* Od 5 do 30 września 2017 r. - piesza pielgrzymka do Santiago de Compostela
* bezterminowo: Akcja społeczna Zielone Bronowice

sobota, 20 stycznia 2018

Migrants and Those Who Stayed

With increased mobilities in Europe, after Polish access to European Union in 2004, new streams of migration have evolved, rapidly transforming lives of thousands of individuals and their relatives. The transnational family consisting of key members dispersed across international borders is becoming an increasingly prevalent household configuration in Poland. As the search for work takes these migrants away from their homes, thousands of children are growing up without one or even both parents’ presence. Labour migration is hence becoming a significant driver of contemporary social transformation in the family in sending communities. In my essay I will present the experiences of children left behind. The press has dubbed them Euro-orphans.

Whereas some children migrate with their parents, the associated costs and risks of migration necessitate that many are left behind by one or both parents, who go out for work hoping to improve their children’s standard of living. Euro-orphanhood is a social phenomenon that can leave individuals with a wide range of psychopathological symptoms classified in different diagnostic categories. The type and intensification of the psychopathological symptoms depend on the quality of previous relationships with important people in their lives.

In the first discussed case, a parent leaving the country entrusts children to the care of a parent staying at home. The migration of either parent generates varying degrees of “displacement, disruptions and changes in caregiving arrangements”. As individual members rework their roles and responsibilities within the framework of changing family circumstances, children also experience these changes in material, social and emotional terms. The out-migration of fathers leads to the lack of a male role model and disciplinarian figure. The absence of mothers tends to involve substantial disruptions in everyday life and may be even more detrimental for children.

In the case of the migration of both parents, children are usually entrusted to the care of grandparents, older siblings, other relatives, unrelated friends or neighbours in their home countries. Most often, grandparents are those on whom the duty of care is falling. Despite experiencing their own personal hardships of loneliness, they have a lot of potential to introduce corrective changes to support their grandchildren and their migrating children.

The worst situation for children is demonstrated in the third case. According to the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, 1299 Polish Euro-orphans went to orphanages or foster families in 2007. It is really difficult to understand that these children had no one to take temporary care for them. It is also unthinkable that parents could decide to abandon their own child and leave them in a shelter for orphans. Children raised in a range of family environments, whether with biological families or foster and adoptive families, were found to do better than children raised in institutional care in terms of physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional development.

Today millions of Eastern European children are left behind when their parents leave to work in another country. On the one hand, Euro-orphans learn that parental love is paid at regular intervals through a bank account, or by post with packages full of brand¬name clothes and toys. But they lack a close relationship with their parents. Staying connected through phone calls and other means of long-distance communication is a poor substitute for hugs.

On the other hand, if somebody in his early stage of life learns to use his own resources to cope with various types of losses, the more likely it will be that in adulthood he will carry this wise humility, allowing acceptance of the inevitability of certain events. Parental migration constitutes a distinct form of parent–child separation in which it simultaneously generates economic benefits and associated social costs.

Historically, immigration was a one-way street. Emigrants and exiles rarely returned to their homelands. When returns were made, they often took the form of pilgrimages; most emigrants have felt a pull to see their birthplace once more before they die. In other cases, such as persons displaced by World War II, refugees returned to discover that there was nothing to return to, and thus they were compelled to migrate again.

This situation, however, has changed dramatically in the past two decades. Economic and political revolutions around the globe have given rise to entirely new categories of world citizens - transnationals, who regularly cross borders and cross lives between their old and new countries. Children are often powerless and passive actors in migration as a whole, having no influence on parents’ decisions despite frequently being the primary beneficiaries or “victims” of this phenomenon. In my opinion, there is a strong need to expand easily accessible professional diagnostic tools and support programs for Euro-orphans.

* Fragment moich rozważań w nawiązaniu do zagadnień poruszanych na kursie z psychologii religii: "Migration and Religion. Past and Present in V4 Countries."

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