Archives for November 2018 | News from Roman |

Updates and news

November 2018

Archives (5th November 2016): November: A month of celebrations

However you look at it, I have turned 44! Crazy to realise that I am half way through in my forties. I still feel to be a child, a child of my parents at least!

November is filled with anniversaries for me. It is also a month of my name day, and more importantly a month of both birthday and name day of my mother. Lots of reasons to celebrate!

It is now official that on 22nd November, I will be travelling to Bangladesh for 3 weeks. I am excited to go there, as the projects that we run in the country are very interesting. Also, I have to admit that I have a soft spot for Bangladesh. The place is so nice and the people are so friendly. Definitely looking forward to be going there. The arrangement is that I will be working between Bangladesh and Thailand for some months to come. While I will spend most of my time in Dhaka (and other locations in the country), I will also be visiting Bangkok once every month. This will allow me to catch up on my regional duties, and on the personal level to make sure that I visit Tahir regularly.

Writing about Tahir, we have some small reasons to celebrate. After lots of administrative work, and lots of convincing, we managed to submit his application for a resettlement visa to Canada. Now, we just need to keep our fingers crossed, and hope that we will receive some positive news from the Canadian authorities. This will take a while, but still excited with the progress.

We also managed to identify some lawyers in Australia, whom we approached to seek their help in re-submission of his application there. While waiting for the news from Canada, we will now be working on his new application to Australia.

It is still raining a lot here in Bangkok, but we are slowly approaching to the end of this year’s rainy season. Soon, it should become a bit dryer. December and January are some of the nicest parts of the year. It is not too hot yet, and it is dry… Looking forward to it!

Archives (30th October 2016): Jet-lagged

I just got back to Bangkok after spending 2 weeks in Europe. Feeling completely jet-lagged. I could not sleep at night, but would be more than happy to sleep now… in the middle of the day.

Just watching CNN, and realising that we are heading into the next catastrophe. Without a doubt, we will have Trump as the next president of the United States. I would not be that bothered, except that the US is a global power after all, and his election will have the major consequences for all of us, regardless of where we live. Somehow not having lots of good feelings about the future… I am actually quite scared, to be honest. Just wondering whether we should all be preparing for the 3rd World War, and accepting it that we may not be able to live in peace, as the world, for much longer? Brrrr… I hope that I am just pessimistic.

Still trying to remain cheerful somehow. It seems like it will be Obidos, a little village in Portugal that will become my future base (given that things will not turn out to be that disastrous in the world, that is&hellipWinking. Look how amazing the place seems to be:

I will be here in Bangkok for two weeks or so. Will watch the developments in the USA anxiously, while preparing for my trip to Bangladesh, which is likely to happen still in November.

Archives (22nd October 2016): Bangladesh, here I come!

Quite unexpectedly, I have been asked to hold a position of an interim head of office for Bangladesh. The arrangement is due to start in mid-November and carry out for 4 months. I am not saying ‘good-bye’ to Thailand though. The plan is that I will still be in Bangkok often, e.g. 3 weeks in Dhaka and 1 week in Bangkok every month. Exciting times!

Archives (15th October 2016): Travelling to Europe

Tomorrow morning, I am off to Europe. I will first be in Brussels for work, then travelling to Lisbon to visit my newly adopted country, and finally for some meetings in Oslo. It will be a hectic trip… all needs to fit in within 2 weeks. It should also be fun too!

Archives (10th October 2016): Thank you!

As may you know, recently Tahir has been awarded with an official UNHCR refugee status. This means that after a very, very long waiting period, he technically is eligible to ask third countries for the resettlement out of Thailand (given that Thailand does not offer any legal provisions for him to settle down here).

For Tahir, the UNHCR awarded status is not only highly practical but also symbolic. The international organisation, helping the refugees, has officially confirmed that Tahir’s life in Pakistan is endangered and that the country (Pakistan) does not offer necessary protection to live there peacefully and happily. Personally knowing Tahir’s story, I only can rejoice and applaud!

Following the news from UNHCR, many, many of you have stepped up in trying to help us in various ways to secure Tahir’s safe future. While, I hope that there will be opportunities to write more about it in the future, today, both Tahir and I would like to thank you all for generosity and solidarity that so many of you have shown in our efforts of ‘restarting his life'. The list of people who have helped is very long, and includes those of you supporting the case financially, but also in so many other ways: trying to find ways to keep Tahir safe here in Thailand, or finding ways to get him to safety in Australia, Poland, or Canada.

We have not yet managed to achieve our ultimate goal, e.g.: secure his safe stay in Thailand or his resettlement to the third country, but we will continue working towards the successful resolution as hard as we can, and on as many fronts as it is only humanely possible. With your support, we trust, this will be possible. Today however it is time to cherish the moment! We would like to underline that your recent offers of help in various forms have been humbling and heart warming! You are all a proof that people are wonderful to one another!

THANK YOU so much for all what you have done!

Archives (2nd October 2016): Stuck in Moscow

This trip has been going far too smoothly… Finally, on the last stretch to Bangkok, Aeroflot has done it… they announced that the plane will leave Sheremietievo 2 hours late. Well, good news is that I have a moment to write to you briefly.

Last few weeks have been very busy and exciting. I should write more properly on each of it, but given that writing at the airport is not so comfortable, just some highlights:

1. We are at the end of the application process for Tahir’s relocation visa to Canada. A pre-condition for that was to fundraise at least €8.000 for a bond/deposit to be paid to the Government of Canada. Pleased to tell you that through amazing generosity of many of you, we have managed to collect all the money (and more)!

2. The Triplex Simulation (response to a disaster) has been very interesting. I met lots of new and interesting people (and some old friends too). And yes, Norwegian countryside is amazingly beautiful!

3. Poland continues to depress me. The recent developments in the country make me hate my own state. On the other hand, there is some amazing resistance to some of the most depressing total abortion plans by the amazing women… Go on and discover all about #blackprotest.

4. October will be busy. I will just get back to Bangkok to travel to Brussels soon after. All will be documented and reported!

Archives (10th September 2016): September newsletter

An update to friends, sent out on 8th September:

Dear Friends,
I realise that I have not written for a long time. Apologies for being a lousy communicator! Here comes a short update on the latest here from Bangkok.

On Tahir:
I will start with some good news. After waiting for 3 years, UNHCR has finally granted to Tahir his refugee status. This is really fantastic news on so many levels. Clearly, the most importantly, it is a great morale boost for Tahir, but also an important confirmation that he has very valid grounds to have fled from Pakistan. The news from UNHCR has reached us only around a week ago, so still very new, but I do not remember Tahir being that excited and happy for a long time!

Prior to UNHCR’s recognition, we had been receiving quite some bad news… The Government of Australia had refused his resettlement application, some of his friends here in Bangkok had been detained, efforts on resettling him to Poland not going so smooth at all either… Lots of discouraging and depressing stuff really. We are therefore very grateful and happy to have this boost coming from UNHCR’s decision… It has given to us more energy to keep on working on new options.

A fact that Tahir has his official refugee status is not necessarily changing his situation in Thailand dramatically. Thai authorities do not offer any form of refugee protection – in that sense, his life in Bangkok will still be full of challenges and various threats. However, by being the ‘UNHCR refugee’, Tahir now qualifies for any possible resettlement programmes that 3rd countries may be offering. Some of these programmes are offered only through official channels and are unlikely to materialise within next 15 years or so (meaning that Tahir would still be stuck in the limbo for around that much time), while the other ones are based on private sponsorships… These private sponsorship programmes give us some hope. The countries that we will focus on are Canada, Australia (new application) and to the much lesser degree Poland (though the Polish option is really complicated and unlikely to take place for various reasons that I even do not feel like explaining). The chances for Australia are slim, but given that his status has changed, there may be some opportunities there. We feel that Canada may be the safer bet, but then again, nothing is secured until we get some positive answers. All in all, still lots of work in front of us. Here, I would like to plea all of you, who may be aware of programmes that may work for Tahir (for resettlement, or other kind of immigration) to give us clues and ideas, we shall definitely consider everything what may have chances of success.

Other refugee stuff:
Except supporting Tahir, I am involved in providing support to other refugees in Bangkok – this is both in personal and professional capacity. In recent weeks, I have met with many organisations and people, who are engaged in searching for permanent solutions for the refugees who are in the country. Here the experiences are very mixed. The more people I meet, the more I learn about horrible abuses and suffering that people go through. Also, I keep on realising, how little political will there is to make the difference for the refugees (which actually, in Bangkok, would not be that difficult, if there was the will), and that thousands people are condemned to persecution, humiliation and harassment for years (if not their whole lifetime) to come. Then, on the other hand (and on the positive note), I meet so many people (and encouragingly this includes Thai nationals) that do whatever they can to make differences, however small or big, to those who need the support. What strikes me is that even if most of these wonderful individuals realise that we are dealing with
the mission impossible, and that they are probably destined to multiple failures with most what they are trying to do, they do not give up, they carry on, and fight… I only wished that that there were even more committed people like them, and I wish I was also a bit stronger in my own attempts as well. Hats off to their persistence, courage and patience, especially, when they deal with politicians, officials and technocrats that do everything possible to make the lives of the refugees to be hell (in this case in Bangkok). What also strikes me is that most of the blocks/obstacles, when it comes to helping, always come with an excuse of the law… We keep on hearing that this cannot be done, or that cannot be facilitated because the rules and the laws do not permit… Yet, there is no one, literally no one that challenges these rules, and proposes new laws that would work for people. I often feel, we should be all be ashamed and that we are all responsible in one or another way. Our politicians, whom we chose, and whom we do not keep accountable to, create situations where people are enslaved, are forced to prostitution, or need to sell their body organs to survive – quite literally. How can this be happening? Ironically, when talking to some of these decision makers, they seem to be aware that lots of the evil rules should be tackled, yet they are quite comfortable in doing nothing, as they give in to various pressures – whether personal or professional… Strange and cruel world we live in.

All other stuff:
Otherwise, things go on well. I keep on moving and travelling extensively. I have just come back from the most amazing trip to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, where I worked with some of my colleagues on issues relating to preparing the city to the anticipated earthquake. Some really positive work being done there, though still far, far too little (lack of sufficient resources). Recently, I also travelled to Sri Lanka, which I discovered to be one of the nicest places I have a chance to visit (I definitely recommend to all to visit that beautiful country, if you guys have a chance).

I carry on having a very negative feeling about my native Poland. What happens in my own country makes me feel extremely sad and challenges my own relation to that place. I will not be writing more on this here, as my email would turn to be very sour… Perhaps there will be another time for that. Today, it is just enough to write that I am dealing with lots of not so good emotions about Poland that I am trying to come to terms with.

Bangkok and Thailand in the rainy season is great. It is slightly less hot, and everything is so green. We have had much better rain this year, compared to last one, so I think this makes many people happier!

I miss receiving news from you! Please do write, when you can!

Sending you, your friends and your families my warmest thoughts and greetings,

Archives (30th July 2016): It is 'All About Refugees' week

I have just returned to Bangkok from Kuala Lumpur of Malaysia, where I spent 3 days trying to understand what the main challenges are for the refugees in that country, and also what various organisations and the Government of Malaysia do to help them out. As expected, what I saw and experienced there is not a happy story. Refugees’ most basic rights in Malaysia are violated. Tens of thousands of people, who have fled to that country in search of safety are faced with slavery work, with lack of access to basic services such as health care or housing. People live on the edge, many engage in prostitution, and in slavery work, just so that they could survive yet another day. What is striking is that even if they are humiliated so badly they still feel that they are ‘lucky’. Just think about it, how bad you must have felt ‘home’, if you still think, after being raped, or after having worked for hours in the building site without being paid a penny, you still think that you are lucky. Where has the world gone to? How is it possible that in a 21st Century, a wealthy country, such as Malaysia allows for ‘de facto’ slavery within its borders? I search for the answers, and I can’t find any explanation, really! What is even more disturbing is that many international institutions, such as UNHCR, UN in general and diplomatic missions of countries, which supposedly ‘adhere to various international human rights treaties and conventions’ do not have enough guts to make a brave and open statement against these violations. It is quite amazing to see that our governments are able to turn their blind eyes on such a gross abuse, so that the trade and ‘good relations’ can continue. I know that this is how the world seems to be functioning, but I disagree with it, disagree with it with my full heart and with all passion that I can muster… I will always do that, even if no one else is ready to listen.

In the meanwhile, we received some sad news from Australia.
Tahir’s offshore humanitarian visa (in other words application for an asylum) was rejected by the authorities. They told him that they actually thought that his claim had grounds, and recognised that it is dangerous for him to return to Pakistan and indeed to remain in Thailand, but nevertheless they would not offer him resettlement, because his links with Australia are not ‘strong enough’. Again, I am just wondering whether how is it that the Australian Government expects the most vulnerable people to have ‘links to Australia’? Where is the ‘humanitarian’ side of this visa? Do you really expect that a person, being persecuted in his/her country, usually without any means, education, etc., miraculously have ‘links’ to Australia? I feel like using some very inappropriate words… so it is better that I stop here and abstain.

Things with Poland are not better. We now believe that Poland will even not look at Tahir’s asylum application, despite amazing efforts of
Sister Malgorzata. Poland is extremely closed to the idea of supporting refugees and victims of wars, so perhaps it is hardly surprising, nevertheless very, very disappointing. In any case, the visit of the Pope Francis has brought some attention to the issue of the refugees in the country. Sister Malgorzata has even managed to beautifully advocate for Tahir’s case in the main news channel in the primetime (please see link of the interview here, though only available in Polish).

Now that Australia and Poland reject helping Tahir, we are running out of options. We will still be appealing in both countries, but let’s face it, the hopes there are fading. Now, the only real option is Canada. We will be filling our application there, as soon as UNHCR office here in Bangkok finally confirms Tahir’s refugee status (still may take a lot of time).

So many disappointing news here, I am afraid. We are not giving up though. We must find the way in one or another way. We may still not know what we can do to help Tahir, but we will never give up!

Archvies (12th July 2016): Losing hope

Okay, I will be honest, I am losing hope that we will be able to find some viable solution to help Tahir. We have engaged on so many fronts in trying to find a place for him to live, so that he can at least start trying to have a feeling of normal life. So far all attempts fail, and despite countless enquires, begging emails, arguments on humanitarian grounds… nothing seems to be working, and as far as I am concerned, we are losing the fight for Tahir. Here are the reasons:

- Future in Pakistan: Clearly, Tahir has no future in Pakistan. Ahmadiyya people, especially younger men are hated there, just because they are Ahmadiyya. In his native village, there are people waiting for him ready to kill him, just because he merely was trying to stand up to the leaders of the local Sunni mosque defending his right to run a small stall with textiles.

- Future in Thailand: Staying in Thailand could be an option… but only if the authorities granted him a right to stay. Sadly, Thailand is not a signatory of the Geneva Convention on Refugees, and therefore, as such, is not obliged to follow international standards on protecting refugees. Consequently, Thailand does not have laws that would regularise people like Tahir, and prevent them from having normal lives. Tahir is not allowed to be here, not mentioning having a right to work, or attend a school. He has no right for a medial insurance… Technically, he is not allowed to exist here. The only way to survive in Thailand is either our continuous financial support, and counting on luck not to get arrested, or falling seriously sick. Then of course, he could get arrested, and spend years in a detention centre waiting for some kind of miracle to be resettled somewhere (very unlikely).

- Future in Poland: After some vague hope of being able to send him there, so that he could start his life there, it is clear that the authorities of Poland, the whole system just does not want to extend any protection to Tahir. All of our application, one by one are not even considered. The officials keep on telling us that they would like to help, but there is not a legal framework to do that. Call me naive, or call me whatever you want… I will never accept it. Perhaps, I will not be able to do much about it, and will be defeated, but I will never, never accept the reasoning that one cannot help saving a human life, because the regulations are not foreseeing a situation that someone can be helped without putting public resources at strain (clearly, many of us are ready to cover all the costs relating to his resettlement to Poland).

- Future in other countries: We also are trying to resettle Tahir to Canada, USA or Australia. His application for a resettlement there is however hugely dependent on UNHCR. His applications may be considered by these countries (without a guarantee of being successful), only if UNHCR in Thailand processes his refugee claim in Bangkok. The problem is that the organisation is painfully slow, and despite having waited for 3 years, we still do not have any answer from UNHCR on his official status. We may still need to be waiting for a year or more, before he is granted the UNHCR refugee status… and when this is done, we could only start resettlement application, which are not likely to be successful and take forever (literally years).

I know that there are millions of people in a situation of Tahir, but it is Tahir that I am trying to help, and for me, he is a personification of failure of humanity, and a proof showing that one is unable to make a difference, even if trying to do whatever could possibly be done. There are many reasons and many people that are directly responsible for his suffering in his own country, but equally many of us, who fail extending a helping hand, even if we could do it easily. This makes me sad, makes me angry, and frustrated. My frustration does not mean much and will not change the fate of Tahir and similar to hime in the longer run, but there it is: I feel powerless, and upset and I have run out of ideas of what else could be done. I am not proud of my country, I am not proud of being a European and I am not proud of being a human being. Collectively, as humans we failing those whom we could help, and most of us fail individually too.

Archives (7th July 2016): Going to see Khwae River

In absence of good news… one needs to concentrate on positive stuff that happens to you on daily basis. Well, what is exciting these days is that in one week, together with Tahir, we are planning to visit one of the Thailand’s national parks. We go to see the Khwae River and its surroundings in the western part of the country. Pictures will certainly follow, and we are expecting some spectacular views, as it is meant to be a very special part of Thailand.

Archives (25th June 2016): Keep calm, you are getting old

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.

Archves (23rd June 2016): Bremain vs. Brexit

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.

Archives (22nd June 2016): World Refugee Day

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.

Archives (15th June 2016): June in Europe and few words on BREXIT

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.

Archives (5th June 2016): A spring break in Poland and Finland

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!

Archives (20th May 2016): Packed and ready for Manila

So, I am all packed and ready to go to Manila. A bit stressed with my Spanish exam, and also with a fact that I need to travel so far to actually take it. Good news is that after my tests, I will also do some work! Keep your fingers crossed!

Archvies (16th May 2016): Lots of unsettled and unsettling business

So far, May 2016 has been quite unsettling. Still lots of unknown with regard to Tahir. We had a number of meetings with the authorities of Poland, but also with people who try relocating him to Poland, but nothing conclusive yet. This is emotionally challenging, but I guess we just need to go through it.

My 1st attempt of passing the B2 Spanish exam is approaching fast. I am travelling to Manila in the Philippines this coming Friday. My exam will be at the Cervantes Institute of Manila on Saturday. I feel that I am poorly prepared, and it will be difficult to get a ‘pass’ mark. A good thing is that even if I fail, it will be a good experience to go through all tests. In any case, it will not hurt if you all keep your fingers crossed for me!

Archives (2nd May 2016): May greetings from Bangkok

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Bangkok! It has been a long and very hot dry season here… if you believe what the media says, we have had the hottest dry season for last 60 years! One really feels it. Bangkok is unbearably warm, and even simple daily chores seem to be a challenge. I actually stopped going for walks… and for me it is a big decision. I love walking! Good news is that yesterday, we had a good and generous rain. This made the temperatures slightly more liveable, but also marked a beginning of a rainy season. Okay, proper rains will only begin in 2 months, but nevertheless, we were all very enthusiastic to welcome the thunderstorm!

Life is exciting and at time stressful here. I keep on travelling a lot – both for work and for personal reasons. A highlight is that I recently travelled to Timor Leste, the country that I had known very little of. I went there, as the place is badly affected by severe droughts… As the droughts often do, they tend to have quite bad negative effects on lives of farmers, whose crops die out due to lack of water. This is definitely a case in that little country, where for thousands of people, this disaster translated into a complete destruction of their livelihoods. People I spoke to all told me that the drought that they experience is the worst ever in the living memory of the people. Good news is that there are some initiatives from various organisations and institutions to counter-balance the crisis, so hopefully things will get a bit better for some of the people soon.

Mongolia is another example of the climatic change craziness. I may have mentioned to you before that the country experience one of the more severe winter, which resulted in a phenomenon that is referred to as ‘dzud’. Dzuds are essentially very cold snaps that last for prolonged periods of time. They can be very destructive. If they last too long and are too severe, they can cause death of livestock… Death of livestock for nomadic people of Mongolia is an economical, social and cultural catastrophe. For many farmers in the country, livestock is an essence of live. When cows die, their owners are destined for migration to Ulaanbaatar, the migration that often transforms people’s lives into destitution: as they end up in overcrowded shantytowns, with very poor prospects of getting any work. Unfortunately, we are hearing that this winter, 830,000 animals died… The consequences of this will likely be very depressing and harsh for many, many people. Climate change is so real!

But enough of work! I should tell you a bit more about some of the personal stuff. The most important: Tahir is well and fine. There is some positive news from Thailand. Although, things are far from being perfect, it seems like the authorities of this country are a little friendlier and more understanding towards the needs of the refugees and asylum seekers, who ended up here. Okay, the change is not a major breakthrough, and Thailand still does not officially protect the refugees within its borders, but it seems that police visibly stopped harassing people on streets. If an asylum seeker/refugee is able to produce an identification from UNHCR, they are not detained anymore… but are left in peace. People still officially cannot work, or even exist… but just a mere fact that there is no appetite for detaining them makes a huge difference. We have enjoyed this change in policy for 2 months now, but we are unable to say whether the change is permanent… Let’s hope that things will only get better… though I do not want to be overly optimistic… Tahir still practices an utmost care when walking around Bangkok. He avoids places where he could be detained, and tries to be as invisible as possible. This is tiring and frustrating for him, but keeps him relatively safe.

I recently returned from Australia. I went there to visit Brisbane and Sydney – the cities which are homes to large groups of the Ahmadi communities. I went there with my Australian friend, who is now heavily involved in trying to get Tahir being resettled to the country. While touring the country, we met with many people: journalists, Ahmadi community leaders, and also people that seem to have experience with immigration matters. While, no one could possibly guarantee that Tahir would be able to get his humanitarian visa granted (we applied for it 3 months ago), there was some optimism… and some of the informants that we spoke to were cautiously optimistic about his case. This is good news, and we keep our fingers crossed that Australia works out for Tahir! Here, I would like to thank my friend Lucy, for being the most amazing advocate in Tahir’s case in Australia. We have managed to progress a lot on the Australian humanitarian visa front, but nothing would be possible without her.
Another piece of news is that Tahir’s interview with UNHCR here in Thailand is scheduled for 9th June. This is an important milestone for him and for our case. The interview that he will be having is meant to establish officially that his case is legitimate and that his life in Pakistan is indeed in danger to the point that he cannot live there, and needs to receive a protection outside of this country: essentially become a refugee. While interviews are indeed stressful, we expect that he should be granted his status. His case is strong and legitimate, and we hope that he will be able to receive his official refugee status soon. If he receives his refugee status, there will be some additional options to help him out. While having an official refugee status does not change his situation in Thailand greatly, a fact that he is a refugee may help him in our attempts to resettle him to a 3rd country. Here, we count on Canada, which has a very interesting programme for resettlement for officially recognised refugees (as, we hope Tahir will be), who are based in countries that do not recognise refugees (as it is a case of Thailand). Together with some of my Canadian friends, we have already done some preparatory work… and we will launch an application for Tahir’s resettlement to Canada the moment that we get his refugee status confirmed (this of course, in case that we do not have any news/positive news from our Australia humanitarian visa application).

In order to give you a complete picture of where we are in helping Tahir, I need to tell you that in a very odd and unusual way, there are still some slim chances that Tahir would be getting a visa to Poland, so that he could travel there, and apply for his asylum in there. Things with Poland are however extremely vague, and complicated to the point that I will refrain from giving you more explanation at this stage. I will only ask you that you all keep your fingers crossed on 11th May… the date when we are planning to apply for his visa to Poland. In case, things work out… I will tell you more! Happy

I need to say that I feel a bit odd about ’the Polish option’ for Tahir. You all are aware that I am extremely disappointed with how things develop in my own country. I dislike what happens there to the point that I decided to permanently resettle from there myself… (as you may remember to Portugal), so an idea that Tahir may actually end up in Poland is somehow a bit strange and to some extent uncomfortable! Again, I will write you more on the issue, if it was to work out…

Otherwise, my days and weeks are all about learning Spanish… I do study every day, and good news is that I feel more and more comfortable using the language. I will carry on studying hard for next few months… Here a big thank you goes to my Mexican teacher Carlos! He has not given up on me, and he bravely confronts my downs and encourages me to do a decent job!

Voila… this is all for today. I will be so very happy to hear news from you soon!

Lots of love and hugs to all of you,

Archives (24th April 2016): Sister Malgorzata Chmielewska

Sister Malgorzata Chmielewska and her work for the most deprived in Poland: the excluded: disabled, homeless, refugees… keeps on inspiring me. For all those, who would like to learn who this formidable lady is, you may click on this link to read a short resume of Sister Chmielewska.

Archives (23rd April 2016): It is hot here

Okay, it is a hot season here, but even the Thais are complaining that the weather has gone loopy! We are experiencing some of the worst heat waves in the recorded history of Thailand. When I experience the heat wave here, and see how dry it is everywhere, and how much the drought has actually affected the farmers across the whole region, I am astounded by the statement of the Prime Minister of Poland that decarbonisation of the Poland’s economy goes against the interests of the country, I am astounded that instead of trying to truly embrace technologies that limit gas emissions, Poland still keeps on living an illusion that carbon can be clean… Funny that we still think that the social, economic and physical aspects of the global unrest that the climate change will cause will not affect Poland… I just already see my country embracing all the climate change refugees that will need to be relocated from areas flooded by seas… Disgrace!

Archives (12th April 2016): Travelling to Australia

As usual, I have arrived to the airport unreasonably early… I always do it: I arrive to airport well before the flight is scheduled, as I worry that there may be unforeseen circumstances that would make me miss my flight.

So here I am, at the Bangkok International Airport, having 3 hours to kill, waiting for my flight to Brisbane. I am very excited to be travelling to Australia. It should be an exciting and interesting trip - not only as it is mainly about advocating for Tahir’s relocation to Australia, but also because I will be able to meet many of my friends! Australia: here I come! I hope you treat me well!

Archives (6th April 2016): Advocating for Tahir

In a week, I will be going to Australia again. This time, the trip is going to be all about Tahir, and our attempts to relocating him to a safe place, so that he could finally start his LIVING, rather than being in a vacuum, in which he is now. When in Australia, I will be talking to people who have engaged in helping him. Together, we will be trying to work out strategies on the best way to proceed. Please keep your fingers crossed!

Archives (26th March 2016): Easter on the move

Easter of 2016 has arrived. In Thailand, not celebrating Christian traditions, it is not a big tradition, and one can hardly notice that Easter is around. I like Easter though, and I like some of the traditions that Easter brings. As a little boy, I clearly loved painting eggs, and I enjoyed watching the others doing it too. I confess that I did not paint eggs today, but I did however boiled some and I had eggs for breakfast. It did feel somehow special!

It is a Saturday evening now, and my mind is preparing to my next trip. Tomorrow, I am going to start travelling to Timor Leste, a tiny country in the Pacific, north of Australia. The country, where I have never been before, and which allegedly experiences one of the worst droughts in its entire history. Given my job, you might have guessed that I am going there to see how bad the situation is and to investigate whether there is anything that my organisation could do to help the local communities to cope.

Travelling to Dili, the capital of Timor Leste is a lengthy business. Even if it is not too far away from Bangkok, it will take 24 hours of planes and transits, before I set my foot on Timor Leste’s soil. Bangkok - Singapore (10 hours waiting) - Darwin (8 hours waiting) and finally Dili on Monday night. Exhausting but an interesting trip.
I will be reporting what I will have seen. Before this happens, wishing yo all Happy Easter!

Archives (18th February 2016): Travels

Tomorrow is a last day in the office, and then… holidays start! Very happy and excited! I will first be in Dubai for some days, then off to Lisbon, then Brussels, and finally back to Thailand, where I am going to visit some of the islands of the south. Three weeks of holidays should allow me to recharge the batteries! Clearly the main highlight is that when in Lisbon, I will be becoming an official resident of Portugal! Happy

Archives (15th Fabruary 2016): DELE

I feel frustrated and disappointed. Three months have passed since I took my B1 Spanish exam, and DELE has not managed to deliver the results of the exams. This is definitely the worst exam centre I have dealt with in my life. Shame on DELE for being so disorganised.

Archives (5th February 2016): February plans

I am packed and ready to go to the airport. After a week in Myanmar’s capital Yangon, I am travelling back to Bangkok.
It will be a very busy February. Trying to finalise lots of work on humanitarian funding in South East Asia and also trying to work out some strategies on publicising the case of Tahir in Australian media.

Then, at the end of February off to Portugal to finalise all the administrative work for becoming a Portuguese resident!

Archives (2nd February 2016): Tahir's application is already in Australia

We finally managed to officially submit Tahir’s application for an off-shore humanitarian visa for Australia. We expect that we will hear from the Government of Australia (on his application) in 6 months. Keep your fingers crossed! More on Tahir can be read at this link.

Archives (1st February 2016): What is wrong with all of us?!

The end of January has been busy. After having visited Mongolia, I went down to Phuket in southern part of Thailand to visit centres for the detailed people of Rohingya who flee Myanmar from the religious persecution.

Detention centres are always depressing, especially when one realises that more often than not, their inmates’ only crime is an attempt of running for their own lives. What I saw in southern Thailand saddened me to the point that made me feel disgusted of being a human being. Hundreds of men, women and children detained and left in a legal limbo. Unable to go back home, unable to live normally and without any prospects of finding a solution for their lives in a foreseeable future. All what they have, is the cells of their detention centres, and fear that these centres may remain their homes for years to come… Sadly, the more people try fleeing desperation from their homelands, the less we are able to show compassion and empathy, and less we are to make an effort to finding solutions that would work for all of us.

When I see this unspeakable suffering on one side, and growing nationalism and protectionism from those of us who are luckier and wealthier on the other, I feel that we are destined for a well deserved human catastrophe that will affect all of us. I feel that the differences between haves and non-haves are so great that are impossible to bridge anymore. We are destined to fail, and perhaps this is the only sensible solution that is left to us?

Archives (21st January 2016): -35 Degrees Celcius

So, I am in Ulaanbaatar, learning about the devastating effects of the ‘dzud’ (see the previous post), and experiencing the coldest temperature that I have ever had a chance to feel… an impressive - 35 degrees Celsius! Despite being really frozen here, I enjoy being in this country! More news to come soon.

Archives (16th January 2016): Dzud

‘Dzud’ is a weather phenomenon that is particular to Mongolia. It basically refers to sever winter, cold snaps that occur in steps of Mongolia and are so harsh that claim lives of domestic animals. Although dzuds are not uncommon in the country, when they are particularly strong, they may cause humanitarian crises. Indeed, when too many animals die - this affects the ability of the local communities to feed themselves.The climatic changes that the world experiences makes the dzuds more dangerous. It seems like this year may be particularly bad. The preliminary reports suggest that the El Niño has has sent extremely cold weather across the country, and this threatens the well-being of many people.

Next week, I will be travelling to Ulaanbaatar and some provinces outside of the city to check what could be done to ease the people’s suffering to the crisis. We hope that we will be able to roll out the response that will be helpful to people that need it! I will keep you posted on the outcomes of the mission, as soon as I can.

Archives (9th January 2016): Portugal

My first few days of 2016 are not the happiest I have had. What happens in Poland continues to make me feel really down and unhappy. The more I see what the direction of reforms of the new government, and indeed the public support that they receive, the more I feel alienated from that country. There is so little that I can associate myself in Poland these days. Yes, I have some wonderful family and friends in the country, and therefore I will always have a soft spot for the place, but emotionally I am detaching myself from Poland more and more. The social and political changes in the country frighten me. Poland has not been a particularly open society in the modern history, but now I feel it is becoming increasingly xenophobic and unfriendly towards foreigners, sexual minorities, people that do not conform with what is widely regarded as ‘traditional Catholic’.

As I feel so unhappy about the state of affairs at home, I think that it is only fair that I leave and try arranging my base/home in a place where I feel more at ease. In recent weeks, I have done quite some preparations towards moving to Portugal. Nothing is finalised yet, and therefore I am not holding my breath, but it looks like in some weeks’ time I will be able to transfer my ‘habitual residence’ to Lisbon! While, a bit sad about leaving Nowy Sacz, I am excited to start investing energy in getting to know ma adoptive city a bit better! I will keep you all updated on how it goes!

Archives (31st December 2015): Happy New Year!

And here comes the New Year’s Greetings:

Dearest Friends,

You know me well: I tend to be over-sentimental, and I would not miss a chance for some reflections to mark the end of the year. Given that 2016 is just around the corner, here comes one of my updates and my greeting for New Year.

I have now worked in our Bangkok office of 13 months. As my job covers many countries in Southeast Asia, I travel frequently. This is certainly exciting and very interesting. However one looks at it, visiting places such as Mongolia, the Philippines Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar or DPRK is an exciting affair and I feel very excited to be able to travel. This make me happy! 2015 also marked some major challenge. For me it was a time of re-adapting and re-learning how to live and work in a place that is not ravaged by wars. It is perhaps a strange thing to write but transformation from living in a conflict torn South Sudan to life in a far more peaceful part of the world has had lots of downs. Adjusting to different lifestyles, ways of working, different values of people around me frustrates me, and makes me miss certain simplicity when one can encounter in troubles places such as South Sudan. Yet, I would like, if I wrote that there was nothing that I enjoyed about living in Bangkok. Being able to move around the city freely, without thinking that one can be shot at; not needing to follow the latest developments from the frontline; not being confronted with the most inhumane aspects of wars, e.g. not needing to learn about civilians being slaughtered, children being orphaned, women being raped, not seeing yet another corpse and yet another mass grave help me regaining some distance to these horrific experiences that I kept of witnessing a little over one year ago. Being able to go to a park, or a cinema, or for a walk, or to a beautiful temple, or take my Spanish lesson (here a big thank you to my Mexican teacher: Carlos) is something that I appreciate and cherish.

2015 is also definitely marked by learning about lives of many refugees. Here, I am not only writing about my professional experiences, but above all my personal ones. Most of you are, by now, aware that since November 2014, I have tried supporting Tahir, and some other people from the Ahmadyyia community, who ended up here in Thailand. I am not going to write about the injustice that these people went through in Pakistan and going through in Thailand (I have written about it so many times), but more egocentrically, about how the experience of trying to work something out for them affects me. Here, again very mixed feelings.

On one side, my new refugee friends make me feel happy. It just feels so great to be allowed into their world, and trying together to work some solutions out, which may be helpful for them in their daily struggles. It also feels fantastic that they so eagerly keep on helping me when I need them. Not being able to perform certain physical activities, they are always ready to come and carry my heavy bags, help me in fixing stuff in my flat, cook wonderful Pakistan food… all done in a way that I feel no any discomfort for asking for such assistance. Wonderful and generous friends! Then, there is frustration, frustration of not being able to find a long term meaningful solution for them. The heartless system created by the international community, UN, NGOs, governments of various countries that condemns these people in living in destitution and poverty… no matter how much you try, how genuine their cases may be, no matter how sweet and honest these people can be… their fate is doomed, doomed for years if not for ever: they can not return home, as they will be persecuted there; they can not function in Thailand normally, as they are hated here; and they have little (if at all) chance to be resettled anywhere else, as no one wants them (best excuse is: ‘We are now taking the Syrians, your suffering is not our priority)! Being from Poland, my biggest disappointment comes with my own country. After writing countless emails and letters to the President of Poland, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Embassy of Poland to Thailand, NGOs, Catholic Church institutions, various foundations… the answer is more or less the same: GO TO HELL. Believe me, this is not an exaggeration, the letters I am getting may be somehow more sophisticated but the answer is always clear: we are unwilling to help, even if you cover all the costs, and even if you decide to pay for everything… we do not want to have any Muslim refugees in this country, however genuine their case may be. Yes, I am aware that this is not just Poland, this happens in so many other places too, but knowing this does not make me happier, nor more optimistic. I am bitter, and I am deeply disappointed with my own government (yes: the one before the election, and the present one), with the Catholic Church in Poland (which sends in some most disturbing answers) and with private foundations. No one seem to want to care or even take an effort to look into options. Now, when one realises that Tahir and other Ahmadi friends here in Bangkok, can be considered as lucky, as their basic needs are covered (at least for as long as we can try supporting them), and that there are thousands in Thailand in millions in the world that find themselves in a much worse situation (without being able to afford food or accommodation), this gets even more discouraging.

Finally, a few words about happenings in my own country: Poland. I guess that we all have different needs in terms of feeling associated to a place. Even if I have not lived in Poland for a long time, I have always felt a connection with the place and considered it to be my base. With all of Poland’s ups and downs, with all of the country’s shortcomings, there have always been things that I was somehow proud of. I loved my countrymen sense of humour, this Slavic mess that somehow ends up in creativity. I love our music, our architecture, our nature, our language… All these things always made me forgive and defend what I considered as misgivings or shortcomings… I have always felt home in Poland, and until recently very eagerly kept on bringing dozens to see my Nowy Sacz, Krakow, Warsaw, the Tatras, the Baltic Sea… Last 2 years my admiration to Poland started crumbling. While I understand that life for many in that country is not easy, while many still struggle to meet ends; I find it extremely difficult to accept that our society’s response to these clear injustices is directed against… Well, I wonder against who and what… The list seems long and includes Russians, Germans, the West, Jews, Arabs, Muslims, gay, gender-ideology, feminism, climate change, critics of Poland (whoever they may be)… We do however seem to be having new heroes and start admiring new systems: Orban in Hungary, Chinese growth, Turkish autocracy… While of course, I am not in any position to judge people who want Poland to go that direction, I find it difficult to associate myself with these new qualities/ideas. Of course, there are various levels of dealing with such negative feelings. I think that one should not keep on feeling miserable and do nothing feeling really bad. And as I feel so unhappy about Poland these days (the final drop came with the recent presidential and parliamentary elections), I decided to make some changes. I also realise that one should also pick one’s challenges… As at this moment, I perceive that most of my countrymen have such a different vision of Poland from my own, I can see very little opportunities to reconcile. It is therefore that I decided to emigrate, and leave Poland… Consequently, I have taken steps to give up my Poland’s residency. I am not sure how things work out, but I have initiated a process of moving to Portugal, and if all goes well, I hope to become an official resident of that Mediterranean country in around March 2016. I feel a bit sad that this conclusion needed to come, but in the same time relieved that the decision is taken. Now, it is time to concentrate on starting making Portugal my new home. I have always had a soft spot for Portugal, and hope that it can become a great place to live!

It seems that 2016 will be another year full of challenges. Keeping myself busy with the job, carrying on with Spanish lessons, trying a nearly impossible task of finding a durable solution for Tahir (and possibly other Ahmadis), learning about my (hopefully) new home: Portugal (thus travelling there as often as I can).

Despite a fact that I will not be making celebrations tonight, and decided not to have any feast to bid a farewell to 2015, I genuinely feel optimistic about 2016! I also hope that you are going to have the most wonderful time ahead of you. Happy, happy 2016 for all of you, your friends, families and loved ones!

Warmest regards and lots of love,

Archives (22nd December 2015): Merry Christmas!

Just a few days away left for Christmas. It is my 2nd Christmas in Thailand. As the country officially does not celebrate the holiday, I will mainly be working. Nevertheless, I would like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday! Merry Christmas!

Archives (13th December 2015): Looking for a new motherland

You may remember from my previous post that I decided to move out from Poland, or I should say, officially quit Polish residency. Possibly, it may prove to be more difficult than I would like, and perhaps, I will not succeed at the end, but at this stage, I am determined to try! My search for my new motherland (fatherland) continues. I have researched and enquired various people on possible options. As I see the world today, and look at where I could feel comfortable, my favourite choice of migration would be Canada, but realistically my personal situation will not allow me to get there, so I need to assume that Canada is not an option after all. Some of the EU countries may however work. So far, I have made enquires in Romania, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Ireland. Given the responses from immigration lawyers, my language skills and also my contacts with various countries, so far my priorities are as follows: 1. Portugal, 2. Spain, 3. Malta, 4. Romania, 5. Ireland. I could also easily imagine moving to a place like Iceland or Estonia, but I have no clear understanding of how easy or difficult it is to settle there. On top of that if I ever decide to apply for a new citizenship, I guess I would have lots of trouble learning Estonian or Icelandic… I therefore may stick to either English, Spanish or Portuguese speaking countries. Then, I also looked at the citizenship programme in Peru. It may be an expensive option, but then I have such a soft spot for Latin America, and Peru seems to be quite welcoming to the idea of inviting new citizens. A clear advantage is that one can successfully apply for the Peruvian citizenship within two years, which is relatively quick. Who knows, you may soon refer to me as Peruvian? Winking

Archives (9th December 2015): Working in Myanmar

Just got to Yangon today. I will be here for 9 days, helping the team in Myanmar looking at proposals for humanitarian programmes to be implemented in 2016. Definitely exciting to be in the country again, and very curious to see the quality of the proposed interventions! I am the most interested to read about the projects aiming at improving fate of the populations in western part of the country, on the border with Bangladesh. As it seems, this is where in the country, the most serious humanitarian needs are.

Archives (5th December 2015): December updates

We have progressed a great deal with Tahir’s application for the humanitarian visa for Australia. There is still some work to be done on details, and editing, but it looks better and better. Hopefully, we will be able to be ready to submit it still in December 2015. In the meanwhile, as expected, there is no response, or news from the Polish authorities to the letter that we sent to them a few weeks ago. Very sad about it, but not surprised. I will be travelling to Myanmar for work next week. While there, I will be helping in assessment of new projects that my organisation may be implementing in the country in 2016. Definitely should be interesting, and looking forward to it, especially that much of the work will relate to the displaced populations - the group that is especially dear to me! Finally, a bit of a personal drama. The new authorities in Poland prepare for changes that make me very sad and uncomfortable. Poland is turning right, and much of our freedoms will be curbed - this I have very little doubt of. Given that these changes have a great support from the public indeed, I just feel alienated and very unhappy. I feel that there is no place for me left in Poland. Therefore I am now undertaking steps to leave the country permanently. I am now looking for opportunities to settle in another EU country (given that I have an international job, I am seeking for my new European base). Portugal, Spain, Malta and Romania are high on my lists so far. I will keep you updated on decisions, based on what is possible.

Archives (29th November 2015): One year in Thailand

Today is my 1st anniversary of arriving to Thailand. It is quite spectacular how quickly the time goes, and also how many things and experiences one can get within 1 year! I need to say that however odd it sounds, it has been a very difficult year. Getting used to living in a country, where there is no active war is actually difficult. People in peaceful societies function differently. When not confronted with existential choices on daily basis, people put priorities to values and issues that I have difficulties in comprehending. So yes, the adjustments of living here after years in South Sudan are not easy. Then, this year in many ways is also wonderfully nice. My new job involves a great deal of travelling to the most amazing places. Within this year, for the first time in my life I visited places such as Mongolia, South Korea, North Korea, or the Philippines. I also travelled to a number of other places that I had visited before too. Then, there are new friends too! All friends are special, and would require attention here, but I will just mention about Tahir… the guy that I already talked about in my previous post, an amazing young man from Pakistan, who has impressed me and so many others in his struggle of finding safety and normality after the nightmares that he had gone through in his native Pakistan. My highest tribute goes to him and to all people fleeing humiliation in their homelands. My highest respect to all refugees that run for the lives of their families and their own.

Archives (26th November 2015): Who is Tahir?

Some time ago, I promised to you a story of Tahir. Today comes its first part. As things develop, I will keep on writing more about him and his case in the future. This entry is a copy of the letter that I sent to the Chancery of the Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland.

“Dear Sir/Madam:

I am writing to you asking you for a grand favour. Although I am aware that the case that I am going to introduce to you is very difficult, if not impossible to solve, I have decided to present it to you hoping that my message will prompt a kind reaction that will allow for a happy finalisation of the struggle.

For last 12 months, I have lived in Bangkok, where I work for one of the international organisations that deal with humanitarian aid. Before arriving to this city, for many years I had worked in various parts of Africa, but also Afghanistan, Pakistan or Myanmar, where I tried serving the needs of victims of natural catastrophes, wars and conflicts.

As soon as I arrived to Thailand, by pure coincident, I met Mr. Tahir Rana - a young Pakistani, currently living in Bangkok. Tahir is a member of the religious group called Ahmadyyia, whose members in Pakistan are a subject of severe persecution based on their traditions and faith.

I got to know Tahir on the street: begging, hungry, and physically exhausted. Our first meeting ended up with my invitation for lunch and with a conversation… Quite extraordinarily, our first meeting turned into an invitation for yet another meal, then another one, and another one… Today, my friendship with Tahir already is one year old. During this time, I have learnt a great deal about his inhumane suffering in Pakistan and here Thailand. It is also during this time, during which, together with my family, we decided that we would like to help Tahir beyond just feeding him.

As this is written, Tahir awaits for having his asylum application processed by UNHCR in Thailand. Although a very fact that he is registered with UNHCR is quite positive, there are little chances that there will be a positive resolution of his situation any time soon. The issue is that as the immigration crisis in the EU intensifies, people who need a real international protection in, for example, Asia do not stand a chance for a quick relocation to third countries. According to the latest information from UNHCR, Tahir is likely to wait for additional 5 - 6 years before any progress is made.

While waiting in Thailand for any resolution is not problematic in itself, the issue is that Thailand is not a signatory of Geneva Convention (parts relating to refugee treatment), and therefore it treats people as Tahir as illegal migrants - even if they can produce valid UNHCR registrations. These legal provisions result in lack of refugees’ protection mechanisms. The migrants are subjected to inhumane treatment from local authorities, and in order to survive need to engage in various risky practices and behaviours (falling prey of slavery work, sale of human organs, prostitutions, etc.). Given that UNHCR has no means to help its beneficiaries, it is easy to comprehend that this situation translates into thousands of human tragedies similar to those that Tahir needs to go through. For more descriptive introduction of Tahir’s situation, please refer to the attached documents.

As I have already written, I would very much like to help Tahir to become independent so that he could start having a productive and fulfilled life. I do not hide that the easiest solution, from my perspective, would be relocating Tahir to Poland. There, I and my family would try to help him adapt and integrate to the life in the country, to help him in finding a job and find his place in the society.

In order to facilitate Tahir’s journey to Poland, on 9th October we applied for an entry visa to the country. The application was submitted to the Consulate of the Republic of Poland in Bangkok. The idea was that Tahir would travel to Warsaw and ask for an asylum, or adequate protection there. We were able to meet all of Tahir’s costs relating to his trip and stay in the country (many people offered to extent their financial and logistical help) and I was ready to commit that I would meet all costs relating to his deportation from Poland, in case his application for the protection is unsuccessful. Unfortunately and to our big disappointment his application for an entry visa was not allowed to be submitted. The official in the Consulate argued that he was unable to deal with his application, given that Tahir is an illegal alien in Thailand, thus eligible to ask for a visa to Poland in Bangkok.

After the unsuccessful attempt in the Consulate of Poland, together with some of my Australian friends, we decided to investigate an option of relocating Tahir to Australia. As this is written, we are in the middle of preparing his application for an Australian humanitarian visa. Despite a fact that we will do all in our power to prepare some good quality arguments, we are aware that his chances of success are slim.

Despite our lack of success and constant disappointments, I do believe that we will be able to find a solution to his dramatic situation, even in the time, when there is so much of apprehension deriving from fears of refugees. Tahir is a young, genuine and hard working person, who happens to be in the seemingly hopeless situation; a person who is rejected and hated because of his religion and his background back at home (in Pakistan), and a person who has no opportunities to support himself and lead a normal life here in Thailand.

I am fully aware that helping Tahir is not going to ‘save the world’, and I know that there are thousands of people that have similar (and worse) problems. It is all true. However, it is also true that for whatever reason, I got to know Tahir, and that I got challenged to face his suffering. It did happen and I am now unable to look away…

This is precisely why, I decided to write to you, and ask you kindly for your support in front of relevant authorities, so that it becomes possible to start the procedure of granting Tahir the protection in Poland. As I mentioned, together with my family and with my friends we are ready to commit assisting Tahir while in Poland, so that there is no need for use of public funds on his case. It is therefore that I beg you for help, beg you for assistance, as this young life needs support so that it can survive.

I am finishing this long message by underlying that I am ready to provide with any additional information that you may need. In the attachment, I am including numerous information on Tahir himself, but also about the situation of the Ahmadyyia in Pakistan, and indeed the situation of refugees in Thailand.

I would like to thank you in advance for any help and assistance that you are ready to provide.

Kindest regards, Roman Majcher"

Archives (18th November 2015): Spanish language exam

Terrorists attacks in so many places around the world, growing racism across Europe - especially in Poland and the countries of the region do not encourage to be cheerful. Some good news however is that there is a little bit of progress in getting ideas on ‘durable solutions’ to the Ahmadyyia asylum-seekers that I am trying to help to resettle somewhere. After Poland’s rejection to even accept his asylum claim (look the post here), we are exploring possibilities of sending him to Australia, Canada or the USA. I will write a proper post on it soon - so look out, if you are interested.

In 3 days, I am having my B1 Spanish language exam at the testing centre in Bangkok. Do keep you fingers crossed!

Archives (11th October 2015): Refugees unwanted

I am in a very bad mood. For last year, I have been trying to help one of the Pakistani asylum seekers (of Ahmadi origin) survive in Bangkok. The life of the asylum seekers in Bangkok is really difficult, and there is no exaggeration in a statement that every day is a struggle for survival. As you can imagine, the situation of religious minorities in Pakistan, especially of the Ahmadyyia origin is completely unacceptable. They do face extreme forms of persecution on daily basis. So when the Embassy of Poland in Bangkok decided not to help in relocation of my friend to Poland so that they could seek protection there, I clearly was disappointed. When I look at it, this is how I see it:

Written by life / Please share if you find worth doing it.

Poland: I am beautiful, I am nice, I am compassionate, and I care for humanity! I am PERFECT!

Asylum seeker: Hello Poland! I run for my life, they wanted to kill me, they stole all I had, they burnt my shop where I worked. Now, it is still very hard. I can’t get work because who I am, they hate me and because of that they refuse me my documents, they refuse me going to hospital. I will die, if I am not helped. I am however happy that you Poland can help me!

Poland: Yes, we will protect you. We love humanity, we fight for the oppressed! You can ask for a protection in our country, and when we make sure that you tell us the truth, you will be able to stay with us, and we will help you! We are WONDEFRUL and HOSPITABLE people!

Asylum seeker: This is great. I am so lucky to have found you Poland! Please accept my application for an asylum!

Poland: But we cannot do it. You need to be in Poland to ask for that privilege.

Asylum seeker: I understand, then I can just go to Poland and ask for your protection there?

Poland: Yes, you just need a visa to get there, and apply for my protection there!

Asylum seeker: I am really happy to hear that! Please give me a visa then, so I can finally go and be listened to, by you wonderful people!

Poland: We can’t give you a visa.

Asylum seeker: But why? You told me that I could come and seek your protection… (tears in asylum seeker’s eyes).

Poland: Well, you do not have proper documents to apply for a visa.

Asylum seeker: But, I do not have these documents, because they would not give them to me. This is why I need your protection. They hate me in my country, and they harass me on every step of my life. They want to kill me, they will not give me documents that I need.

Poland: This is your problem, not mine. Next customer, please!

I am beautiful, I am nice, I am compassionate, and I care for humanity! I am PERFECT!

Archives (24th September 2015): Cliff

A very sad piece of news has reached me from the United States. My college friend, Cliff Burger has just passed away. Cliff has suffered from a brain cancer for a long time. He faced his illness with courage and an amazing dignity and integrity. He will be truly missed by many. May you rest in Peace!

Archives (6th September 2015): Central Europe and refugees

As many of the European countries struggle to find a solution to a crisis caused by an influx of refugees from Syria and northern Africa to Europe, the 4 Central European countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) have sent a shockwave across the continent by sending a clear signs that they are not likely to support any European consensus on obligatory sharing of burden of accepting refugees on their own soil.

Regardless of whether these countries will eventually decide to soften their position or not, I am astounded to learn that after suffering so much during the recent world war, as well as decades of communism, we are so unwelcoming and unable to offer a helping hand to those who really need it. Perhaps, we should all remind ourselves that we are all signatories of Universal Human Rights Declaration, and as such have responsibilities towards refugees. If our countries are unable to accept humanistic approach to the crisis, perhaps at least we would be able to consider our international obligations that we have subscribed to?

Archives (30th August 2015): Lucy Strickland

Lucy Strickland, my dear friend with whom I worked in Ethiopia has been nominated as one of the finalist for the prize of Pride of Australia in the category of ‘Inspiration’. Details can be read here. Congratulations to Lucy!

Archives (29th August 2015): Shame of Europe

I am certainly not a very proud citizen of Poland and Europe these days. When following how Europe is dragging its feet on helping refugees from Syria, Somalia or Eritrea I feel ashamed. If this was not bad enough, I think that we are witnessing a re-birth of large scale Nazism in many parts of Europe. Sadly Poland’s society, which suffered so much from the evils of World War II seems to be actively involved in the promotion of xenophobia and hatred towards refugees that flee their countries in search of an opportunity of peace. I dearly hope that I am wrong, or that people will stop and reflect, but I just worry that we are heading towards the conflict that will be impossible to manage. There is too much hatred and suffering that goes nowhere. Very sad times!

Archives (15th August 2015): Finishing my break

I am now at one of Warsaw’s airport hotels waiting for my flight to Dubai. My summer in Europe is finishing now, and going back to Bangkok to resume my duties in the office on Monday. It was fun to be here, and looking forward to my next experience.

Archves (11th August 2015): New pictures online

Holidays are always a good time for photo taking. As I am touring Spain and Poland, I take some pictures from my whereabouts. You are definitely welcome to have a look.

Archives (26th July 2015): In a holiday mood

I am going to travelling for my holidays in 4 days, and I am certainly in my holiday mood now! It has been an enjoyable, but certainly busy 3 months, and I am looking forward to some free time in Spain and Poland! Although, when I am in Spain, I will actually be studying (I will be a student of a language school) in the mornings, it is still a nice prospect… using Spanish and enjoying sites of Gran Canaria, and then visiting my parents and friends in Nowy Sacz should be pleasant enough.

In the meanwhile, things here in Asia are mixed. While all goes well in my personal life, things do not necessarily go so well, when it comes to the countries which I follow. The problems of the Muslim communities in Myanmar are as severe as they have ever been, and the effects climatic consequences of ‘El Niño’ suggest that we will be having some really busy times in North Korea (drought), the Philippines (drought and cyclones) and across number of islands in the Pacific. At this stage, it is the North Korea that makes me worried the most. Lack of rains have quite devastating effects on rice and maize production, and if rains do not come, we may be heading to a very serious food situation at the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016.

It sounds like it will be a very busy end of 2015, so I’d better make sure that I switch off from work and relax during my 2 weeks of holidays, so that I do not get too tired too quickly later. However, whatever happens, I will be in touch!

Archives (19th July 2015): An evening out

Yesterday my Bangkok friends called me up and told me to be ready for a surprise evening out. They came to my flat around 4:30 in the afternoon and announced that we were going for a dinner in Pattaya (a tourist destination, east of Bangkok). At first I thought that it was a bit crazy to go so far for a dinner only, but then it was Saturday, and I really needed to stop thinking about my recent trips to Myanmar and DPRK, so all in all I was quite pleased with the idea. So off we went… to enjoy a stroll on a tropical beach and an Indian treat in one of the local restaurants there. Turned out to be fantastic: great company of friends and wonderful food!

I was especially pleased to have an easy evening out, as my mind is preoccupied with my experiences of DPRK and western Myanmar, which I have just visited in recent weeks. A looming food crisis in Korea and an ongoing animosities between Buddhist and Muslim communities of Rakhine State of Myanmar made me feel somehow depressed. The magnitude of human suffering that I saw in these two places, and a realisation that there is very little resources to deal with these problems (read: the human suffering is likely to intensify and carry on for a long time) made me feel uneasy and helpless. A talk with friends and an evening out allowed me to have some different perspective on issues, and motivated me to stop feeling sorry but challenge myself on what I could do better to advocate for at least some action to help out at least a bit. While I have no illusions that I have no leverage on turning things around in any of these places, I can do some small bits that may have some positive effects for some communities: not ideal, but better than nothing! All in all, I am all motivated for action, however small!

Archives (13th July 2015): Back to Yangon

I am writing from Yangon today. I am vey tired, as I have just returned from a rather physically demanding trip to the western part of Myanmar (Rakhine State), but also very happy to be in this country again after many years of absence. I will write more about my experiences here (and in DPRK as I have promised previously), but this will happen when I back in Bangkok in a few days. In the meanwhile, just wanted to greet you all from one of the most enchanting cities in the world - Yangon!

Archives (28th June 2015): Back from DPRK

I realise that I have not been proactive when it comes to writing updates in here. I was away from Bangkok in DPRK, and was very busy there, without much chance to write. Now, I am however back online, and will restart writing. Thanks for your patience!

Archives (14th June 2015): 20K in Warsaw

Presidential elections in Poland prompted lots of emotions… From my perspective, what was really depressing was a fact that the pre-election campaign gave opportunities a surge of xenophobia and hatred towards all kind of minorities that live in Poland. Although I was not surprised, I was astounded by lack of empathy to problems of so many of people living in Poland. On one side, everyone seemed to worry about poverty and social injustice, but only as long as it concerned white Poles… the moment that we start referring to problems of refugees, foreigners, non-Christians, LGBT, Roma communities… the compassion quickly vanishes... As a society, in Poland, we fear minorities… All these debates on ‘Poland’s values’ made me feel sad, as I could not agree with so many things that I read about and listened to. Clearly, I need to accept that democracy is all about the majority’s views, and as such I humbly respect that many people in my country tend to favour conservative values, but this does not mean that I agree with it - hence my very mixed feelings… happy to see people being able to express what they say freely, but sad to know that we still dislike difference.

Somehow, there was a ray of hope in Warsaw yesterday. The Warsaw’s Equity Parade attracted 20,000 participants! It was the largest one ever organised in Poland. In addition, the novelty was that there was no counter-parades arranged by the nationalistic movements (well, these may come later though). Except for the rights for LGBT and disabled community (traditional themes of Warsaw’s parades) this year’s happening heavily focused on rights of refugees and migrants in Poland. I really, really liked it and was happy to see that many politicians, actors, companies and civic society organisations openly supported the event. Most importantly, as mentioned, 20,000 people came! There is some hope after all Winking

Archives (6th June 2015): June updates

It is already 6 months since I arrived to Bangkok! Time flies indeed… I feel like I have lived in Thailand for ever, although still in October 2014, I was still in an environment of war and conflict of South Sudan.

Moving to a new place frequently prompts new opportunities and brings changes to ones life. Moving around is not new to me, as I constantly do so. Arrival to Bangkok is still special. It is for a first time for a very long time that I have arrived (to settle) to a city that could be considered as ‘modern’, with functioning infrastructure and with vas variety of entertainment possibilities. It is perhaps an odd thing to write, but instead of benefiting from it, Bangkok overwhelms me and sometimes makes me scared. I guess I have alienated myself from modern appliances and modern way of life, and seeing rushing people with their eyes fixed on their phones while driving, walking, eating out or in a metro makes me feel lost. Here, another odd thing that I am going to write is that is some ways, I really felt more comfortable in Juba, where life was clearly much more difficult, when you think of comforts. To be fair though, I am enjoying being able to walk on streets of Bangkok without anyone wanting to shoot at me, or assault me. This is definitely a welcoming change that I enjoy!

When I arrived to Bangkok, I started learning Spanish. This is one of the best thing I could have done. Initially, the lessons were difficult, but it is exciting to see that just a few months later, I am already able to communicate quite a lot. Now, really motivated to keep it going and would like to make my Spanish fluent within next 18 months.

2 days ago, the Embassy of DPRK granted my visa. If all goes well, I will be travelling (for work) to Pyongyang at the end of June. This is really exciting and I am looking forward to visiting a place that is so little known by the world.

Archives (29th May 2015): Refugees in South East Asia

The Bay of Bengal refugee crisis has changed my plans, and instead of travelling to Brussels for internal meetings in the HQs of my organisation, I remained in Bangkok to follow-up on negotiation progress between the countries on how to handle it. Today, the Government of Thailand is hosting a meeting on finding solutions, but so far, as it is reported, the meeting has not yet brought fruits: Bangkok Post article.

Archives (16th May 2015): Talks about refugees

I just got back to Bangkok from Jakarta, where I met with various organisations trying to deal with the most recent refugee crisis in South East Asia (Myanmar and Bangladeshi refugees trying to seek safety in countries of South East Asia). I have to say that this trip affected my personally a lot… It is already a while since I have been dealing with so much hatred and so much unwillingness of lending a helping hand to the poorest and the most vulnerable victims of conflicts and prosecutions. The last few days I hear nothing but excused of why it is okay not to rescue people from starvation and thirst and seas; why it is okay to deport refugees back to places, where they are likely to face severe prosecution; and countless reasons of why it is justified that the wealthy countries do not welcome refugees, out of duty to protect order within its boundaries. Hatred, xenophobia, cynicism, lack of compassion and lack of empathy are the adjectives that I will associate with May 2015. As nations, communities, civil society organisations, and indeed individuals - we should be ashamed that we do so little to help those who need help, or worse so, that we advocate for actions that potentially harm refugees. I think that we are experiencing a very severe crisis of humanity that will turn against us altogether sooner rather than later. Shame on us the humans!

And here comes an associated article relating to the above.

Archives (9th May 2015): Typhoon in the Philippines

The end of my holiday in Poland is a bit stressful. As I pack to go back to Thailand, we are hearing that many people are bing evacuated from northern parts of the Philippines, due to the typhoon that is expected to make a landfall on Sunday. I may be needing to travel to the Philippines to carry our humanitarian assessments, right after arriving to Bangkok.

Archives (8th May 2015): Back to Bangkok soon

May holidays in Europe is great, but it is time to start thinking of going back to work. After a week in Poland, I am now packing, and preparing to travel back to Thailand this weekend. While, I have really enjoyed staying with my family, hiking, visiting friends, and sightseeing; I am very annoyed by the politics in Poland. The country is in the middle of the presidential campaign, and the hopefuls for the job try convincing Poles to vote for them. Many of our presidential candidates seem to favour xenophobia, lack of respect for the natural environment, and a total lack of respect of diversity of any kind (religious, racial, political, etc.). Personally, I am saddened by this, and feel uncomfortable with the level of political scene in Poland. In that sense, I am glad to be leaving the country, so that I can focus on my work, and forget about the language of hatred that I hear all around me.

Archives (4th May 2015): New Website

As promised, here come a slightly refreshed version of my pages. At this stage (May 2015), lots of resources are unfinished, and are ‘under construction’. While I am sorry for inconvenience, I hope that the site will be fully operational soon.

You will have noticed that while much on the site remains the same, there are some modifications. The main addition is a section on immigration to Poland. The changing times: economic situation in the world and in Poland, as well as demographic developments started processes that we would never imagine that could take place: immigration to Poland. This new, for us, phenomena is full of opportunities, but also cause a considerable uneasiness among many Poles. I find all of these processes extremely interesting and worth some attention - hence this section.

I hope that you will enjoy new and refreshed website! Warmest greetings to all!