OUR FAMILIES TORN APART

WITOLD DUDZIŃSKI

It is years that not only the German, but what is worse – the Polish authorities have been deaf to the voices of Polish parents in Germany whose children were taken away by Jungendamt under all kinds of pretext. Maybe it will change

Some Polish media have been noticing the problem for years. Journalists have described it a lot of times, not two tragedies of other Polish families living in Germany. In Poland particularly publicized issues were the ones of divorced people, who were complaining that the Jugendamt – that is – the German offices for children and the youth – made it impossible for them to speak Polish during their controlled meetings with children. The offices were to take care of the good of the family, but, in fact, they are breaking it, taking away children, sometimes by force.

A real nightmare is being experienced by Polish families which were deprived of children without being informed about particular reasons, surely because of false reports on them. – Seven police officers and a woman from the Jugendamt entered my house and took away my children by force. I was helpless, they were taking away children from my by force… - says Aleksandra Urbanik, who has not had any contact with her children for weeks.

Under a magnifying glass

The jungendamts is one of the longest-lasting German institutions. When they were being established in the 20s of the XX century – their activity seemed necessary. They were an institution taking care of difficult youth, depraved because of the war. However, later they became their own caricature. Having taken over the authority in Germany in 1933, the Nazis included the network of these institutions in their educational system.

After the Second World War the offices for the youth did not stop existing but they were not taken over by the local governments either and have been owned by the German lands till today, that is, the union countries. It is just the thing in which they belong to the lands, not the country – for years idleness of the latter has been justified in the most drastic cases. Practically, there is no sphere of family life, into which the jungenamt could not interfere. It is observing particularly children from foreign and mixed families. And the observation begins already in….maternity hospital. Here is the place where it is assumed that a mother will not be able to bring up her child as she is single or a pretext is made up. – Children are taken away not only from Poles – although these are the most occurring cases, in the one-fourth cases – in the name of the good of a child which is no good at all, but, on contrary – says Dorota Arciszewska – Mielewczyk, a MEP of the Law and Justice Party.

New germanization

Jungendamts became an element of germanization. – If it is forbidden to speak Polish language, it is forbidden to attend the Polish choir, religion education, so how to call it?! – the MEP Arciszewska-Mielewczyk reacts angrily. – One of parents fighting for regaining a child got a court statement that speaking Polish in Germany has a bad influence on psychological development of a child.

On the one hand jungendamts are accused of interfering into the life of families and breaching their private life, but, on the other hand – paradoxically – also sluggishness and neglect by carers or when families are bullied. What does it depend on that the offices once work in an over-zealous way, but another time do not react at all? It is not known. And when it is not known what all is about, it is all about money.

Children taken away from foreigners or mixed families are placed in German families. And this is a clear brutal business for jungendamt, a self-government-political institution, over which no minister has control – says the MEP Arciszewska-Mielewczyk. – Jungendamts and German families receive a lot of money for bringing up these children.

The good of a child

Sometimes a neighbor can report on a family and make the German services intervene. – Jungendamt with the help of police may enter a house at any time of a day, if, in its opinion, the good of a child is endangered – says an attorney Stefan Hambura, who lives in Germany and helps Poles. The term ‘the good of a child’ is not defined anywhere. – Sometimes very little can cause the brutal action of the order services supporting the action of jungendamt: for example, a neighbour’s report on a family is only needed, when he or she is in conflict with the family.

During an intervention, officers threw away a cross belonging to Justyna Preschel living in Wolfsburg, which she had given to her daughter, saying that they did not want any Polish cross. –One of the officers said that it was the Polish cross while they had the evangelic ones. After all, Christ died on the cross, not on the Polish cross.

Wojciech Pomorski, a president of the Polish Association Parents Against Discrimination of Children in Germany, says about a tragedy which was experienced by Weronika Drozdowska: against her will, children who had been taken away, were separated. Some of them were taken to a house in which they are brought up by a couple of homosexual women.

Complicated matters

Aleksandra Urbanik, Justyna Preschel and two other Polish mothers from Germany took part in a conference in Berlin, organized by this association. The situation presented by them is dramatic: jungendamt took away nine children altogether from them. There are dozens of such families. Beata Pokrzeptowicz, as a trustworthy person, who represents a lot of Polish families being victims of the situation, in German courts, in trials against jungendamts, experienced discrimination herself. A few years ago the office forbade her to contact her son.

Parents who want to regain their children, are going through gehenna in courts which generally take the side of jungendamts, and the policy of the German country in this issue is ruthless towards Polish families. Court trials tend to take a long time, are often dragged in time artificially, demand a lot of money. People are destroyed psychically, financially. They are not able to cope with the administration of justice.

Despite popularizing the issue in the recent years nothing has changed. – Cases of taking away Polish children in Germany are going on and nothing about it has been done. Children are taken away without any reason – says Beata Pokrzeptowicz.

Late and little

The appeal of mothers to the Polish government, made after the mentioned conference, to receive help in regaining their children taken away from them by jungendamt met with reaction of the justice ministry, which stated that it is doing everything it can do to solve the problem but it will not happen at once. For now, during a meeting a few months ago, the vice-minister of justice Michał Wójcik passed over postulates to the Germans concerning the activity of jungendamts.

The first and the most important one concerns the fact that in the matters of care, a child should be placed in a Polish family. This is nothing extraordinary, as one of the articles of the Convention of Child’s Rights says directly that a child must have maintained identity, language and culture. – There cannot be a situation when, for example, there is a court dispute or a legal proceeding in which a child is placed, for example, in a German or Turkish family – says Wójcik. In his opinion, it would be too much at the beginning. – I found out that I have been the first minister who arrived here for this kind of matter.

But for the families who fell victims to this situation and people having contacts with jungendamts every day, everything is going on too slowly. Attorney Stefan Hambur postulates demanding on complete liquidation of the offices for children and the youth in Germany and replacing them with another office which would undergo control. The president Wojciech Pomorski thinks that the Polish government should go for it: if rights of Polish citizens living in Germany are not respected, it is necessary to terminate the Polish-German treaty. The very announcement of it would force the Germany authorities to react.

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„Niedziela” 27/2017

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Lidia Dudkiewicz • Translation: Aneta Amrozik • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl