TWO FACES OF POLAND
Even a border was defined. It is not on a map but it is perceivable from a closer perspective, in small towns or villages. The border between poor and rich Poland. It was marked on the line Elbląg – Krosno. On the right there is the so-called eastern wall, in which the income per one inhabitant is much smaller than on the other side of the border. Various important institutions, with the Main Statistics Office on the helm, remind that these two kinds of Poland are getting more and more distanced from each other. The problem is that when one lives in a big city, this difference is not visible, similarly as in a small village, somewhere in Roztocze. These two realities are seen only in a wider perspective. Someone even noticed that this phenomenon is best described by two popular serials – this municipal and pro-European rich Poland is ‘Family.pl’ and the worse one, with a distorted face is ‘The world of the poor’.
Is it really so?
Recently media have informed that the poorest town in Poland is Pieszyce in the province of Lower Silesia. The income of 1590 zlotys of gross is per one inhabitant there. In Warsaw the approximate salary is about 6 thousand zlotys. A rich Pole spends approximately 1/5 of his income luxurious things, whereas an average Pole is trying to make two ends meet in order to pay bills and buy food. Specialists for employment market think that the smallest ‘oscillation’ in economy will quickly cause the increase in number of the latter ones. Although little is said about starving and living in cold Poles, practically the country is doing nothing in order to help them. The social assistance system is ailing. For example, last year only 30 million zlotys were spent on support for families with many children, endangered by poverty.
Polish poverty is in the centre of our attention from time to time, like on the occasion of the recently published report of the Main Statistics Office about malnourished and neglected children. Unfortunately, emotions did not last long – the news about children living in poverty was blurred by the Olympic games in Soczi. However, it is impossible to push aside the problem all the time. This embarrassing truth about poor children is a disgrace for everybody. The recent report of the Main Statistics Office informs that there are 1.4 million hungry children and the youth among 8.9 million children and the youth in Poland. 90 per cent of Polish children have tooth decay, 600 thousand have never been to the dentist, and 530 thousand have not consulted the doctor specialist.
Tooth decay among the youngest ones is also the result of what they eat. And according to the Main Statistics Office, half a million of them do not eat enough regularly. ‘They do not eat enough’ –means that only once during two days a child eats a proper meal, that is, the one which includes meat or fish. Parents do not buy them fresh fruits or vegetables because they are too expensive for them.
The problem with education is similar. 450 thousand children for not have books to learn because their parents cannot afford to buy them. 1.4 million children do not travel anywhere in a year – even for a week for the same reason – because their parents cannot afford to pay for it. They cannot afford to pay for extra classes, either, like extra lessons or activities developing children’s talents. Thousand children wander along streets of Polish cities, who waste their time and their abilities. Complaints that there is nothing to build the national staff from, have their far echo just there – in the places where there are not trainers….and so on.
A poor Polish child grows up in a poor Polish family. He has both poor grandparents and relatives. In some regions this is inheritable poverty, through many generations. If nobody gives a helpful hand to a child, he will be in the same place as his father and grandfather.
The Main Statistics Office monitors and investigates the phenomenon of poverty. It is watching and classifying it. It turns out that the unemployed on the dole are in the worst situation. In the second place there are families with many children – 25 per cent of them do not satisfy even the basic needs. In the third place there are Polish farmers – 60 per cent of them live on the verge of poverty. Later there are: pensioners, family with one unemployed person, inhabitants from the east, finally, families with a disabled child.
It is the most difficult to live in small towns. In the countryside people somehow live on what grows on the land. Whereas in big cities it is easier to find work and there are many – especially in big agglomerations – organizations helping the poor. Whereas – in small town the situation is dramatic. Workplaces announced bankruptcy long time ago, which employed people in the whole town. There is unemployment and nothing suggests it will decrease. Who was courageous enough, he went away from Poland in pursue of happiness in a rich united Europe. But not everybody will go away. There are regions with unemployment reaching even 30 per cent. In such places there is the so-called extreme poverty – that is life on the verge of the minimum of social benefit. It is best seen in the aforementioned families with many children. In Poland 10 per cent of families with three children and nearly 27 per cent with four children exist near the verge of endurance. Support which is offered to them by the state does not practically give them a chance for any life in dignity. Employees of social care state that such families need basic help – in purchasing shoes, clothes and food.
The rich in a Polish way
Who is a rich Pole? Analytics from the Finance Ministry estimate that near the Vistula about 50 thousand rich people live, that is, those whose monthly income is over 20 thousand zlotys. About 550 thousand Poles are in a slight worse situation, who earn from 7 to 20 thousand zlotys. The group of rich Poles also includes people with the monthly gross income between 4 and 7 thousand zlotys – according to the analytics there are about 2 million of them. For a few years Poland has been a country where the demand for luxurious products is still growing. It is estimated that in the year 2015 Poles will spend 1.8 milliard zlotys on luxurious things.
Dealers of known car makes do not complain about the shortage of customers. In 2013 over 300 thousand brand-new cars were purchased, and more by 5 per cent than in 2012.
Developers say that their business has come out of crisis. It has been prospering for 5 years. New flats, so the richest ones, are bought not only by rich people but also those who can afford the purchase only on bank credit. People get burdened with credits for many years, because they have a sense of financial safety, that is, permanent income or they follow the philosophy ‘I will buy it and I will live on somehow’.
Wealth is seen in travel agencies. After decades, when the peak of luxurious life was holiday in Bulgaria, Poland are hungry for the world. We choose exotic countries – the most popular ones in 2013 were holidays in Dubai, on Maldives and in Sri Lanca. The cheapest price to fly there is 3 thousand per person.
The best way to live, is life in a kind of a triangle whose base is the south of Poland and the peak is the Tri-City. Poland is also full of islands where it is better to live than on the so-called in the mite. The islands are the agglomerations: Warsaw, Łódź, Poznań, Wrocław, Tri-City, Cracow. The proverbial ‘Galician poverty’ moved further into the East. Lesser Poland province is doing quite well, although nobody will overtake Mazowsze.
Not divide but help
There is nothing bad in wealth, especially when it is the effect of hard work, creativity and education. And it is often so. The rich are a driving force of the well-functioning economy. They are getting rich and also allow others to earn money. However, it is worrying that there is a discrepancy between the rich and the poor. And if to look broader – it is seen that there is more and more empty space between them.
The fact that in Poland more and more yachts of 25m length are being sold, cars costing over 100 thousand zlotys, and in Warsaw the meter of a flat can cost even 30 thousand zlotys does not prove the fact that Poles find it better to live. It means that only a small per cent of Poles have better life. The rest of them must look for extra work, work overtime, otherwise they will hear: ‘Be happy that you are employed at all’, thinking how to pay off one loan and take another one…Finally, how to cook dinner for 5 zlotys and survive till the first of a month.