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Reader’s Club in Ozarow

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.  (c) Mark Twain

The idea of ​​the club in Ozarow Mazowiecki emerged due to the large number of migrants living in the given community. With the cooperation of people who are being active in the local community and local authorities represented by Mayor Paul Kanclerz we managed to bring to life our initiative. We try to involve migrants from Ozarow, Jozefow and Błonie. We talk about practical things to help everyone in their everyday lives (legal matters, access to education) and of course let’s not forget about the culture – we discussed the literature and invited people who deal with the written word in their professions.

It all began in the summer of 2011 (see more in Polish). Already at the first meeting we manage to discuss the very important things – such as amnesty for undocumented foreigners. At the meeting, children from Chechnya had made a performance, which emphasized traditional dances and songs  specific to their culture. From the Foundation the meeting was attended by Marija Jakubowycz. Other people that were present – IOM representative Pawel Barabasz, Marina Hulia – author of  a book “Aschab and a slice of pizza”, and Ms. Alina Holk – Director of the House of Culture.

As part of the Club in Ozarow a monthly magazine Our Choice for migrants was presented to the local community (see more in Polish). We managed to talk with representatives of the magazine staff and representatives of the Foundation Our Choice, which engaged in preparation of the magazine. We discussed in our group how the publication may change and whether it should be changed to meet the needs of the migrant population in Poland. As part of our monthly discussion we also analyzed the issue of education of children of Ukrainian migrants in Poland – in particular, Ukrainian language teaching.

Then we touched on the subject of aid to the homeless people in Warsaw – in particular the homeless migrants, because at that point virtually noone bothered to discuss the matter and understand the scale of this phenomenon. Foundation Ternopilska wants to help these people – that’s why it was important for us to hear different opinions on how to effectively help people in difficult situation.  At a meeting also issues of social intervention in the case of children abuse by parents had  been addressed and cases of violence against women in migrant communities had been discussed. We tried to understand when one should take action, to whom one can turn to and what is the best time to do it. At the very end we had a heated discussion on the so-called topic “shadow area” of employment formed by migrant workers.

On Sunday, 18th of December 2011  St. Nicholas after accepting the invitation from our organization was on his way to Ozarow Mazowiecki to pay a visist to children of migrants in Ozarow (see more in Polish). Although he had a lot of work – it was an honor for him to meet with Ukrainian migrant community in the municipality of Ozarow . We are very grateful that St. Nicholas found time to subsitute his Ukrainian friend St. Mykolaj, who unfortunately had some issues with getting a visa at the consulate in Lviv, and so he contacted us and provided information on how to ask for help from his Polish colleague. Well, as you can imagine in case of St. Mykolaj even being saint doesn’t mean you will get a visa at the Polish consulate.

Our event started with a workshop for parents called fairytale therapy. Workshop was conducted by Joanna Piekarska from National Library. The interesting fact is that she wrote her Master thesis analyzing fairy tales of Andersen – Ms Joanna told us really interesting things about folklore and fairytales of many nations. Every parent during the two-hour meeting heard the stories describing the importance of reading books to children.  All  of us received information on why children should read literature so it can have a positive effect and what topics to avoid in selecting books for them. And then we had a discussion on whether children should watch TV, if so – how long and what programs. And what about toys? We had a brief conversation about what toys we usually buy for children. Ms Joanna completed the workshop talking about how we can effectively assist children in overcoming their fears (even unreasonable), and how to deal with conflicts in the family. Unfortunately,we had to stop at that point because children were waiting for the celebration and St. Nicholas was just few minutes away.

Oh well, we had to start without St. Nicholas, who was stuck in traffic jam in the city center – we all know that EURO’12 is coming. Our celebration was hosted by Housefwife Iryna from Ukraine. But in a moment  Naughty Girl Oksana joined, who wanted to start immediately and spoil the big holiday. But after interesting competitions, solving puzzles and singing it turned out that she was very polite.  To the great joy of all the families St. Nicholas finally arrived. After his arrival  children received gifts and also wanting to give smth back  they prepared poems and songs. The evening ended with a joint photo session and then our guest left to bring happiness and joy to other homes.

On January 15th 2012 we met in Ozarow Mazowiecki, in order to discuss amnesty law for undocumented migrants (see more in Polish). The theme was very timely, as from 1 January 2012 already people could submit such a request for amnesty in Warsaw. Our special guest was Mrs. Carolina Rusiłowicz – lawyer from the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, who kindly consented to spend a few hours from her very busy schedule to attend our meeting.

We regret that not everyone could participate in discussions about the law – but winter and some health issues go hand in hand and some of the people were not physically able to come and talk. But we know for sure that the information reached them in time as they friends and family were able to pass on the knowledge.

In the beginning, however,  Marija Jakubowycz held a brief discussion on whether migrants should create a library in Ozarow and we are pleased to announce a clear interest in the initiative. We will make every effort for the library to be soon established in the framework of the Foundation and Ozarow Mazowiecki government cooperation.

Then we move to the questions of amnesty law Ms. Karolina in details told about the major legal and formal issues. Each participant was able to ask questions and receive a professional answer, given the current information that is available to Foundation Ternopilska and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. We tried to discuss the amnesty in the context of Office for Foreigners, organizations representing migrants, but also taking into account the experience of people who have already submitted such a request. The main point of the meeting was a detailed analysis of the documents submitted with the application and analysis of application for a permit for temporary residence, which any person applying for the abolition must fill in four copies. We finished our meeting talking about how each of us legalized his/her stay in Poland – challenges and advice.

On 5th of February 2012  next meeting of the has been held (see more in Polish). Although there was no good weather on Sunday afternoon and the cold did not allow to function  everyone normally, we had the honor to host representatives of migrant communities in Ozarow for several hours meeting.

Part of the meeting was devoted to issues of practical importance for the participants – amnesty was often discussed topic, so we talked about how to seize the opportunity to legalize the stay. Each person received the information to which the organization can turn for assistance to fulfill formalities for residence permits (and including the submission of an application for amnesty).

However, the most important part was devoted to discussing Foundation’s appeal to the authorities representating the embassy of Ukraine. The corresponding letter with signatures will be sent to explain the repetitive and rather unpleasant situation, namely the fact that no representative of the embassy took part in meetings with the migrant communities in Żyrardów and Ozarow during almost 2 years of the Club functioning. Foundation Ternopilska had sent numerous invitations but we had no opportunity to host representatives of the Ukrainian government to discuss issues relevant to migrants. We have seen great interest in the action and want to inform that the collection of signatures will continue in the upcoming weeks. Marija Jakubowycz also proposed to start collecting the signatures for the establishment of Library for migrants in Ozarow.. We finished our meeting a joint discussion on the future of Polish migration policy in regards to the recommendations received from the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.

Evaluation of the Club for the first period of project implementation can be found here (in Polish)

On march 25, 2012 we held another  meeting of the club  – this time we hosted the famous Ukrainian writer Volodymyr Areniev (see more in Polish). The meeting was devoted to the analysis of the literature in Ukraine in comparison to the Poland and other EU countries. Mr Areniev because of his experience was the right person to explain even the most controversial and sophisticated issues. We managed to talk about the obstacles writers face in their everyday work, the influence of Russian literature on the population of Ukraine, the funds needed to promote the culture of reading. In addition, the issue of  school program for pupils has been addressed – the program that can romote effectively reading of literature among the young population of Europeans. We finished our meeting talking about fairytales and how they reflect the culture and traditions of a particular country. We want to thank Mr Areniev and all participants for a very interesting meeting in a friendly atmosphere. The interesting pecularity of this meetings in Ozarow (compared to that of the prior day in Warsaw) was a performance of Signing Warsaw choir –  materials (including the presented photos) from the meeting are avaliable in Polish on http://rozspiewaniawarszawskie.blogspot.com/):