Home in Poland, kids in Vietnam17. 4. 13
I came to Poland in 1999. As a student of Russian language and culture in Vietnam, thanks to very good grades and excellent academic performance, I had a possibility to get a scholarship to Poland. In the beginning everything was new to me. During my scholarship, when I was fulfilling my student obligations, I didn’t have any problems with legalizing my stay or extending my resident permit. After I got used to everything that was new to me, at the first sight I started to learn Polish, and I really started to feel better here.
I like the Polish society very much. I have many Polish friends here. I can easily say that now I know Poland better than other Asians. Actually, sometimes I almost feel like I’m Polish. I graduated from the Faculty of Polish Studies at the Warsaw University. I also attended the School of Foreign Languages in Łódź, hence my fluency in Polish. After graduation, I decided to continue my education because I believe that the education is very important in human development. I have also received a degree in accounting at one of the private universities in Warsaw. Soon after graduation, I have been working in restaurants. I am a manager in one of the Vietnamese restaurants. Where I also have administrative duties.
I help our employees with obtaining work permits. I also help them with prolonging their residence documents. My friends from Vietnam often ask me for assistance with dealing with formalities for legalizing their stay in Poland or applying for the work permit. They benefit from my command of Polish immigration law as well.
I have two children: daughter 6 years old and 4 years old son. Both were born here, in Poland. After my maternity leave I was very absorbed with work. It was very difficult to juggle between work and motherhood. I really wanted my children to have a real home. Because of my duties there was a risk that they would have spent whole days in the kindergarten. I also wanted them to get to know their roots, motherland and the Vietnamese language, so I decided to send them to their grandparents in Vietnam for a short period of time. In 2011 I flew with my daughter and son to Vietnam. I left my children with their grandparents and returned to Poland alone. My kids had to stay in Vietnam for a while because in August their residence permit was to expire.
When I was back in Poland I wanted to extend the residence permit for my children but I didn’t know if I was able to do it when they were overseas. I consulted this issue with many friends who were once in a similar situation and I found out that these circumstances are not an obstacle in my case. I always like to be well prepared and informed, so, just in case, I went to the Mazowieckie Provincial Office. At the information desk, I asked again about the extension of stay for my children who were abroad. The staff wasn’t able to give me a specific answer. I felt lost in a maze of contradicting information.
Finally, I submitted an application for renewal of residence permits for my son and daughter. I was invited for an interview with an officer, whom I honestly told that I am not able to predict when exactly I will bring the children back to Poland. I was still considering whether to send my six-year-old daughter to kindergarten or to wait a year and send her directly to primary school in Poland. I really wanted to make decisions which were good for my children and provide them with comfort and sense of security. The officer I met with was shocked when he heard that I'm not able to precisely inform him about the time when my children will arrive. My application was declined. Firstly, because of the fact that my children are abroad, secondly because of the lack of specific information when I intend to bring my children back to Poland.
My children did not receive the extension of residence in Poland. I was so disappointed because I did everything I possibly could to find out how to correctly fill in the application and to abide to the Polish law. If I had known that my children staying abroad would have been an obstacle, I would have bought tickets right away and went to Vietnam to get my children and extend their documents here in Poland. I was upset that despite many efforts I have not received direct information from the officials that my children have to be in Poland in order to obtain a positive decision and now there is nothing I can do.
I understand that the law is the law but officials could have given me a chance. I feel guilty that my children can’t be close to me. It hurts me that they can’t turn to me for help or for a hug when they need it. My parents who are Vietnamese did not understand the situation and accuse me of failing to understand regulations regarding children in Poland. They do not understand the local procedures - they live in a different culture. They are tired, the kids are a heavy load for them, and I can’t help them at the moment. It really hurts and it is hard for me. I'm going to re-apply but this time I will give a specific date of their arrival in Poland. I think that the biggest problem for immigrants in Poland is to bring their families here. After the Abolition there is no problem with legalizing the stay but everyone wants to be here as a family and that's not easy. Many of my Vietnamese friends struggle with the same problem. If I were to give advice to my countrymen, I would say - be precise and demand from government employees specific and clear information. The difference between Polish and Vietnamese culture? Poles like to make a specific plan and we, the Vietnamese people, always assume that there is always something that may change our plans, so we never make a detailed one.
This article is one of the migrants’ contributions to the project Migration to the Centre.
The article has been written with support of the Europe for Citizens Programme of the European Union and the International Visegrad Fund. The article reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.