In our latest Postcards from Poland blog post, Eva Hussain, CEO of Polaron, explores the journey of supporting Jewish people to reclaim their Polish citizenship.
Jews had been living in Poland since the Middle Ages, the country becoming home to the largest Jewish community in the world by the end of 16th century, with an estimated 80% of world’s Jewish population living there at the time. Thanks to the relative religious tolerance and social autonomy, Jews developed a rich social and cultural life in Poland. In fact, they were the country’s largest minority.
One the cusp of World War II, three and a half million Jews (10% of the population) lived in Poland, the highest percentage of Jews in any European country. Today? It is estimated that fewer than 10,000 Jewish people live in Poland, but the Jewish life they are creating as we speak is vibrant, exciting and best of all, sustainable. No one really knows how many Jews of Polish origins hold Polish citizenship through descent, as many reclaim their citizenship with the intention of living in Europe, not in Poland itself.
Since 2003, Polaron has assisted over 7,000 people in reclaiming their Polish citizenship, approximately 60% of whom are Jewish. The task of providing ancestral documents required for the application with the Polish government is harder for Jewish people, in terms of both paperwork and the emotional memories many families face. To be successful, they need to talk to family members, look through boxes of old papers and open doors that have been closed for a long time. And this is where the assistance of a professional company with extensive experience makes a difference. We are very good at piecing it all together and understanding how to work with the puzzle that family histories often are and do so with incredible respect and sensitivity.
When asked, I often say that process of reclaiming Polish citizenship is both easy and difficult. The legislation itself is flexible and liberal however, providing documentary evidence given the passage of time and the destruction of various archives, is often very challenging. Whilst more and more archival resources are becoming digitalised in Poland and abroad, making research easier, for some clients we start with very little information as many ancestors simply never talked about their past or were able to keep documents. In some cases, it takes months of painstaking research but no matter how difficult, we’re yet to fail a client we take on. We check their eligibility prior to accepting their case since we do offer a money back guarantee. And then we work extremely hard to see client cases to fruition.
Whilst Polaron is located in Australia, we serve clients from as far as Canada, USA, UK, Argentina, Israel, South Africa and New Zealand. In fact, we are the largest and oldest Polish citizenship company in the world. Staffed by researchers, project managers, historians, translators and archivists, our team provides full support and services needed to confirm people’s Polish citizenship.
Having been born in Poland to a Jewish family, I moved to Australia in the 1980s. I maintain close links to the Jewish community in Australia and abroad, having committed myself to building bridges between the two diasporas. I contribute to the Australian Society of Polish Jews and their Descendants and the Polish Community Services of Victoria by serving on their boards, and to various initiatives and institutions in Poland, including the Polin Museum, Jewish Historical Institute and Jewish Community Centre in Warsaw. Ensuring that the Jewish life and memory lives on has been at the forefront of my mind for a long time.
We are proud to support the Urban Jewish Heritage Conference and are looking forward to supporting initiatives aiming at preserving the Jewish heritage, history and culture in Poland. It is events such as this that make the presence of Jews in Poland more prominent and sustainable. In this day and age, it is more important than ever.