Let me tell you how I feel as a foreigner married to a Pole perceived by the Polish authorities as their public enemy, after my family and I have gone through real hell caused by the ruling Law and Justice Party.
On 5 September the Regional Administrative Court in Warsaw reversed the decisions issued by the Mazovian Voivodship Governor and Head of the Office for Foreigners that had denied me the right to reside in Poland. According to a confidential letter issued by the Head of the Internal Security Agency I was considered a “threat to the state security”. Based on this opinion, a national and European ban prohibiting my entry into the EU was issued (in the SIS) which subsequently resulted in my expulsion from the Schengen area on 14 August 2018.
The Court, however, acquainted itself with all these confidential documents and described the information they contained as “very general”, “terse”, and “insufficient for such refusal”, considering that such findings “have not been derived in a rational manner from the gathered materials”.
Currently, the case still needs to be reconsidered by the Mazovian Voivodship Governor, who is now supposed to either grant me a residence permit or provide more reliable grounds for his refusal. The Governor also reserves the right to appeal against the judgment with the Supreme Administrative Court. All these procedures may take us several months. Therefore, I am still not allowed to come back to Poland, but that moment is now getting closer and closer.
Let me tell you how I feel as a foreigner married to a Pole perceived by the Polish authorities as their public enemy, now that my family and my co-workers have gone through real hell caused by the ruling Law and Justice Party.
First of all, I am quite relieved by the Court’s judgment and I hope that Poland still stands a chance of turning back from the authoritarian and anti-European path it has been taken down by its current authorities. I am grateful to Polish judges for their perseverance and courage to protect their independence. I perfectly realise how great is the price they have to pay, and what challenges they need to face. My case has just proved that the fight for free and non-politicised courts in the context of human rights is extremely important. And it is a duty for all people who would like to live in a free country.
I intend – to the best of my abilities – to continue taking efforts to reinstate the rule of law in Poland. We are going to oppose the arbitrary actions taken by party members and their propagandists whose impunity has encouraged them to treat me as their easy prey in order to show their power and intimidate other opponents. Contrary to their expectations, the outcome of this case has ridiculed the Polish state.
The Law and Justice Party tried to destroy and disintegrate my family
A couple of days ago, Maciej Wąsik, Vice-Coordinator of Special Services and Deputy of the new Minister of Interior, Mariusz Kamiński, admitted on the Polish National Radio Channel that the evidence gathered by the Polish services was “incomplete” and insufficient for engaging the Public Prosecutor. This is why they decided to take advantage of the Act on Foreigners and antiterrorist procedures. The substantiation of their decisions was kept confidential as its disclosure might allegedly “cause serious harm to the Republic of Poland”. This statement now sounds like an ironic prophecy, considering that the decision of the Polish authorities has been contested both by other EU Member States and by Polish courts.
The Law and Justice government tried to destroy and disintegrate my family, ruin my reputation, deprive me of my dreams and everything else that I did and loved – just because my husband and I dared to remind the authorities of my second homeland that the Polish constitution and European values should be adhered to.
Some of these efforts have been successful. Due to the negative propaganda, many people have turned their backs on us “just in case”, out of caution or fear of being victimised as well. Luckily, many others of them have decided to stand against injustice and abuse of power. We have also felt solidarity on the part of other European countries and institutions which have not been convinced by the secret files of the Internal Security Agency. This eventually allowed me to return to the EU, despite fierce protests and outrage of the Polish authorities.
I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart all those who have never failed to stand by our side.
Poland is just like occupied Crimea
In my opinion, over the last couple of years Poland has found itself under the occupation of Law and Justice, which is quite similar to the situation of Russian-occupied Crimea. Although this analogy seems quite forceful, I consider it accurate. The state monopolised by the Law and Justice is trying to annihilate everything that stands in its way, to poison interpersonal relations and to destroy all individuals (and even random people) who dare to oppose them.
I personally come from occupied Crimea. Many inhabitants of that region are now unable to return to their homes and families, just like Oleg Sentsov and Oleksander Kolchenko, who have been recently released from Russian captivity.
What is most difficult in such circumstances is that you sometimes have no chance even to say goodbye to your close ones as they pass away. Due to my entry prohibition, we did not manage to visit my husband’s beloved grandmother last summer before she passed away a couple of weeks ago at the age of 95. That was the first and also the last summer that we did not visit his granny. The Law and Justice Party deprived me of the right to appear at her funeral as well. Yet, I am hopeful that someday soon we will be able to visit her grave. If it were in Crimea, such prospects would obviously be much more distant.
Unarguably, Poland still differs from Russia in terms of the level of oppressiveness and corruption of its authorities. Nevertheless, the similarities between Russia and Crimea under Putin’s regime and the system that is now being developed in Poland by Jaroslaw Kaczynski are quite striking. Let me quote just a few examples of these similarities: an axiomatic belief in the leader’s infallibility and holiness, vulgar (and hypocritic) conservatism, marriage of the throne and the altar, hostility towards Europe and European values, a siege mentality and a tendency to regard the nation as the last hope of humanity, subordinating foreign policy to local interests, entrusting control over the state to party members and their cronies, primitive and hateful propaganda, and systemic slandering of defiant groups or individuals.
I long for an open-minded, tolerant and friendly Polish state
I believe that the persistence of civil society, the interest of the international media, international responses, and decisions issued by independent judges are important not only for me, personally (considering my future right to re-enter Poland and to further fight for mine and my husband’s reputation), but also for everyone else, just because they show us that anyone aware of their rights and freedoms may successfully defend them. That is why prodemocratic activists, media, European institutions and, in particular, courts have become the main target of the attacks by the Polish authorities. Were it not for the courts, we would no longer exist.
I long for an open-minded, tolerant and friendly Polish state. I long for the Poland that once allowed me to follow my dreams. Living here and managing my Foundation that supports human rights I was able to help victims of political repression in post-Soviet countries. The Law and Justice party has taken that Poland away from me, but I hope that quite soon the Poles will use their chance to change it all.
I am longing for the day when the Polish Parliament becomes an open house for common people and foreigners looking for support, and Polish judges do not have to remind the authorities of their right to retain independence. The day when Poland once again becomes a role model and true gate to Europe for its Eastern neighbours.
Please do your best to win these elections. For our freedom and for yours. And for our common future.
Lyudmyla Kozlovska is a Ukrainian citizen and President of the Open Dialogue Foundation. She is married to Bartosz Kramek, Chairman of the Foundation’s Board. The ODF and Mr Kramek in person have gotten in the way of the Law and Justice by standing up for the independence of the Polish courts and the rule of law in Poland.
In 2018 Kozlovska was expelled from the Polish territory and her name was recorded in the Schengen Information System in order to prevent her from re-entering the entire Schengen area. However, the decision was ignored by a number of EU Member States who allowed Ms Kozlovska to enter their territories. Eventually, in June 2019, the Polish authorities were obliged to delete the SIS alert, but the domestic ban has been retained. Currently, the couple resides in Brussels.
A group of MEPs representing the Law and Justice called for Ms Kozlovska and Mr Kramek to be deprived of their accreditation at the European Parliament, but the European Commission dismissed their demands.
The Polish Ministry of Foreign affairs has twice attempted to take control over the Open Dialogue Foundation in the course of judicial proceedings, but such attempts have been unsuccessful.
The ODF has been subjected to an ongoing tax inspection for more than two years already. The authorities claim that the Foundation has failed to settle the applicable revenue tax in the case of its revenues that were expended for humanitarian aid for Ukraine. The case has been assigned to the Inland Revenue Office, whose Tax Inspection Division is supervised by a brother of Mr Witold Waszczykowski, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs.