A spokesman of children’s rights appeals not to call children euro-orphans, because this name has got pejorative tinge and stigmatizes. It is better to use the name ‘children from transnational families’, that is, the ones in which one of parents lives abroad.
In 2014 the spokesman of children’s rights published a report which shows that 1/5 Polish students are euro-orphans – permanently or temporarily. The study ‘A child, family and school facing parental migrations: 10 years after the accession to the European Union’, as the report had this title, showed that mostly fathers rather than mothers go abroad. Psychologists say that separating families, except for other reasons, also causes changes in children’s psyches. We will understand soon who are the young generation- of adult euro-orphans.
The name ‘euro-orphan’ appeared in 2004, but was called a social problem by media in 2008. More and more Poles were going abroad to work there. Especially in Northern-eastern Poland villages and towns were getting deserted. Those who had already gone away, started encouraging their families, acquaintances and neighbours to go there. Whole coaches, mostly full of men, were going Through the La Manche canal. First priests spoke about this phenomenon with great concern about the shrinking number of their parishioners, and so did teachers, who said that more and more their students were euro-orphans. The situation became so serious, that the National Education Ministry decided to express its opinion. The report ‘A child of a migration family in the education system’ was elaborated on the basis of questionnaires carried out among teachers. It turned out that it was worse than it had been supposed. The long-term separation from parents results with a vast number of children’s problems – from troubles with a student to depression, various kinds of addictions, getting involved in a conflict with law or event suicide attempts. For, children were not always under care of one of parents, grandparents or close family. It used to happen that parents used to scare their teenage children with orphanage, that they would leave them behind if they said a word to somebody. One of such teenagers wrote after a few years of life on his own that the only sign from his parents were often greetings in the bank transfer .
Even today some part of the society do not see anything bad in this mass emigration. Finally we can open up to the world, travel to new countries, get to know languages, customs. And in the country – we can have a good standard of living. One of village teachers says about how in his eyes the image of the village is changing positively. Families, especially the poorer ones, can live in a better way. They bounced up from the economic bottom, buy computers, install internet. Children are driven to afternoon classes in bigger centres, they mostly go to the doctor, for example a dentist, and finally they see something more than a sign with the name of their village…Families, especially in the first period, also seemed glad. An unemployed father at home and the father who earns three average salaries monthly is a big difference. Time and experiences were needed in order to understand that not every family finds its place in the situation of separation; that the economic success has its price, and often it is very high. The public opinion was shocked by news from media about Polish children at English airports who were not picked up by anybody; by excesses of teenagers left under care of grandparents, etc.; by not poor flats into which policemen and social services enter in order to take a child left behind without any care to an orphanage house. The Labour and Social Policy Ministry is alarming that 1300 euro-orphans were taken to foster families and orphanage houses only in 2013.
How to measure benefits and losses?
On the 10th anniversary of expanding the European Union, a lot of such calculations were made. The German press noticed, for example, that just we, Poles paid the highest price for the integration. ’Die Zeit’ wrote: ‘Emigration of young Poles led to the situation that in many villages only elderly inhabitants and euro-orphans, children without parents and brought up by grandparents, have remained, that families have fallen apart. From this human side, Poles paid a very high price for the new freedom’. Time is passing and the image of the Polish emigration is changing. Today people prefer going away with whole families. It is poorer, more difficult but together. Unfortunately, it means that they are not thinking about return to homeland. Those who have already got their trodden paths, that is, can move in the EU job market, go away for a few months in order to earn money and come back. Later the cycle is repeated. The first and the second models, in experts’ opinion, causes serious disturbance to the social structure in Poland. It attacks regions where a lot is said about the traditionally strong position of the family – mainly the southern and eastern Poland.
There is still another side of the medal. According to the report of Surveys Migrations Committee of the Polish Science Academy, the number of divorces after Poland accession to the EU is rapidly growing. The dumb victims of this phenomenon are children. For example, in England a divorce is an issue of only a few months, and most divorces are accomplished by correspondence, without necessity of attending a court case.
It is said that when they grow up, they will also go away like their parents. It is declared so by about 40 percent of euro-orphans. They take their own picture of life on emigration from their visits to their parents on holiday or during Christmas, when parents try to do everything for their offspring, so children think that they got to a paradise. However, there appears reflection more and more frequently that, in fact, these young people cannot find their place abroad, and they do not feel convenient in their own country. Being treated as rich poor children for years, they think that everything belongs to them. They find it difficult to put up with all restrictions and demands. Certainly, it is not a homogeneous picture. Euro-orphans are also children who had to grow up very quickly, taking on adults’ duties. In order not to disappoint their hard-working parents, they did not complain about anything, but were keeping home very bravely, paid bills, tidied up and washed clothes. In the evenings they used to tell their parents via computer how they had spent their days, which became the only form of a face-to-face contact with their parents.
Poland is also touched by another unbeneficial phenomenon – about 300 thousand Polish children and the youth from emigration since 2004 have been living abroad at present. It looks as if one generation disappeared suddenly. They attend English schools, have rare contact with Poland and will not surely return to it. Their number in families of our emigrants has increased during 2 years by nearly 30 per cent. This definite number increase of Polish children abroad is showed also by surveys carried out by Polish organizations in England. Only in London schools (not including the public ones) do about 22 thousand Polish-speaking children learn. It is nearly three times more than in the year 2007!
Poles who work hard abroad, are irritated by the fact that their children are called euro-orphans and that they are themselves showed as insensitive and thoughtless people, focused only on earning money. – Nobody leaves his children if he is not forced to. Nobody who has some feelings. And, please, do not forget that the situation in the country has forced us to behave so. And these are us who have been suffering from the separation for months and years. Therefore, do not blame us for euro-orphans, for the fact that we made a difficult choice. What is to be blamed is the country, economy, the international situation…and only God knows what else. We are doing it for our children. For their better future – one of mum, working as a nurse in Germany commented on it in this way.
According to surveys, at present over 2.5 million Poles from emigration after the year 2004 have been living abroad.