I left Poland on 18 September 1987. I left because of the closure of the Warsaw editorial office of the Radar magazine, where I was working. Dismissal from the journalist's post and banning me from pursuing the profession were meant as a punishment until my political spine "straightened up". I happened to have an invitation to West Berlin from a friend in my pocket so I decided to go for half a year or a year to brush up on my German and then return to Poland. When I was departing I felt I had no other option but to live in Poland, continue to be politically active and write documentary articles. My vision of life was journalism only, against a backdrop of political protest against the communist system.
Communist opposition in West Berlin
Before the departure my friends in Warsaw gave me a few important addresses and names of Polish Solidarity activists who had emigrated to Berlin. From the ZOO Station I took a taxi to a rented room. It was located in a ruined tenement house in one of the worst quarters of the city. First of all, I enrolled on a German course (I had brought about 500 West German marks from Poland – my savings from the previous visit to Germany) and began getting in touch with Polish emigrants on the phone. The first Pole I met was Edward Klimczak, who ran an oppositionist publishing house and magazine „Pogląd". Quite soon I joined the circle of Polish Solidarity activists. We would meet in various organizations such as the Polish Refugees' Society, the Polish Social Council in Berlin and the Polish Church. I participated in street demonstrations for the restoration of the Solidarity Trade Union in Poland.
The key dilemma
However, it was three months later when my tourist visa expired, that I faced the choice: should I return to Poland or apply, as a political refugee, for political asylum. Oh, how well I can remember the thought that then terrified, surprised and absolutely dismayed me: I, so full of journalistic enthusiasm, engaged for the sake of Polish patriotism: "No, I don't want to return to Poland!" I did not analyse my inner reasons then. I continued to be involved in the Polish cause, I wrote again for Polish press and I still felt an activist for Solidarity, so everything was seemingly OK. And yet it was completely different. I realized that in Berlin I was free to choose: I could continue to be active in the Polish circles but I did not have to. The choice I had not had in Poland. There it was a duty (this is the way I had been brought up in my family home) to fight the enemy. A duty to fight for independent Poland to which everything I wrote was subordinated. Whether it was a documentary about a drug-addict, a suicide or a station bum: communism was to blame for it all – so down with it! And in Berlin, at the time of making the choice whether to return or to stay, I felt tired of this duty. Tired of Polish patriotism, Polish moral imperatives ... Among Germans there was a strong interest in the events in Poland. Not only did they organize aid by sending lots of parcels to Poland but they also extended financial and political support to emigration activists in Germany.
After going through the asylum procedure I obtained asylum. A political asylum-status holder acquires all the rights of a citizen of a given country except for the voting right. And so I had an unlimited residence permit for Germany permitting me to travel to any country of the world except Poland and other communist countries. I was protected by labour law, I received social benefits and financing of one of the best courses of German. I was still part of the emigration community but I was already looking curiously at the city I was living in. Multicultural, colourful, vibrant in the day and at night. I wanted to understand it, breathe its atmosphere and be understood by it myself.
The good distance
I got married to a Pole, had children and the family became my top priority. Bringing up or, as Janusz Korczak used to say, keeping my children company in their lives, I became convinced that they had to be free and face their choices without being told or forced to do anything. And so with time I began distancing myself from the Polish emigration circles.
My beloved profession of a journalist became impossible to pursue. I retrained to be a nurse and worked for many years as a care person in nursing homes. This was the next valuable experience I have gained in contacts with Germans. How to talk to and take care of the "executioners" of my country and the "non-executioners", that is their children, who lived during the Berlin economic miracle in Adenauer's times. These and similar German-Polish confrontations, later to be followed by confrontations with other nationalities such as Turks, Russians and former Yugoslavian peoples, have enabled me to gain more and more distance and now I have strengthened in my distance from Poland, its history and sense of mission. And this is what I see as the greatest success on my emigration road.