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April 8, 2014 2:08 pm

Exploring My New Polish Identity

avatar by Daniel Pipes

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The plenary hall of the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament. Photo: Boston9 via Wikimedia Commons.

In 2009, my elder two daughters both had plans to move to western Europe, so they asked me to apply for Polish citizenship. This would allow them in turn to derive citizenship through me and acquire a European Union passport that allows them freely to live and work in 28 countries. Nothing loath, I began what turned into a four-year process of bureaucratic challenges to request the president of Poland to grant me citizenship.

While not easy nor routine, I had hopes for success based on the fact that both my parents, Richard and Irene, were born in Poland and lived there until their mid-teens, plus the fact that my father had had a major role while in the Reagan White House during the Polish crisis of 1981-82, my mother is the long-time president of the American Association for Polish-Jewish Studies, their both receiving medals from the Polish government, my own good relations with Radek Sikorski, the country’s foreign minister, and my mother having been granted Polish citizenship.

Then, partially through the process, the terms of application changed. According to a court decision, not only I but also my daughters had been born Polish. What had once required presidential authrorizaton became a routine bureaucratic process. Things moved quickly and, capped by a visit to Consul General Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka in New York City in September 2013, I received a Polish passport the next month.

At first, it was just a paper document. Then, on a recent trip to the European Union, my first with the new citizenship, I pulled out the Polish passport on arrival at customs. I also used it to register at hotels, as well as entering museums and government buildings. To my amusement, the passport prompted occasional questions whether I speak English.

More interestingly, for the first time since I left the United States at the age of three in 1953, I had full rights in another place – and not just any place but in a near-continent comprising a population of over 500 million. More profoundly, I felt a new connection to the land of my ancestors, Poland. I first visited there in 1976, have supported select non-profits there, have future plans to travel there, and even intend to study some Polish, a notoriously difficult language. The old country has become the new country.

In short, what began as convenience and formality has in a small way shifted my sense of identity.

This article was originally published by National Review Online.

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  • Ted

    I just wanted to share some insight. The country of Poland has a strong history of being very helpful to the Jewish people. The jewish peopled had very prosperous lives in Poland for centuries. When the rest of Europe was hunting them down, the kings of Poland permitted the jewish people to prosper. The plain truth is that the jewish culture and people greatly contributed to building a very successful Poland. Meanwhile, Poland permitted the jewish people to have a nice life in Poland. All ethnic groups fight. However, the Poles and the jews have more in common than you think. Finally, can’t blame the Poles for the holocaust and the Nazi’s. Poland suffered tremendous destruction by Hitler. I am living in the US today because of Hitler’s destruction. My dad’s family would have never been displaced from Poland if not for the Nazi’s and Hitler. However, Poland for the most part has been very tolerant and friendly to the jewish people.

  • shloime

    issuing a passport is a lot cheaper for poland (and all the other eu countries doing the same thing) than accommodating the wave of economic migrants from mostly moslem countries. mr pipes will not use their social services, nor will he burn tires in the street to protest such “humiliations” as having to watch infidels eating during ramadan. and if he does move back to poland, he does so as an educated, productive person, and potentially a taxpayer.

    isn’t it amazing what it takes to persuade the eurabians to treat their emigrants decently?

  • Eric R.

    Mr. Pipes, how can any Jew feel a connection to Poland, except for the extermination camps? And my father is from Poland as well, I might add.

    The Poles did not even stop their killing when WW2 ended, and the government sponsored persecution of Jews went as late as 1968. Further, they recently banned Shechitah. While they lifted the ban recently for strictly religious purposes, the fact that it continues to be banned for commercial purposes means that this Jewish practice is legal, but stigmatized.

    Polish soccer fans regularly chant anti-Semitic slurs at matches.

    Don’t let their comparitively decent with relations with Israel fool you – compared to the frothing anti-Israel/anti-Semitic hatred of Western Europe and the EU bureaucracy, heck, even al-Sisi’s Egypt seems like an ally in comparison.

    • David

      Dear Eric

      I see I nee to underline some facts.

      1. The Holocaust took place in German occupied Poland, because it had the largest concentration of Jews in Europe, so it was cheaper (yes cheaper, the Germans made money in the process) to murder the helpless populace there and then rather than transport them someplace else.

      2. The murderers were Germans, not Nazis and not Poles, They were GERMANS, please remember that.

      3. The country was effectively liqudated by two erstwhile allies, Germany and the Soviet Union and both those regimes slaughtered the people of Poland.

      4. The German occupation in the East was cruel and merciless, completely different than was took place in Western Europe. The nations of the Western world have their heads filled with Normandy landings, liberation of France, the returning monarchs etc. and often do not even realize the brutal reality of life East of the Oder river.

      Any attempt of saving Jews in Poland or helping them in any way was punished by mass executions. Still the Yad Vashem institute records over six thousand Polish Righteous Amonng the Nations.

      5. Yes, some Jews were killed by criminal elements, after the German Army retreated, but societal breakdown took place across the entire European continent. Women in France, Holland and Norway were aasaulted allegedly for sleeping with German soldiers, lots of petty score settling took place when the goverments were not yet reformed.

      6. The people of Poland were additionaly demoralized when the full scope of Western Betrayal finally hit them in the face. Their beloved allies effectively abandoned them from one dictator: Hitler to another: Stalin. Arsenal of Democracy huh ?

      7. The imposed communist government of Poland did not sponsor the persecution as you put it. The events of 1968 were the result of two factors. Soviet backed Arab nations lost the Six Day War, embarassing the Soviet Union, and all the communist states condemned Israel, because it was expected of them. The mass exodus of Polish Jews was a result of internal Communist Party struggle between two factions for control over the country. The Polish Jews were simply caught in the crossfire.

      It’s very sad and unfair yes. But please remeber that no one in Poland elected communists. They were installed by the Soviets. Cast the blame on Stalin, and the Two Stooges Roosevelt and Churchill.

      And keep in mind, some of those exiles were former Stalinist functionaries, and had plenty of innocent blood on their hands (i.e Helena Wolinska)

      8. The Shechita controversy was a result of meddling by the EU bureaucracy, this was about big money to be made on meat exports. Not about religion…

      9. Football hooligans are the same around the globe. Hooligans are not soccer fans, they are a menace. I am a fan and I don’t scream obscenities at the matches.

      Please consider my words, check the facts on the Wikipedia if you don’t believe me