The outcome of the recent parliamentary elections in Poland, near-win situation of the extreme right wing presidential candidate in Austria, winning of Duterte in the Philippines, popularity of Trump in the USA, fall of Venezuela due to insane nationalistic policies, extreme right government in Brazil, perceptions of Europeans, Australians and South East Asians towards the refugees… All this is happening right now give me clear indications that my world is falling. The values that seem to be running high are in contrary to what I believe constitute ‘goodness’ and ‘decency’. I find it difficult to find my own space in this new reality that is emerging and not sure how to handle it. It just struck me that perhaps, I am just experiencing the first symptoms of getting old? Perhaps, what is happening here is just my ‘mid-life’ crisis, where I can’t agree with new realities, and a fact that the world is moving on, and that what I believe in, is actually unimportant, or perhaps only important to me? Why would I not recognise that these guys who believe in ‘Britain First, Poland for Poles, or follow the mantras of Duterte are wrong? There is a reason why they feel the way they feel… a fact that I am failing comprehending it is my problem. Perhaps it is just me ageing, and it is time to accept it, start withdrawing, shut my mouth up, and let the others steer the world. One can not stop the time, and perhaps it is time for me to truly embrace this simple fact of life.
So today is the ‘B’ - and the Brits are voting on whether they should like to stay within the EU or leave the union altogether. I am nervous. The polls are not too optimistic, and suggest that the UK may vote to leave. In any case, I guess that the best way forward is to be grateful for so many opportunities that the life in the EU has brought to me. In case, this is to change with UK’s withdrawal and the growing populism and xenophobia in many parts of Europe, then, I guess, I can’t stop it, and just need to accept it. In any case, will keep my fingers crossed, even if things do not look very positive.
This year’s World Refugee Day, for me, has had even more significance than it normally does. The challenges of that all of the refugees need to put up with, since getting to know Tahir, have taken a real form for me. Through his experiences, all of the sudden, all what I read in reports and in newspapers, somehow strikes me not only as an abstract idea, but a situation, which exists and affects me. Although I am not a refugee myself, and I am far from claiming that I suffer in any way, somehow through Tahir’s eyes, I appreciate a bit more, how complicated things are. He shows me that being a refugee is not only fleeing for your life, but also overcoming hatred and lack of trust of your host community, overcoming extreme poverty, keeping up sane and hopeful even if their situation is so desperate in many, many different ways.
Keeping in mind Tahir’s experiences, and our struggle in our attempts of finding some kind of a way out of this desperation (finding a solution for his future) makes me feel even horrified when I read about and watch news from my native Poland. Sadly, Poland at large appears to be the country, where the majority of us are hostile to refugees; where the majority do not bother to make distinctions between victims of terror and the terrorists, between economical migrants and those fleeing the persecution. Many of my countrymen just assume that once you are a refugee, you are someone who does not deserve protection and attention, many of my countrymen see the refugees as threat to our own identity and our wealth. Knowing Tahir, and what a wonderful human being he is, and knowing how much he, and people like hime have gone through to survive, yet another day, I just feel disgusted by such attitudes. Yes, what I write may sound harsh, but this is what I feel. On the human level, I just do not comprehend this kind of lack of sympathy and empathy. I understand people’s fears: yes, we all have them; yet I will never understand why so many of us would not challenge and confront these fears, and start seeing humans in other humans. Yes, it may be that I have been blessed with opportunities in dealing with different cultures and thus it is easier for me to accept ‘difference’ or multiculturalism, but taking into consideration the amount of suffering that millions of refugees go through, I find it incomprehensible that so many of us back in Poland do not want to ‘risk’ to open themselves to people, who are so genuinely in need. The whole ‘refugee dynamics’ make me very sad, in fact, it leaves me horrified and depressed.
With this gloomy picture of my own people, I also need to recognise that there are some very fine examples of people, also in my native Poland, who disagree with the mainstream, and try, nearly in a heroic manner to find ways to offer help and protection to people such as Tahir. Here, my sincerest admiration and respect goes to Sister Malgorzata, who so selflessly is doing all what is only possible by a human being to relocate Tahir from Thailand to safety. People like her bring a ray of hope that human kindness may prevail.
Just got back from Poland. It was a crazy and exhausting trip, but worth it. I went there just for 5 days, so that I could see my parents and some friends in Nowy Sacz, and then Sister Chmielewska, who lives in a small village of Nagorzyce in southern/central part of the country. Some of you, following the story of Tahir are aware that Sister Chmielewska has become extremely involved in our fight of bringing Tahir to Poland, so he could start his new life there. The visit was wonderful… I do not have any other words but precisely this: wonderful. Perhaps hardly surprising, but Sister Chmielewska proves to be what I expected from her. A strong, but compassionate woman, who so strongly believes that everyone, regardless of faith, skin colour, gender… deserves life in dignity. The tenants of her house only confirm this. I met her friends, some foreigners, some disabled, some who are not Christian. Something that should be a norm appears like a rarity in today’s Poland, where we tend to fear those who differ from the mainstream. Meeting her, and talking to some people in her home restored my faith in humanity! Definitely!
So, when with Sister, we discussed our strategy on what could still be done to bring Tahir over. We both agree that the chances of getting him to Poland are slim. this being written, there is a desire to keep on fighting! We both hope, there will be some happy resolution for Tahir!
Now, back to Bangkok. A bit jet-lagged but motivated. What however spoils my good spirit a bit is a prospect of the referendum in the UK that is about to take place on 23rd May. It seems quite certain that the Brits will vote to leave the EU. It makes me sad. I believe at the idea of the EU, and I am sad to see that the UK will leave it, especially because of the reasons why people seem to be wanting to let the project go.
In a rather unexpected manner, I decided to take a few days off and travel. So here I am sitting at the airport of Warsaw and waiting for a plane to take me to Krakow. On the way here, I actually spent a day in Helsinki (plane transfer), and spent a very pleasant day in the city. When strolling the streets of the Finland’s capital, I realised that I missed the Nordic beauty and simplicity. Very nice city to visit indeed! Clearly, most of the time, I will be spending time with my family in Nowy Sacz, but the plan is also to visit Sister Chmielewska and discuss options on bringing Tahir to Poland. It will be a busy week, but looking forward to meeting all friends and family! Clearly the pictures will follow!