want to and the Polish government agrees.
Well, you're right of course, that's how it should work, but currently it
doesn't. The "detention scenario" I described above is obviously
hypothetical, but it has happened almost exactly like that for a number of
Polish-Australians in recent years. Just this week in fact, Mr Rafal Weiss
from Brisbane, was the victim of this ridiculous situation and was detained
in Poland without the right to leave on his Australian passport - the same
passport he entered the country with. (If you can read Polish, you can read
about it HERE).
To be absolutely fair, the chances of the same happening to You are rather
slim, especially if you have been pre-warned not to disclose your Polish
ancestry at any stage, most notably when applying for a Polish visa - but it
still could happen! And WILL happen from time to time to those who are not
aware of the current situation.
Right now you're probably thinking "Stuff Poland, who needs this shit? This
year I'll go somewhere else for my holidays!". Well, so are many Polish-
Australians, Canadians, Danes, Americans, Brazilians, Germans and wherever
else you can find people with Polish origins.
"I know!" - you call out with joy after a sudden flash of enlightenment -
"I'll go to Guatemala!". Well, be careful mate. You could be a Compulsory
Citizen of that country too. On the other hand, you're probably not. It is a
third-world country after all...
Robert "where's my copy of Orwell's '1984'?" Jaworski