The Return






Nothing about returning is ever only black or white. Coming back, people follow their own, tortuous and harrowing paths. Vague and bitter-tasting those returns truly are; one false move, one misguided choice… and there you are, on detox again, confined to residential treatment, in a cell you have been in once before, counting the days until the end of your stretch and dreaming about freedom. Coming back may be cheap, you own nothing and no one awaits you. You look for fare in the ecological gourmet all-you-can-eats of sorted garbage, sleep in the cheapest hostel of the world, in a globalised city, with international companions at your side. Coming back has its price, you pay the fee for the path you tread, for the stigma of cosmopolitan homelessness. You return because you hanker after and yearn for life, freedom and the right to dignity that is never respected.


Several stories about people sharing one common goal – the return. Time and again, they return to the right course in their lives, to the path of sobriety and ordinary cleanliness as well. Sometimes they come back to Poland after failed emigration which often made them homeless. Sometimes they attempt to return to the family they have abandoned or regain social acceptance. The return is also a time you put away seeking work that once had been lost. It may be a loss… of the last vestiges of self-respect. It may be a shame that haunts you until the end of your days. It can also be a blind, dark alley at the end of which your life is extinguished.

Ministry of Labour and Social Policy released data according to which the number of homeless persons in Poland in 2010 exceeded 43,000, with the greatest figure recorded in the Mazowieckie Voivodeship – 7,555 persons.”


When the statistics are bursting, you do not think to which army of figures you have been assigned. You are being supervised by the surveillance of society. We do not delve into the individual cases nor do we examine the singular experiences.


The homelessness envisioned by the Polish stereotype has the countenance of a drunk, the blood system of a drug abuser, the grip of beggar, the stance of a criminal and the degenerate morals of a rapist.


According to the statistics of the Ministry of Justice, the period 2007-2012 saw a 50% increase in the figures of reoffenders convicted by Polish courts. The number of persons convicted for the gravest crimes, i.e. murders and rapes, has increased as well. Professor Andrzej Zoll said this is an alarming sign of weakness of the Polish resocialisation system and the courts in the punishments they impose.”


Hobos, winos, junkies, bums, derelicts, criminals or other “dysfunctional members of society” cause fear, embarrassment, unkindly distance and meaningful looks when our paths cross. Will the words-stigmas never cease to be their attributes? Can they ever return to the “normal” society?


Rzeczpospolita has found that in the late 2012 2.13 million Poles were staying abroad. This number exceeds the figures from 2011 and 2012 by 70,000 and 130,000 respectively. Therefore Poles, though they were apparently poised to return as Western Europe suffers from decreased growth, are still leaving the country. We are approaching the record number of emigrants reported in 2007, when 2.27 million were living outside Poland.”


What is Poland like today? What are Poles like? How about their coming back? People say: the last one turns off the light – soon everyone will leave. Is emigration always successful?


*Returning is not always the best solution, but often the only resort left.


*Otherwise you end up dead here…


It is hard to see anything beyond the comfortable and egotistic world we live in. We do not realize how many of our compatriots struggle with homelessness, devastating addictions, hide-and-seek with the law or the broken dreams of a better life outside our country.


The Leaders, former homeless, inmates or persons without substance abuse problems help Poles who have emigrated. They bring them back to Poland, sometimes for good, assist in leaving for a therapy, ready to offer advice and share their own experience. Sometimes they just are, their attitude a sufficient proof that changing your life is worthwhile, that it actually can be done. A testimony and witnesses in one, they are the bright chapters in the story.


The National Health Fund figures for 2011 show that alcohol abuse treatment centres treated Z 265,305 patients (including family members), verified by personal identification numbers. “