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Poland: Prime Minister Assures Poles Living in Kazakhstan

Warsaw, 2 January 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Poland's Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek today assured thousands of Poles living in Kazahkstan that they will be helped by his government to return home.

"We are preparing a concrete program and workplaces," Buzek told a group of 58 ethnic Poles, who spent one week in Poland among Polish families. But, Buzek said ethnic Poles, who intend to return home, must be patient, because immigration procedures are long.

"Poland will not forget about you," he said.

Janina Ochojska, President of the Polish Humanitarian Action group that organized the trip, told RFE/RL there are about 100,000 ethnic Poles living in Kazahkstan, and that about 60,000 want to return to Poland. Ochojska said the new Polish government, led by Buzek, is showing more interest in Poles living in Kazahkstan, as compared with the former leftist government.

"The government agreed to pay for the plane transport of the group, and Buzek is the first Polish Prime Minister who officially met the Polish guests from Kazahkstan," she said.

Ochojska brought groups of Poles from Kazahkstan to Poland in 1995 and 1996 also.

The visitors are the ancestors of those Poles who were forcibly resettled by Soviet authorities from the former Polish eastern territories to Kazahkstan before and during World War II.

"You were sent to Kzakhstan by the Soviet authorities for the sole reason that you were Poles," Buzek said today.

One of the ethnic Polish guests, Felisksa Korczynska, urged Buzek to accelerate the return of Poles.

"We ask the Polish government to enable us to return home. I don't mean us, the older generation, but I am speaking for our children, who want to have their 'motherland'," she said.

Buzek said he has very good relations with Kazakh authorities.

"The President [Nursultan Nazarbayev] of Kazakhstan has told me there will be no obstacles for those ethnic Poles who want to return to Poland," Buzek said.

Buzek also said those Poles, who choose to remain in Kazakhstan, will be provided opportunities to learn Polish and to attend Polish universities. Buzek said these ethnic Poles, "can become our Polish 'representatives,' and they can help us establish closer contacts with Kazakhstan, a country of enormous economic potential."