Polish citizenship and Polish passport – truths and myths.

July 8, 2013

Polish citizenship and Polish passport – truths and myths.

Recently, in the papers there has appeared the next text discussing the topic of the Israel citizens’ interest in obtaining the Polish passport and the so called ‘certificate of the Polish citizenship’. The previous one – the moving story of Aaron Seidenberg written by Paweł Smoleński– was published by Gazeta Wyborcza. Unfortunately, the additional problems in this area are created by the increasing number of myths, which are fuelled by the journalists and the untrue ‘heard’ opinions.

Unfortunately, there also appear the unauthorised stories about the ‘anti-Semitic’ stand of the Polish authorities towards proposals for the certificate of the Polish citizenship submitted by the Israel citizens. Meeting several times with people taking care of ‘Jewish’ matters I have heard – that this is unfair – that the Polish citizenship has been taken from people serving in Cahal during the Israel independence war. That it is unfair that now they have to go through the long procedure of applying for the

Polish passport

– in order to obtain something that was taken away on the wave of anti-Semitic actions (it is mainly about people who left Poland in the years 1956-1968).

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Let’s see how it really is.

Law, law and once again law.

First of all, difficulties connected with obtaining (and using the right word – certifying the possession) the Polish citizenship are not only the problem of Israel citizens. In the XX century, many emigrant have left Poland – creating big centres of the Polish community around the whole world. All of them are under the same law and identical rules. The military service – if it wasn’t connected with the service in the Polish army, which was formed in the allied countries during the World War II – and if it wasn’t connected with the fight against the countries of the Axis, it always led to the loss of the Polish citizenship in the period of the first act about the Polish citizenship from 1920 (this law was changed in 1951), and thus the loss of the right for the Polish passport.

The citizens of Israel are not the exception here. And it doesn’t matter – that in Israel the military service was compulsory – and the necessity to fight for the independence in 1948 with the Arabic invaders seemed obvious. The act about the Polish citizenship – which regulated these issues was popularly known. Even – if the life has created the necessity to accomplish a specific and hard choice – it is hard to accuse the Polish country of introducing such regulations.

We should remember – that many countries in the world have accepted the rule of the ‘single citizenship’ – and it was a fundamental rule. The possibility of having many citizenships is the creation of the current times. In Poland, however, this rule had its exceptions – and the loss of citizenship – after obtaining the foreign one didn’t concern men capable of the military service. The Polish law understood the joining the military service in the foreign country as identical to the notice of loyalty of the Polish country (it can be described – that it discussed it as the ‘qualified type’ of acquiring the citizenship of the foreign country, deprived of any exceptions). The person, who was registered in another country in the foreign army – has lost the Polish citizenship. His descendants – and he – cannot now apply for the Polish passport.
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Ratio legis of such normalization was the loyalty of the citizen towards the country and that is why such norm was introduced, that the Poles serving in the armies of foreign countries – in order to fight with the Hitler invader and his allies, who didn’t continue this service after the war – didn’t lose the citizenship. Unfortunately – sometimes with the lack of awareness about this of people. This unfortunately is the situation of Helena Pelermann. From the very human approach, her situation may arouse sympathy – her father fought in the battle with Bolsheviks in 1920, her husband in Monte Cassino. However, when he enlisted to Cahal, he has lost his Polish citizenship, even despite his own and his wife’s services towards the Polish country. He has lost the Polish citizenship – and as the result of this, so did his wife (as that was the law). And again – Dura Lex Sed Lex.

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Polish citizenship and passport

Polish citizenship and Polish passport

Unfortunately – the arguments used in the press articles by the, so could seem, serious journalists are surprising.

And so, the same Paweł Smoleński has written a huge text about Helena Pelermann’s story and her attempts to retrieve the Polish passport —>>>>http://wyborcza.pl/1,76842,6058341,Nie_ma_paszportu_dla_pani_Heli.html.

And we could read there: ‘At first, indignant Maya G. called from Amsterdam. She was looking for a public person, as only such person – she thought – can help. She has chosen Artur Ż. She told him: – Ms. Hela was refused the Polish passport. Artur Ż., director of  “Naszego śpiewnika”, visual artist, committed artist. He wrote to ‘Gazeta’: – Ms. Hela was refused the Polish passport. He added something that media, publicity, several thousand circulation, pressure – all that together may solve the problem. Because – he recognized – this was an exceptional scandal. When I later asked Maya G., what she felt, when she heard about Ms. Hela, she said that shame and humiliation. As if somebody spat on me and kicked me – she said. What, Ms. Hela is not Polish? Do they know that she has kept the Polish uniform in her wardrobe for all those years? And it wasn’t Maya G. who has asked for the Polish passport of III RP and ‘the certificate of the Polish citizenship’, so they didn’t spit on her after all.’.

The biggest harm done to the people interested in the Polish citizenship, who are trying to obtain the Polish passport, is caused by the irresponsible journalists. There appears information about the ‘pressure’ in ‘media’ – giving false hope to many people that there are some secret channels, through which they can obtain the certificate of the Polish citizenship and Polish passport. This also exposes those people to victims of the swindlers, who don’t know the law – but they speak of the ‘contacts’, ‘connections’ and they use many other types of pseudo arguments so that the citizens of Israel can be tricked. I will never know – whether the story about the general of the Israeli army is true – whose father fought in the Polish army and in the war in 1948. He apparently paid more than 10 thousand dollars for services of the person informing that he knew the most important officials in the Polish government and MSW, who could get him the Polish passport and Polish citizenship. The result – the refusal of the certificate of the Polish citizenship.

Because the articles of laws won’t be changed. Similarly shocking seems the quotation used by Paweł Smoleński „The Mazovian provincial governor, Jacek Sasin (PiS), and the head of —>>>>http://tematy.wyborcza.pl/M/2023,MSWiA – — Janusz Kaczmarek, had no idea what they were signing. But they were hiring heartless fools, for whom the article was more important than the human being” (the case was still in progress during the PiS government – thinks Michał Wiśniewski). But today – as in any other time, the result couldn’t be different. The officials and the provincial governor cannot do anything that is forbidden by the rules. The legal rule simply cannot be omitted. It is impossible. Even the biggest love and attachment to Poland and the feeling of connection with this country are not the factors, which authorize to obtain the certificate of the Polish citizenship and Polish passport. The official cannot certify that the given person has the Polish citizenship – if, according to the law, the descendants have lost it 50 years ago. Such a person won’t obtain the Polish passport this way. In exceptional cases, however, this person can apply for the ‘grant of the Polish citizenship’ in the exceptional mode – but then the claims should be directed to the president – and not to the courts or the provincial governor. In order to explain – the way leading through the president’s office is an exceptional way – long and successful only in unique situations. What is more – the legal effects of ‘granting the Polish citizenship’ take place from the moment of granting. So, if Mr. X receives the Polish citizenship today – and he is 80, his children won’t have the Polish citizenship – because they were born before the Polish citizenship was granted to their father. It is different in case of the Polish citizenship ‘acquired’ in the way of ‘certifying the Polish citizenship’ – then we receive the decision – that we always had the Polish citizenship. People interested in the Polish passport will notice the difference quickly.

More bizarrely looking are the information on the websites of the Israeli offices – where we can read that we have to deal here with the discrimination, and the representing lawyers of the clients ‘fight’ with these limitations. There is nothing to fight with here – because this law is from 1920 and it solves situations, which happened until 1951. Any ‘fight’ is only the attempt of the dishonest advertisement. If we really want to obtain the Polish citizenship and Polish passport – we should trust more often the cold and sceptical evaluations – and not the people claiming that they can move the mountains.

Documents, documents, documents.

But let’s go back to the topic raised by Paweł Smoleński. This is the problem of a different type – the lack of documents. Unfortunately, many families, that have left Poland, do not have any documents, which could prove their own or their descendants’ possession of the Polish citizenship. That’s how it is in case of professor Seidenberg. There are simply no documents. They were gone, lost, destroyed. Bad luck? Unlucky. But what are the Polish authorities to do – in case when they encounter such a case? Trust one’s words? But this is not done in any country around the world. Professor Seidenberg simply has no proofs that he was Feliks Kajtuś. Moreover – there are no proofs that Feliks Kajtuś had the Polish citizenship. Feliks Kajtuś leaving Poland with the Polish passport is not listed in any documents.

And the procedure, which is discussed, has the title ‘

possession of the Polish citizenship

’ – so it cannot be given to someone – who cannot present such a certificate (in the form of right documents). We have to admit – that it would be much easier for people who emigrated already after 1950, as their documents are almost always possible to find.

The saddest situation is of those people – about whom ‘Gazeta’ doesn’t write – so, e.g., descendants of Hasid coming from Poland. As they are coming to places, which are important for their cult, and it was very rare for their descendants to serve in the army. However, the specificity of Hasid’s groups was – as it is currently in Israel – the way of life, as if ‘beside the country’. These families have often ignored various administration duties. Also the proper registration of marriages and births. As the result, it is very hard to find any documents concerning their descendants. The similar situation takes place with people living in the pre-war Warsaw – the documents cannot be found – as everything was destroyed.

Let’s imagine the following situation – two brothers were born in the Warsaw Prague – Szmul and Abraham. Abraham had a son, Icchak. Together with his brother in the 30s they sailed to Palestine. The Polish passport of Szmul was kept. It is still kept as the family souvenir. The passports of Abraham and his son were lost. The same with birth certificates. Their children come to Poland every year in order to visit places important to Hasids. And what? Szmul’s children have the Polish citizenship and Polish passports, and Icchak doesn’t. Because nobody can prove that Abraham and Icchak have ever had the Polish citizenship. And so, ‘ the negative premises cannot be ruled out’ – even if they present documents that the Israeli family has always lived together. But in the light of Polish law – who is Icchak and where does he come from – it is unknown. And even if we prove that he is Szmul’s brother, we cannot prove that the legal situation, thanks to which Szmul had the Polish passport was identical to the Abraham’s situation.

Sad – but is it sadder than, e.g., the fate of the daughter of the Australian and Pole, whose child, born ‘without the marriage’, was recognized by the father 1 year and 1 month after birth in the 80s? So exactly after a month after the time, which is recognized by the Polish law as the proper time to recognize the child, which leads to granting him the Polish citizenship. Blood tests, DNA or any other are of no use – the time was exceeded, the case is closed.


The misunderstanding is also a problem – for example, I had a chance to read a comment on one of the Polish social portals saying that ‘ Polish Jews were illegally deprived of the

Polish citizenship

and now they need a lawyer to get it back – and the Polish authorities have the lists of citizens, who have left and they should simply send them these documents’

. It is hard to comment something like that. That’s tough – because, as we can see, people writing such things have no idea what they are talking about. And they do not know – that the Jewish Poles are in a BETTER situation. So, the Polish citizens ‘of the Polish origin’ – who have left abroad permanently usually lost their Polish citizenship according to the law. And their children cannot even dream about the certificate of the Polish citizenship.

In case of Polish citizens of the Jewish origin, the Polish country has committed in most cases a specific procedural mistake – because of which the renunciation of the Polish citizenship can be questioned. And so – not worse – but better. Because Andrzej Kowalski – who left to Germany, has definitively lost his Polish citizenship and the Polish passport, and Mojżesz Goterwald – can still ‘get it back’ (and to be more precise – ‘confirm the Polish citizenship’). And even if Andrzej Kowalski didn’t escape from Poland through the green border – today, he and his children must go through exactly the same way.


All problems, which appear in the subject matter, simply cannot be described – as it would require several dozen – and maybe even several hundred pages of paper. Thousands of factors matter – petitioners’ years of birth, work performed abroad, marriage relationships, military service, the way of leaving the country, Polish and foreign documents. Some of the regulations may seem strange or unfair today. But we should remember – that all of them were standardized by laws even from before 80 years. And even those laws have specified – whether the given person has lost the Polish citizenship. Today the situation of the emigrants’ children is the same – with no difference – whether they are people of the Jewish origin or not. And there is about 20 millions of people around the world with Polish roots. Not all of them will be able to receive the Polish passport and obtain the official certificate that they are the citizens of RP. No group is unique here.
Michał Wiśniewski
The author is the president of the CK Law Office (http://www.cklawoffice.eu), specialised, among others, in the procedure of certifying the Polish citizenship. Currently, CK Law Office is conducting several dozen cases of the US, Australian, Argentinian, Brasilian and Israeli citizens, who are applying for the Polish citizenship and Polish passport.


Polish passport – Not only for Israelis

January 27, 2010

In last years, media and large newspapers wrote a lot about Israelis with Polish roots, who want to confirm their Polish citizenship and get a Polish passport. But – as we suppose – this interesting topic is still being forgotten in USA and both Americas, where thousands of Poles emigrated to in XX century. It is a great opportunity for Pol-Ams, who could refresh their connections with Poland, their old country and confirm their Polish citizenship.


“If at least two of your grandparents had the Polish citizenship and did not renounce it, the Pol-Am is required to apply for what is known as the “confirmation of citizenship”. None of Polish Americans who have asked me about becoming a Polish citizen intended to give up their American citizenship. Neither the US nor Poland expressly forbid a dual citizenship, but neither promotes it. In essence, they turn a blind eye and ignore any citizenship other than their own. That means that a holder of dual (or even triple, quadruple etc.) citizenship is regarded as a citizen of a country he is currently in and is bound by all its laws.” – Justyna Ball reported in “News of Polonia”. It’s a sign that the issue of Polish citizenship will be much more important for Pol – Ams in next years.

Polish passport

January 23, 2010

It is good to know that people who have Polish roots, who do not have documents which prove the Polish citizenship (a Polish passport or ID) or whose personal data and citizenship cannot be ascertained, may apply for an official document which confirm their Polish citizenship – the confirmation of Polish citizenship.

The principles of Polish citizenship are governed by the Constitution of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Citizenship Act of February 15 1962.


Polish law of citizenship is based upon the principles of ius sanguinis. Children born by Polish parents (even one parent) usually obtain the Polish citizenship regardless of the place of birth. Persons born in Poland by foreign parents do not normally acquire Polish citizenship.

Polish law does not deal with the problem of dual citizenship, therefore Poland consider a person with dual citizenship as if he or she was only a Pole. Thus, Poland does not recognize the foreign citizenship of people when they are on Polish soil.

People, who do not possess documents which provide evidence of their Polish citizenship, and who would like to know whether they still possess this citizenship or have lost it, may apply for the confirmation of possession of Polish citizenship. In case of persons belonging to the second or subsequent generation of Polish emigrants, to decide whether the person has retained Polish citizenship it is indispensable, inter alia, to present some documents, beginning with a birth certificate issued in Poland belonging to a family member in direct line with descent who once in the past settled outside the borders of Poland.

To confirm the Polish citizenship, such documents are usually needed:

– An application letter filled in Polish.
– Birth certificate.
– Marriage certificate (if applicable).

– A detailed autobiography in Polish (including the details of Polish ancestry).
– Certified (by notary or embassy) copy of foreign passport or another ID.
– Certified (by notary or embassy) copy of naturalization certificate of the applicant, his or her parents or grandparents (whichever applicable).

– Document which prove that person changed his/her name or surname.
– Declaration (in Polish) what other citizenship(s) applicant hold (or held).
– Declaration (in Polish) if applicant or his/her parents or grandparents ever renounced Polish citizenship (it can be written in the application).
– Certified copies of any documents confirming Polish ancestry (e.g. your parents’ or grandparents’ birth, baptism or marriage certificates etc.).

All forms need to be completed in Polish and all documents need to be prepared in Polish (translations).

Confirmation of Polish citizenship or its loss is granted by a provincial governor.

Documents must be original or certified (by notary) with an aposttile on the back.

Consular fee must be also paid.

To obtain Polish vcitizenship and polish passport each person needs to have:

Polish citizenship.

– Polish birth certificate.

– Polish marriage certificate (if got married outside Poland).

Polish birth certificate and marriage certificate can be acquired in a proper office of vital records – the authorities which carry out the procedure called the transcription.