The Blog

Antonio Guterres’ message for 2018

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A message for 2018 from the United Nation’s Secretary General: the world needs unity to survive. We are running out of time!

While worried with the state of our planet, I subscribe to the spirit of the SG’s appeal, and hope that it is not too late to act to have our planet saved for all of us to live peacefully and prosperously.

Last weekend of 2017


Last few days of 2017 took a rather unexpected turn for me. I actually hoped that I was going to have some quiet moments here in Bangkok, but then a devastating cyclone hit the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, and that meant that we needed to travel there in emergency so that we could assess the situation and decide on the adequate humanitarian response from our side. So I flew to Manila on Christmas day, and then further to the south soon after. It was a tough mission. Destruction and amount of suffering that I saw was uncomfortable… In all honesty, I did not want to deal with all what I saw, I wanted to be egoistic and work on figuring out my own balance after the happenings of 2017, but here we go… Life is unexpected and although sometimes quite brutal, it is also beautiful. Now after having accomplished the mission to Mindanao, I actually think that it was the best way I could have spend my Christmas, probably better than ‘celebrating’ by eating too much… I am especially pleased, as it seems that the mission has actually managed to mobilise quite some financial resources that will be spent on the relief. 

2017 was full special. It was not easy, but it was special. I am not sorry that it finishing, and I hope that 2018 will be much better to all of us! Happy New Year!

P.S.: The map shows my travel interactions in 2017 (at least the ones that I undertook by plane). 

P.S. 2: Very excited that my Icelandic friends and Mum are coming here to Thailand next week!

Cyclone response...

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I hoped that this was going to be a quieter period and I would be able to stay home and relax a bit… Things are not meant that way. There was a devastating cyclone that hit Mindanao of the Philippines over last few days. Around 80,000 are affected directed, with whole communities being flooded and destroyed. Over 200 people are confirmed dead and many are still missing. There is a serious risk of diseases outbreak.

All in all, I need to drop plans and start packing to travel to Mindanao tomorrow. We need to assess the damages quick, so that we can channel the funds to organisations that provide humanitarian assistance. 

A man has to do, what a man has to do… ;)

Time with friends

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My last ‘before-Christmas’ mission is about to finish, and I am ready to go home, so that I can indulge myself in Christmas and New Year celebrations. 

This year, I am going to spend my time in Bangkok, and celebrate the holidays with family and friends there! The Christmas weekend will be easy going, with lots of food and chats at home, but also at my friends’ place. Together with Tahir, we will also travel out of Bangkok a bit. 

While there are not immediate plans for the New Year’s Eve, lots of excitement should happen in early January. A friend of mine Marta with her daughter Bebba will make it to Bangkok all the way from Akureyri in Iceland, and then, a few days later, my mother will join us from Nowy Sacz of Poland too! We will spend considerable amount of time together - enjoying each other’s company and exploring the beauties of Thailand!

I am am happy to get excited by the prospects of being with people that I care about and love, also to counter-balance all the negative experiences that I have in relation to world’s politics. The news messages that reach us from the politicians back home in Poland, Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Middle East or really worrying statements coming from the United Nations General Assembly (yesterday, I had a feeling that the world’s politicians are gearing up for the WW3, when listening to reports coming from New York) make me really upset. So I was just thinking to myself that now it was more important than ever to appreciate small moments of our lives enjoy time that we have left with people that are important to us. 

I hope that you all have some good plans ahead of you!

Christmas and New Year message to friends and readers of the Blog


Dear Friends,

Christmas is just around the corner and then New Year is coming soon after! On this occasion, I would like to wish you all a very, very peaceful, and relaxing holiday with people that you love and care about and doing things that make you happy! Merry Christmas.

I also would like to wish you a very successful and prosperous 2018! I hope that the New Year will bring you satisfaction and that you will all have some of your dreams come true! May 2018 be filled with great people; personal and professional projects that you are all proud of!

2017 has been an eventful year for me, with November bringing sadness of my dad’s passing away. I will miss dad terribly, but I am relieved that he will not need to suffer pain anymore. May he rest in peace!

The year was also full of other experiences – many of which were wonderful, while the other ones less so.

I guess the most exciting one was a fact of succeeding buying a house in Portugal! After months of searching, and administrative hurdles, I finally can call myself an owner of the property in Obidos. I should actually write that I am a ‘co-owner’, as the house that is owned with a very dear friend of mine – and it is the project that we both participate in! I hope that as time goes on, you will all have a chance to visit. The place is big enough to have guests! Obidos and the surroundings are really spectacular. The municipality is situated just 70 km north-west of Lisbon, and is easily reachable from the airport. It is a medieval town that is registered by UNESCO as one of the World Heritage sites. It is just stunningly beautiful, and you can appreciate some of pictures here: www.obidos.pt (there is an English version of the site as well). The surroundings of Obidos are equally exciting, with some spectacular nature and architecture. When you add splendid weather, great food and wine… the place becomes completely irresistible! I really hope, you would be able to come and visit!

Another piece of good news relates to Tahir. You may remember me writing about it already some weeks ago. After a long period of waiting, we found out that the Immigration of Canada has granted his official sponsors (referred to as Group of 5 (G5)) a right to resettle him to Toronto. This is not yet a final success, and there is still some work and lots of waiting to be done, but essentially what the decision means is that the G5 is authorised to sponsor Tahir, given that Tahir successfully manages to go through a vetting process. The vetting process to which I am referring to, will include the Canadian authorities conducting an interview with him in Bangkok, as well as checking whether his UNHCR refugee status is real. They will also need to verify whether Tahir is not a threat to Canadian security. Tahir would also need to undergo his medical examination, and finally wait for his travel documents to be processed. Still sounds like a lot of work, but the vetting process is less stressful than actual waiting for the decision on whether he would be allowed to be sponsored at all. Things still can go wrong, but then we are hopeful that we will okay in getting him to Canada eventually. This should be the case, given that everything what we claimed in his application is genuine. We all hope that we will be able to see further progress on his case in 2018. Please keep your fingers crossed for Tahir and us! Once again, I would like to thank you with my whole heart, for the support that you are extending to us to help us secure Tahir’s better future! You are all wonderful!

My work has been a source of immense satisfaction for me, albeit many dramatic situations that my job confronted me with. I kept on travelling extensively around Asia and was involved in various projects: with work in Mongolia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar and Bangladesh all being in the focus of my attention. Perhaps, the experiences around the conflict in western Myanmar and the massive exodus of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people to Bangladesh requires some special mentioning from me. Suffering of Rohingya and passionate attempts to help them by countless others in Myanmar, Bangladesh and other parts of the world are both horrific and wonderful in the same time. When we all celebrate during this holiday period, let us spare a thought on fate of the refugees or displaced in all corners of the world. The displaced are too often marginalised, and their needs are misunderstood by many of our governments, media outlets that we use, various organisations and societies that we are parts of.

October 2017 was also marked by an opportunity that I was given to participate in an excellent training/course in Colombo of Sri Lanka. The training was arranged and conducted by UN OCHA team (in cooperation with other organisations) and dealt with issues relating to provision of effective humanitarian response to victims of catastrophes (whatever the sources of such catastrophes may be) by both civilian and military actors. You may easily imagine that mandates of civilian aid agencies and military organisations are often conflicting… So, it is necessary to set up clear rules on how to work together to be able to deliver aid that is effective, but also sensitive to needs of all those who need them. The course explored just that. An excellent and inspiring exercise that should become a necessity to all of us involved in humanitarian work in a professional manner.

There are so many other things that are worth mentioning and reflecting on, but perhaps I should stop here with those few highlights that I have written about. Perhaps, I should just underline that 2017 has been marked with lots of amazing friendships. I also experienced support from many, many people from various parts of the world and walks of life, which is really fantastic and encouraging. I should only hope that 2018 will be equally lucky and somehow happy.                                                                                             

Warmest regards to all of you, wherever you may be in the world,

Roman

Back to Myanmar for a few days

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Yangon is one of these cities that is impossible not not love. The architecture of the old town, of the multiple temples is stunning and the people are very, very kind. I was therefore happy to learn that my organisation wanted me to spend a few days here, right before Christmas and New Year celebrations. 

After returning from my Dad’s funeral, I had a rather busy time at work, but also lots of things kept on happening in my personal life. In Bangkok we had a visit of Paula - one of Tahir’s resettlement sponsors. We had a chance to spend some time together and travel within Bangkok and Chonburi. What was the best is that Tahir had a chance to get to know here a bit more, which is important, given that he is likely to interact with Paula and her family and friends, when he finally makes it to Canada. 

I am still trying to come to terms with Dad’s departure. It feels numb often, and I keep on being worried about Mum a great deal. She seems to be doing okay, but I keep worrying. Great news is that she is coming to visit us in Bangkok soon, and we will be able to spend time together.

There are some exciting news from work. It seems like I will start following programmes in Tajikistan, Kazakstan, Kirgistan and Turkmenistan in 2018. I am really thrilled and excited. It will be challenging, as I know relatively little about this part of Asia, but also very exciting, as I will hopefully be able to learn a whole lot about new places!

Hope you all have a great time preparing for Christmas and New Year! 

Quality of dying


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One of the many Rohingya refugee camps in eastern Bangladesh

November proved to be a difficult and eventful month both for me and my family. Although not unexpected, we were all shocked and saddened to learn about Dad’s passing. Departures of people that we love and care about, frequently, challenge us greatly. This was definitely a case with me. The time of coming to terms with Dad’s death created lots of questions that I tried finding an answer to. So I was wondering about the importance of my family, about my friends, about priorities in life… I was wondering about the speed of my life, about the sense of my work, about privileges that I enjoy and about people suffering from wars and conflicts, especially in places that I am familiar with personally. People often wonder about your life quality, but I could not stop thinking about quality of dying. While, it is clear that Papa Maciek suffered tremendously in his last days of life, he also enjoyed an amazing care that was provided to him by the doctors and medical staff. Given how seriously ill he was for years, the doctors managed to extend his life by at least 8 years. He was ill, however we also won a lottery of being able to live in a place where the amazing medical care was possible. 

I remember learning about my father’s death, right after I visited one of the refugee camps for the Rohingya people in Bangladesh (fleeing violence in Myanmar). When I was there, together with my work colleagues we had a chance to learn about the fate of some of the Rohingya ladies, who bravely gave us their account of what had happened to them before they reached the camps of Bangladesh. One of them explained to us that the soldiers came to her little hut in western Myanmar, killed her husband with a machine gun, took her little baby boy, smashed his head against the stone, then threw him in a fire. After all these horrors she was gang-raped and ‘allowed’ to go. Yes, I realise that what I am writing is an extreme that most of people will never experience, yet… this happened to a woman, to a human being that we talked to just days before my own father’s death. 

I still do not know how to comprehend the story of the woman, whom I did not know, but touched me so profoundly and the story of my father passing - the man that was dear to me and I loved. War and peace, privilege and destitution, wealth and extreme poverty… 

So I am sad, and I am saying good bye to my father whom I loved, and to the Rohingya man and the baby, whom I have never met, but are somehow important to me too. Rest in Peace Good People! So long, until we meet together!

Preparing to go back to work

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Time spent with Mom is slowly coming to its end. After a week spent between Czechia, Germany and Poland, we are travelling back to Nowy Sacz, our base in Poland. Then two days later, I will be flying back to Bangkok to resume my work activities. 

I will be busy on my return. Things have piled up, and I will need to plan a trip to Myanmar and the Philippines. Then, I also have some TV interviews to be done in Bangkok - in relation to our project supporting refugees in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. 

Together with Tahir, we will be welcoming some guests too. First of all, our Canadian friends (who are also Tahir’s sponsors for the resettlement to Toronto) will come in December. Then in January, my mother from Poland will come, and also a dear friend of mine from Iceland, whom I studied together ages ago in Denmark. Really exciting and excited by it, and definitely look forward to it and will be reporting on all these activities here in this blog. 

Spending time with Mom


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It is really special to have an opportunity to spend time with Mom, after Papa’s passing. His death makes us very sad, but we are trying to honour him by remembering him in a cheerful way - the way that we believe he would like us to. 

So we are travelling around Jelenia Gora, Karpacz and parts of northern parts of the Czech Republic, as well as eastern Germany. We visit places that he enjoyed himself and he always wanted to go. 

I am writing this post from Karpacz - a beautiful spa town in Silesia region. Tomorrow, we are off to visit Dresden in Germany, where we will try visiting the town’s Christmas market. 

Hope you are all doing well!

Roman’s Pages ® 2001 - 2018