Back to Poland

Below we present a subjective story by Dorota Mazur, our former correspondent from the Netherlands, who – after a long stay in this country, where she worked on temporary contracts – talks about the clash with Polish realities after returning home. Dorota and her husband Mariusz are now parents of a lovely Liliana (born on March 2016). The other story by Dorota you can read in the Netherlands by Dorota.

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Mariusz and Dorota in Kinderdijk, the Netherlands

POLAND

Decision to return home was not difficult. After six years of living in a scheme: “work – home, work – home” we were very tired of this way of life. Besides – a long awaited pregnancy accelerated this decision. The question then arises, why, expecting a baby, we had not decided to stay in the Netherlands? Well, in Poland we have a family, own apartment, friends. And in Poland we wanted to baptize our child…

In January 2016 we finally returned to our home country, having luckily settled all formalities and various matters. The money that we have managed to save, as well as some Dutch benefits, like an unemployment benefit (WW – uitkering) and maternity allowance (WAZO) allowed us to spend first months of our stay in Poland with no worries, enjoying our newborn daughter. But our bad informed friends often used to ask, why we did not want to give birth in the Netherlands as – in their opinion – the child would get the Dutch nationality? Where from comes such a stereotype – I do not know. The truth is that the newborn child can obtain Dutch citizenship only if at least one parent is a Dutch person.

Our daughter Liliana was born on March 16, 2016 r. at 5:24 pm, in Maternity Hospital in Walbrzych.

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I am not able to compare perinatal care in the Netherlands and in Poland. Anyway I was very pleased with my stay in the hospital, medical care during delivery and right after it. I do not regret that I have decided to give birth in Poland. The hospital in Wałbrzych meets most European standards in terms of medical facilities, equipment and care, with one exception – food. Food was (like in other Polish hospitals) practically very paltry, while in the Netherlands patient can choose meal a la carte. Happily almost every hospital has buffet where people can buy something extra to eat.

Both in the Netherlands and in Poland the insurance ensures mother and her baby a postnatal care at home. In the Netherlands it is a “kraamzorg”, including assisting at the home birth, care of mothers and newborns = preparing meals, assistance with bathing the baby, daily temperature measurement and other care of babies. Maternity care in the Netherlands also includes maintenance of the house, that is a daily cleaning of bathrooms and toilets, bed linen change, preparing meals for other family members, play with older children. That’s a lot, but this care is partially paid and depends on the amount and scope of the insurance policy.

In Poland after leaving the hospital mother and child have right to 4 visits of a midwife or a nurse. And in this case a midwife will also give advices on the care of the newborn and breastfeeding and will be also interested in the mother’s health. This care does not include other family members however. Although I used the right to all visits of a midwife, I was informed that in a case of any trouble I can always call for her, who will help me. So I do not think that Polish perinatal care is bad.

The other aspects of the state care of the family are not that idyllic for us. Because of the income from the Netherlands we met the wall not to be broken down in a matter of any financial support for baby. Although having born our daughter in Poland, which is also a Polish citizen, the state gives nothing for her, including the so-called “becikowe” – one time newborn baby bonus = 1000 zł (approx. 230 euros), which was introduced in 2006 for all parents, regardless their income. Since 2012 however this benefit depends on the income criterion for a member of the family and is 1922 zł netto (447euro). As we are “rich people” we do not belong to this group, and we also can’t get the so-called “family benefit”.

Family allowance is paid every month and it is initially 89 zł (approx. 20 euros) and is intended to cover partial costs of the maintenance of the child. After some time this amount increases, however also in this case there is the income criterion =  674 zł (156 euros) per member of the family. In many cases the revenues are taken up from 2014, so we do not qualify in any way. At the moment we have submitted a request to the Dutch office SVB (Sociale Verzekeringsbank) to grant us “kinderbijslag” for the period after the childbirth, when we still obtained income from the Netherlands. We are waiting for decision now.

Another “wall not to be broken down” is to find work that allows maintenance of the family at a basic level. Yes, work can be found within one or two days, but at the beginning with a very low pay, usually 1300 – 1500 zł (approx. 300 – 350 euros) netto per month. I mean ordinary worker, often working 12 hours a day, without equivalents for additional or night hours. Unfortunately, the so-called “national average”, which in Poland = 3291,6 zł gross (about 765 euros), is in reality affordable only by a very few ones. About 2/3 of Poles never earned it and will never earn.

Recently the Polish government has introduced a minimum rate per hour for those working on the so-called “Commission agreement” = 12 zł gross (less than 3 euro). I think that bragging by the Polish government in the international arena that in Poland hourly rate = approximately 2.8 euro gross per hour is offensive to the dignity of a Polish worker. At least the Dutch, the British, Norwegians and other nations learned why so many Poles still prefer to live abroad. I overlap a small reflection that leaving Poland 10 years ago for economic reasons I also escaped salary of 1300 zł (approx. 300 euros) per month of work. Decade has passed and wages are the same. And although the lowest salary (currently not less than 1850 zł – 430 euros gross) increased slightly in this time but all taxes, deductions, insurance also did so net income remained virtually unchanged.

I think it is also worth mentioning the monthly expenditure by the average Polish family. In our case, and we have our own little 2-rooms apartment, basic charges, such as rent, bills, insurance is about 1000 zł per month. Families who rent their apartment must add the cost of about 600 – 800 zł. In larger cities such as Wroclaw, pennies are almost 2 times bigger. So it is not possible for one person to ensure basic survival for the whole family, because he simply does not have enough money for food, clothing and other expenses.

That’s all when it comes to the first half of the year in Poland. I must explain that everything I wrote is not a complaint of the fate of the “returning emigrant.” We were well prepared for what awaited us after coming back to Poland. This story is primarily written to show that in fact a widely trumpeted Polish economic development, improving of the existence of many Poles, etc., is only propaganda for  creating a good image in Europe. Decline in unemployment and economic growth of our country is greatly influenced by Poles working abroad and sending their money to Poland. It is estimated (according to the polskieradio.pl website) that within 10 years since our entry into the EU Polish emigrants sent to the country of more than 234 billion zł (approx. 545 million euros). And it has been kept in mind that many of them work abroad illegally…

 Although the Kingdom of the Netherlands gave us enough money for maintenance in recent years, yet we do not plan to return there. We know that if we go there again, it will be to stay there forever. We are considering several options for our future, and the Netherlands will be the last. We want to live in Poland – it is our homeland.

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Dorota Mazur, September 2016

SUPPLEMENT

At the moment (March 2017) new rules apply to returnees. These individuals may apply for few social security benefits such as for newly born (becikowe), 500+, and other minor benefits.