Latest stories from Roman’s life: ‘@ Blog’!


Autumn in Europe


Two weeks in Europe is about to finish. It was such a pleasant trip this time. Visiting parents in Poland, and then going to Portugal with mum to experience the newly acquired house in Obidos were definitely the highlights. Short trips within Helsinki, Bardejov and Brussels were also extremely nice. 

I am taking my plane to go back to Bangkok today. While I am enjoying Europe, I am looking forward to be going back to my Asian home. 

In case you are interested to check out the pictures from the trip to Europe, you may find them under this link.

A letter to Friends of Tahir


Dear Friends of Tahir:

It is already some weeks without any news from us, and it is time for a short update on what happens in Tahir’s life. 

The positive news is that Tahir has already started his lessons that are meant to help him in catching up with his high school education when he eventually makes it to Canada. He follows weekly online/skype tutoring, and additionally he does a great deal of homework throughout the week too. After some initial difficulties, which he encountered while adjusting to his new responsibilities, he now enjoys studying and is very eager to learn! While he is excited, I am very, very grateful for this opportunity, as I am aware that the more he accomplishes now, the easier it will be for him later.

Except his studies, Tahir engages with some of his hobbies. From previous emails, you already know that he is a very keen fitness fan. He uses the gym on every possible occasion, which sometimes is twice a day! While clearly, this is a great thing, I need to admit that he puts me to shame and makes me feel very guilty. I do very little sports myself. 

Recently, we discovered that Tahir has a natural talent for taking amazing photgraphs. He has never been trained on picture taking, and he does not own any professional equipment either. All what he has is just a simple automatic camera and a mobile phone… Despite this, some of his photos are inspiring. Very artistic: he manages to capture moments that make you look at things around you with a different perspective. Many who look at his pictures are continuously impressed, so and so that I decided to look for someone who could help him learn more about photography. We are very lucky here, as one of our neighbour is a photography enthusiast himself, and he decided to commit that he would work with Tahir – so that he could learn some practical tricks on photo taking, and learn how to edit the images. He (the neighbour) already advised to me what camera we should get for Tahir (good quality, but yet economical) to get him started… We will be shopping for it soon. This is really exciting!

When it comes to Tahir’s resettlement, there is no official answer from the Canadian immigration office on Tahir’s application yet, but we do have some potentially good clues. Just a few days ago, the immigration service got in touch with Tahir’s Canadian sponsors, and enquired some confirmations relating to his application. What is even a better piece of news is that the number of his application is now visible in an online tracking system! This signifies that his case is now officially under consideration, and that we should be expecting to hear some sort of an answer from them relatively soon. These expectations are based on experiences of some of the other applicants that we know… What happened in their cases is that once their applications ‘appeared’ online, they received their preliminary decisions on their resettlement to Canada soon after. Although we are far from being where we want to be, and things may not necessary work as we would like to, if we are lucky, Tahir should be able to get the decision on his resettlement application within next 4 to 8 weeks. Assuming that the Canadian authorities would send us a positive decision, Tahir’s case would then advance into a vetting/verification phase. This stage signifies that the overseas services of the Canadian government (diplomatic missions here in South East Asia) would check whether all what Tahir claims in his application is actually truthful. The vetting process (and also the medical check-up process) is likely to go on for around additional one year. This sounds like a lot, but is actually not too bad and this period is far less stressful in a sense that we already know that Tahir’s resettlement to Canada is approved and would take place given that we would be able to demonstrate that all inside the application is the truth. Bottom line is that you all need to keep your fingers crossed now! We are approaching a very important step in the process for relocation to Canada!

I am very, very nervous about the outcome of the application, potentially more so than Tahir himself. Primarily, I am very concerned that the answer would be positive, but also worried about the timeline… I would very much like to remain here in Thailand until Tahir leaves Bangkok to safety. But because the process takes time, I may not be able to succeed in this. I may indeed need to be leaving my present working assignment before his case is processed. I will not be able to stay here forever, as my job requires some mobility from me. It is a bit stressful to me, but I remain positive and optimistic about it. If all goes well, things should work just fine, and Tahir would be on his way to Toronto before I leave Thailand for another assignment somewhere in the world. 

Life for most refugees in Bangkok continues to be really hard. Recently the Thai authorities imposed new tough regulations on employing people with work permits only. From January 2018, the police are instructed to impose very hefty fines (up to 10,000 USD) on employers that hire people without permits. We already hear that most people are unwilling to take the risk of ‘illegal’ employment of foreigners. This is going to hit the refugees especially hard. Many will not be able to keep their jobs (even if these jobs are usually poorly paid), which means that even more people will need to engage in very risky ways of surviving. People will have no choice but to consider working in sex trade, or drug trafficking, or would fall prey of slavery work. This is heart-breaking and very frustrating, especially that we personally know many of people who may be victimised (as they live on the edge already now). I feel a bit depressed about it, as I feel that I can’t do much to stop it and give a helping hand to all those who need it. It is very sad. Keeping this in mind, I appreciate your help that you have extended (and are extending) to Tahir, so that we can ensure that at least he does not need to be subjected to these potentially horrific experiences. It is perhaps only one person, but it is one person that you have managed to give hope to and to keep out of depravation. Thank you so much for this support and for whatever else you may be doing to help!

Sending you all my very best regards and greetings!

Tahir featured in an article in Polish ‘Więź'


So the struggle of Tahir is being written about yet in another Polish magazine called ‘Więź’. This is of utmost importance, as ‘Więź’ is a Catholic publication, and it is not a secret that many of the Poland’s Catholic priests and bishops are not very supportive to helping refugees. 

Except the story of Tahir, the readers can also learn a bit of my view on humanitarian work and the humanitarian challenges that the world faces.

The article can be read under this link in Polish. I will however translate in to English too, and soon post it here, so that those who do not read Polish could read it too.

Poles continue their hostility towards refugees

World Refugee Day

If statistics are to be believed, then some bad news from Poland again (bad news from my perspective). The recent study by CBOS (Poland’s National Statistics Company) suggests that 61% of Poles believe that the country should not allow refugees to enter its territory. What is even more interesting and sadder is that the if you are religious, this percentage goes even higher. Atheists are more likely to be ‘friendlier’ to understand the needs of the refugees and help them, but still only 50% of people who are less religious do not want to see refugees coming to Poland. 

The results of the survey are not a surprise for me, but I still feel devastated by my countrymen. I feel sad that we can not and do not want to distinguish between victims of wars and persecutions and migrants and are readily happy to assume that refugees and asylum seekers are responsible for security threats. 

Responsible acceptance and integration of refugees is a challenge, and difficult, but an overwhelming hysteria and lack of compassion of an ordinary Polish person to people who need help disgusts me. Subconsciously, I keep on hoping that things will get better, but each time I read news from Poland, things just appear to be worse. 

The only consolation that I am able to find at this moment is that I have decided to move out of the country permanently. Our stand, as the society, on refugees (read: lack of basic human solidarity with those who need it) does not allow me to be associated with Poland - however painful it may be at times. And no… no argument (related to security, or losing the cultural identity) that has been formulated so far managed to change my opinion so far. I understand that we worry about safety, but I fail recognising how punishing those who are already punished would make us safer and better people at the end. I just really do not get it.

A trip to Jakarta and news from Bangkok


It is always good to set off and travel. This time, I travelled to Indonesia - to the country’s capital Jakarta. I occasionally visit the country, so it is not entirely a new experience to visit the place. I like Indonesia a lot though, so I was very happy to return to the city. 

The main reason of the visit was to learn about urban refugees in Indonesia. Like in many countries of the region, Indonesia is home to many people who needed to flee their own countries to seek safety from wars or various persecutions in their homelands. UNHCR estimates that there are around 15,000 refugees or asylum seekers in Indonesia. Considering the size of the country and its large population, the number is actually quite small - but then again these 15,000 people have substantial humanitarian needs and are desperate for protection and some attention of the worlds. Most refugees are from Afghanistan (Hazara people). There are also many who came here from Myanmar (Rohingya) and Somalia. Generally all of the refugees would prefer to get resettled to Australia, Canada, US or one of the EU countries, but these hopes are not likely to materialise, given the pressures for resettlement of refugees from the Middle East countries. So people are here to stay, but Indonesia is not prepared to host them. The country does not have a sufficient legal framework, infrastructure, nor funds to be able to look after their refugees appropriately. Then encouragingly, the government is willing to change all of this, as it realises that it is responsible for its guests, and more importantly the population is generally quite open to the idea of hosting and helping those who have come there to seek safety (how refreshing in the world of today). 

So I went there and talked to colleagues from various UN agencies, the EU and the Government of Indonesia to decide how we could join forces to make a tangible difference for the refugees in the country. Lots and lots need to be done, but the willingness is there, so there is some hope. We just need to act fast, as people can not wait. They need help urgently. 

Here in Bangkok, things are good. Tahir keeps on studying for his Canadian high school diploma. It is just a beginning, so lots of energy and work in front of him, but this is really exciting to know that he has started. Yesterday, we worked on his English homework. Tahir tried understanding the meaning of ‘synonym’ and looked for synonymies for various English words. It certainly was fun!

I am preparing for a trip to Mongolia. I should be departing soon. Now getting ready with my paper work, and next week, I will be trying to fix my detailed schedule! So happy to be going there soon. 

Finally, I feel a bit more Portuguese! I managed to settle my first ever income tax in the country. Now, I feel that I started contributing to the society of the country that I am calling home!

Displacement in Philippine’s Mindanao


Just landed back to Bangkok after an intense trip to Mindanao, the Philippine’s island located in the south of the country. I visited a town of Iligan, the northern city of the island, which is home to a large displacement of people, fleeing the bloody conflict between islamic insurgents and the forces of the Government of the Philippines. 

The fighting that started in Marawi started at the end of May 2017, and so far has claimed hundreds of lives and missing, and produced over 350,000 flee the war zones. Marawi is reported to be completely ruined, and when the war finishes, it will need to be rebuild from a scratch. Rebuilding cities is not an easy task and takes forever, so clearly the question remains: how we will be able to take care of the thousands of homeless people, who had lost all their worldly possessions? When visiting Iligan, I did not have any impression of that anyone knew the answers to this questions. The humanitarian response to the needs of the people was poorly organised and extremely chaotic. A vast majority have not received any help, and are in a desperate state. They need clean water, food, clothes, and a safe shelter… none of which is readily available. Diseases are spreading and the health services are not coping. Truly shocking and saddening. 

A purpose of my visit was to establish what my organisation could do to help out. While we do have clarity of what should be done, we are struggling with resources. There is just not enough money to do anything meaningful at this moment. It seems like the humanity is unable to cope with the amount of crises, and is closing its eyes at people who suffer and desperately need saving. A paradox of our times, I would say. The world of plenty that we live in, is also the world of arrogance and lack of compassion. 

New responsibilities at work

As I am handing over my responsibilities in relation of management of projects in Bangladesh, I am taking over the follow-up of files of the following countries: Mongolia, DPRK, the Philippines, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor Leste and the countries of the Pacific. I will also be following up relating to protection in South and South East Asia, thus somehow still involved in Bangladesh and also Thailand. Exciting times!

World Refugee Day: a tribute to Tahir

World Refugee Day

We are about to celebrate the World Refugee Day. While it is important appreciating that religious, political persecution; as well as wars and conflicts have forced over 66 million people to flee their own countries (source: UNHCR), each of these 66 million people is an individual, individual with a name, with a personality, with a story, with dreams, with strengths and weaknesses, with good and bad sides. It is also good remembering that each of these individuals have an amazing power of interacting with their host authorities, host communities, host families, host individuals - and affect their lives in both positive and negative ways. 

There are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people among the refugees, just like in any other group of people - whatever these groups may be. Refugees however are being confronted with extreme situations that many other people do not face.  They are confronted by losing the fundaments of feeling safe and secure, by hatred, often physical pain. They are take away, what most of other groups take for granted. ~Refugees are also people who struggle buying acceptance of the societies of their new homes - thus needing to deal with their own vulnerabilities, but also vulnerabilities of their hosts… Hosts, who may be having a powerful advantage of ‘being at home’, but who, like the refugees, have their own strengths and weaknesses; who can be wonderfully generous, but also horribly cruel, or perhaps scared. 

Although personally, I have been dealing with refugees and displaced people throughout my entire professional life, it is the last 2 years that have transformed my own understanding of the complexities of problems that refugees face, but also complexities that need to be overcome by their hosts. All of this is happening thank to Tahir - a young Pakistani refugee that miraculously became a reality in my life. 

The appearance of this young gentleman has put my life upside down in the most wonderful and scary way - quite literally! Ever since we met, Tahir had been teaching me humility; has been bringing an overwhelming joy, but also an extreme stress, sadness and fear… Quite conflicting feelings that some may discard as exaggeration. Perhaps true, but this is how I really feel what Tahir’s existence in my life is. 

Let’s take it step by step though… I met Tahir a little over 2 years ago. Freshly arrived to Bangkok, coming to start a new phase of my successful career. After having spent some traumatic years in the war-torn South Sudan, finally I was coming to Thailand - about to embrace the place where I could enjoy work and have a good quality of life, the place where I could forget about misery and suffering of people… I just rented my beautiful new flat, settled in my wonderful and comfortable office… Life was good… nothing could go wrong! Then one day, I was having my luxurious lunch, and here he was… outside teh restaurant, sitting on the pavement: malnourished, with helpless face, seemingly scared - young man - obviously asking for whatever the by-passers could spare, so that he could buy at least a little bit of food. 

Until today, I am not sure what made me approach Tahir, what told me to start interacting with him, what made me invite him for a lunch together. Whatever it was, it changed my life - for   ever… It brought Tahir, a person that since then, became a part of my family.

Time passed and we needed to learn trusting each other, needed learning overcome our own presumptions. 

So I had to learn that what Tahir was telling me was not an attempt to abuse a stupid Westerner, who had fallen for a story of a poor refugee; I had to learn that the most incredible stories that he had gone through were actually real rather than a part of some horrible war movie. I needed to understand that this incredible suffering was really experienced by him: by the person standing next to me. I also needed to learn that some of my actions were shocking to him: offering him a cappuccino in Starbucks exposed him to a stress of experiencing that a price of a cup of coffee was an equivalent of his monthly budget for food. I needed to learn that when he said that he was afraid of people - he actually meant it. I needed to learn that when his face looked uncomfortable in situations that I thought were normal - meant his immense stress for reasons that I would not understand. Finally I needed to learn that he was getting attached to me and somehow dependent on me… the experience that I did not know… 

On his part, Tahir needed to learn a whole lot too! He needed to learn that I did not mean to intimidate him by having my lavish lifestyle. He needed to learn that even if I may have had so much more that he had in terms of material goods, I was not a better person. He needed to learn that despite being financially privileged, I was vulnerable too - perhaps for reasons that were trivial to him, but nevertheless, very much real to me. He also needed to understand that when I was offering my friendship to him - I meant every word of it, that it is a friendship for good and for bad. He then needed to learn to be patient with me; and what is so important to me - given my physical disabilities, to assist me in a way that I did not need to feel ashamed not being so fit. We both needed needed to learn that we genuinely were saving one another. 

There is no doubt that meeting Tahir was one of the best thing that could have happened to me. 

The appearance of Tahir made me experience so many other unthinkable things… I learnt about the cruelty of systems and regulations, but also about amazing and selfless support of so many other individuals: 

Soon after I got to know Tahir, we decided to try normalising his legal situation. We thought of numbers of options: trying to legalise his stay in Thailand; trying resettling him to Poland, Switzerland, Australia and more recently Canada. In practical terms, this meant reading of thousands legal documents, frameworks or articles; endless discussions with lawyers, politicians, NGO workers, friends, journalists  It meant writing countless amount of letters and emails… Using all kind of approaches: from being reasonable and sensible to being over-dramatic and trying to put people to shame… 

Dramatically for me, The story of Tahir taught me that the country that I loved - my native Poland - could be the most cruel and heartless nations of all… a realisation that I find difficult accepting until today. Learning that my own people, the tribe that I come from, the place that I thought was dear to me, turned its back to a human being that is so desperately in need of help and protection. 

Then, there were hundreds of wonderful people too! Dozens of friends of mine that opened their heart and accepted Tahir as their friend. Dozens of people supporting Tahir financially, helping planning his potential resettlement to Poland (when we still believed it was possible), Australia, Switzerland and Canada… I got to know people that decided to go an extra mile and do amazing things for him, even though they never had met him. They were doing it just because they felt inspired by his story and decided that he had deserved attention and another chance. 

One refugee has managed to bring all these positive actions from so many: from people who are religious, but also those who are atheists; from journalists, lawyers, or nuns and priests; from people of all races and various nations of ALL earth’s continents, from people of different sexualities; from the wealthy, but also those who are much less so; from men and from women; from older ones and from young kids! The most importantly to me,  Tahir made me realise how wonderful my own family was… especially my parents, who offered to him an unconditional invitation to join our family… 

On a sad note, meeting Tahir made me realise that despite all of this effort from so many… we can achieve so little… It made me appreciate that if so many people are needed to lend support to just one refugee… there is little hope that, we, the humanity, would ever be able to find effective solutions to the remaining 66 millions… 

There are so many other things and experiences that I should and could write about. The point however is that Tahir made my life special in the most amazing way that I could never have expected and hope for. True: he also made me scared and worried more than ever - this is however human and a part of our lives. 

Writing this, we do not know whether we will be able to offer to Tahir opportunities that he deserves, whether we will be able to make his life a little bit more acceptable. While I remain hopeful that the future will bring some positive resolutions, I am so scared to contemplate what we may need to consider, if some of our plans do not work out…

Happy World Refugee Day to all of you!

Portugal Day in Bangkok

It is a Portugal Day today, and I am celebrating it in Bangkok together with Tahir! It coincides perfectly well with a fact that together with Kasia, we are finalising our arrangements to buy a house in Obidos! 😍🇵🇹! Really excited about it, and happy to be getting used to the idea that Portugal is becoming my new home!

The travel from Poland to Thailand went well. Still jet-lagged quite a lot, but as I arrived to Bangkok on Saturday morning, there is some time to catch up with sleeping and resting before making it to the office tomorrow. 

We have some additional information from the Canada Immigration suggesting that they are starting handling refugee applications of September 2016. Tahir’s application was sent in November, so there is some hope that they will start looking at it relatively soon. We are so anxious… please keep your fingers crossed. 

It seems like I will not be returning to Bangladesh anytime soon (at least not for a prolonged amount of time), and as of now, I am returning to my previous responsibilities of looking after South East Asian countries. While I will miss Bangladesh, it is a comforting thought to be able to spend more time with Tahir here in Bangkok. 

Finally, there is some positive news coming from Nowy Sacz. Dad is feeling better - far from being well and perfect, but so happy that he seems to be suffering far less than just a month ago. 

In Nowy Sacz

Dom w Biegonicach

After spending a week in Bangkok and then a week in Brussels, finally time to spend sometime in my native Nowy Sacz. It is great to be here and enjoy time with family. Good news is that papa is feeling somehow better, even if he stays in hospital. The doctors seem to be doing a great job in his pain management. This makes such a huge and positive difference for him and the rest of the family. 

So I will be here until Friday, and then back to Thailand again soon after. 

Another piece of good news is that the first instalment for a house in Portugal was transferred yesterday! This is fantastic news, and I hope that we will be able to secure the house that we want to buy soon! Viva Portugal 🇵🇹 😍! Really excited with this development. 

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