This impressive increase in the number of registered voters abroad is indicated by the clear involvement of Poles living abroad in the affairs of their homeland. Although geographically separated from Poland, their emotional ties and national identity remain strong. Polish women abroad often maintain close ties with Polish culture, language and traditions, which shapes their sense of duty to the country.
Iga Strzalka, who has lived in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, for two years, treats participating in elections as obvious – there is an election, you go to vote. But now, after living abroad, that clarity is also a challenge. It became complicated when the point was not 500 meters away, but a five-hour journey across two different countries – there is no polling station in Bishkek, and the nearest polling station is in Almaty, Kazakhstan. “I can save some time by deciding to ride with a Central Asian taxi driver who can drive at up to 240 kilometers per hour, with a speed limit of 60 kilometers per hour. I also hope that I will not encounter any difficulties this time.” At the border. With good winds in both directions, I’ll spend a total of about seven hours. “If you decide on the safe option, with city transportation – about eleven hours.”
A similar journey awaits Jadwiga Matelska, who has been living for four years in the picturesque Econonzo region of Colombia, where only one electoral commission has been created – in Bogotá. Despite her advanced pregnancy, she does not want to give up voting, even though the journey will take up to five hours by car or bus along winding mountain roads. — Unfortunately, I know that some Colombian citizens living in other cities in Colombia (for example on the Caribbean coast, about 1,000 km away) had to resign from participating in the elections due to logistical difficulties and costs of flying to the capital, he says. “Round-trip plane tickets cost at least several hundred zlotys, and there is often the issue of accommodation, the need to take a vacation, etc.”
Kinga Easturland will not give up such a huge campaign. Although she lives in Uruguay in Montevideo, she will cast her vote in the Argentine capital, because that is where her closest diplomatic representation is located. “I decided to combine the 2023 elections with a tourist trip and kill two birds with one stone. Due to the time difference, voting will take place in Buenos Aires on October 14, and a day later the local Polish community will gather for a Peruvian restaurant meeting celebrating democracy – regardless of the results.”
Ana Bittner, who lives permanently in Portugal, will not vote this year. She has been voting abroad for many years, and it has always been more effort for her than going to the polls in Poland. “Getting to the nearest commission in Lisbon means traveling a distance of about 300 kilometers one way. It is a very time-consuming and, I might add, an expensive journey. You can choose a bus or a train, but the journey takes more than four hours, not counting the journey to The station and then to the commission. Poles who live in the eastern Algarve may still be thinking about the commission in Seville, but in my case it is also 300 km. I also work that day and simply cannot afford such a long journey.
Margitta Filipic does not want to give up voting. She voted in the recent presidential elections in India, where she lives. Now she will vote in Athens, where she is currently traveling. – I am happy and appreciate the fact that I can vote while traveling or living in another country, he admits. She modified her travel plan to include voting, which is normal and important to her. On October 15, in the morning or evening, she will take a three-hour ferry to the port of Piraeus, and from there she will take the metro to cast her vote. He added, “I hope that the turnout everywhere will be really high in this year’s elections. In Delhi, 219 people registered to vote, and in Athens, more than 2,200 people registered, so I expect to stand in line on Sunday.”
Maja Klemp, from New York, also expects there will be a long line on Saturday, October 14, because both Americas will vote that day. As many as four polling stations were set up in New York City, two in Brooklyn, where the density of the Polish diaspora is highest, and one each in Queens and Manhattan. Voters also have the opportunity to cast ballots in Yonkers, New Jersey, and nearby Long Island.
Queues outside the Polish Consulate in New York, 2019. What will the situation be like this year?
– Seeing the queue to vote makes me happy! – says Maja. “We will go with friends, and there will be an opportunity to socialize. In 2019, when more than 3,000 people signed up for the list, my mother and I, who were visiting at the time, stood for more than 50 minutes, enjoying every moment.” There is something touching in the eyes of people who, regardless of the inconvenience, willingly use their electoral privilege. And I am even more surprised when I hear that many Poles living in Poland, with a polling station right under their noses, do not go to the polls.
Polish women abroad not only vote willingly, but are also members of electoral committees. This is the situation Danuta Lazarczyk, living in Berlin. The work will begin early in the morning of October 15 at 6 a.m. and end on October 16. After all votes cast have been counted, official documents will be prepared, and protocols will be safely transferred to the National Electoral Commission system. This year, a record number of election committees were created in Germany – 47 in total, including seven in Berlin alone! This means that with 410 provinces outside Poland, every tenth committee will work in Germany. – I did not check all the committees – says Danuta – but in Berlin, about two thousand Poles declared their readiness to vote in each district. From a regulatory point of view, this is a really big challenge. Therefore, like every member of the local election commission, I dream that my compatriots will be polite, punctual and cooperative, that no one will break the electoral silence or provoke unpleasant scenes, that no one will destroy electoral cards, and that all votes cast will be deleted. be valid. And that everyone will respect each other, regardless of the feelings that accompany us on that day.
We can predict the sentiment, because no one knows for sure how Poles abroad will vote. Until recently, Maya Klemp viewed New York’s Polish community as a strong, conservative constituency. “After hearing the applause with which Polish audiences greeted Agnieszka Holland at the New York Film Festival, I have some doubts, perhaps like the Polish president who recently appeared at a Pulaski screening and, instead of a declaration of love, heard that ‘he’ll sit down.’
Regardless of political preferences, the Polish diaspora intends to start voting by storm. Where does this large-scale mobilization come from? Although they live outside the country, their strong emotional ties and national identity make them feel committed to their homeland. They actively participate in political life, and want to influence the formation of Poland’s policy on issues that directly concern them. Maja Klemp raises a very important argument in this discussion, saying that these elections will be decisive on the issues that have always mattered to her, regardless of regional division. Women’s rights, minority rights, animal rights, environmental protection – engagement with these issues does not have to end at the borders of the country in which you currently live.
Iga, who left Poland relatively recently, talks about another very important issue. “Even though I am not in our country currently, when I think about my future – I think about Poland. And when I talk to my friends in Kyrgyzstan, when I talk about Kyrgyzstan, I say ‘in your country’, even though I have been living here for a long time.” In the second year, because in my country – that is, in Poland. That is why I feel so pained when my students, dressed from head to toe with their hair covered in a headscarf, which the average Polish citizen associates with extreme oppression, say, “I feel sorry for Polish women who do not have the right to choose. Because they are able to choose – “Women in No to Poland. I want to go back to Poland, where everyone is treated with respect. This is my vision of the country I want to live in.” Poland is home to Poland, and one of the most important steps to achieving this is to vote for like-minded people. Having a choice is a great privilege and everyone should take advantage of it – regardless of their vision of Poland.
Polish women living abroad care about the direction their country is taking and want to have a voice in political decisions. They often realize that their participation in elections may influence the formation of Poland’s policy on issues that concern them personally. For example, Margitta says: “I am Polish, regardless of whether I live in Poland or not. I don’t want to feel ashamed of my country, and I don’t feel comfortable explaining to my friends from India or other countries why I left.” Having a country in Central Europe limits my rights to make decisions about my life and health, and constantly increases financial debt and religious influences that I don’t want to identify with. Politics receives great attention because it has an increasing impact on the lives of Polish women and men. From international relations, to access to contraception, to huge taxes on small businesses, to not being able to go shopping on Sundays.
Not everyone believes that Polish society should have the right to vote. Some may view this with greater skepticism, fearing that the Polish diaspora will have different priorities and interests than Poles living in the country, which could lead to contradictions in electoral beliefs. However, Polish women make it clear that as long as they have voting rights, they will be treated with respect and will participate in elections. Jadwiga from Colombia has not lived in Poland for four years, but she maintains close ties to her homeland, both with her family and her work. He does not rule out moving to Poland in the near or distant future, and political issues and who will rule in his homeland may be one of the main factors in making a possible decision to return. “I used to think that public education in Poland was at a better level than, for example, in Colombia, but today I have a lot of doubts. That is why I participate in the elections and I am deeply interested in the internal situation in Poland. I vote because I want to have a place to go back to with my family. A multicultural family and I want my son to have the opportunity to grow up and receive an education in a friendly, open, tolerant and modern country.
Mariola Serra, who currently lives in Jordan, also teaches children to respect voting rights. Three of her four children had never lived in Poland, but she taught them from birth to be proud to be Polish, and to respect the traditions and history of their homeland. “Although they have never lived in Poland, they are Poles, they have a Polish passport, they speak Polish, and they go to Poland regularly. They will go with me to the elections. They will come back from school (Sunday is a holiday).” “A day’s work in Jordan) and we’ll go vote together. That’s what my parents taught me, and I teach them the same thing.” They should know that their right to vote is important.” It is equally important to show children the right to vote. Mariola believes it is better to set an example from above, so she has been actively involved in the non-political Women for Elections campaign. She adds: Polish women’s voice matters, no matter where they are now.
It is difficult to predict how Polish society will vote. What all voters have in common is a common thinking about Poland, regardless of political preferences. It is better for this Poland to unite them, not to divide them.
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