During her visit to Warsaw, Vice Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk met with representatives of Ukrainian NGOs. What was discussed during the meeting?

Опубліковано 1 April 2024 року, о 14:09

On Wednesday, March 27, 15 Ukrainian NGOs in Poland met with Iryna Vereshchuk, Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine, at the Ukrainian House in Warsaw.

They presented possible solutions to these issues during the event. Community leaders discussed the difficulties faced by Ukrainians in Poland, including education of Ukrainian children, preservation of their national identity, nostrification of educational documents, and standardization of teaching Ukrainian as a foreign language. They also discussed the transportation of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, double taxation, and marriage.

The Vice Prime Minister hoped that these consultations would occur regularly. The website ‘Nash Vybir’ (Our Choice) for Ukrainians in Poland provides further information on the meeting’s topics.

Supporting national identity

At the start of the meeting, all civic leaders agreed that Ukraine needs to provide more support in preserving Ukrainian national identity abroad.

“This is particularly true for Ukrainian children. They live in a foreign environment and lose contact with Ukraine. Most of them will not return to their homeland even after the end of the russian-Ukrainian war,” said Hryhoriy Kupriyanovych, the head of the Ukrainian Society in Lublin.

Civic activists noticed that Ukraine needs to take effective actions to reintegrate Ukrainian refugees. Additionally, a strategy for regional development and reconstruction of Ukraine has yet to be created.

“This leads to demotivation of some students studying Ukrainian language or culture because they don’t know when they can return home,” said Yuriy Reit. He is the leader of the Public Initiative to Restore the Graves of UPR Army Soldiers in Poland and a member of the Association of Ukrainians in Poland.

The conversation participants agree that Ukrainian students should attend Polish schools to receive a quality education. However, they also believe that Ukraine should help preserve its Ukrainian identity. One solution could be state funding for Ukrainian schools in Poland and Ukrainian language courses for adults. Additionally, negotiations between the Ukrainian and Polish ministries of education could introduce Ukrainian-language components in Polish schools.

Ukrainian Diplomas Nostrification in Poland

Ukrainian teachers in Poland who wish to work in Polish schools have encountered the issue of needing to have their diplomas recognized, a process known as nostrification. The meeting participants explained that specialist and master’s degrees issued in Ukraine before June 19, 2006, can be recognized through a simplified procedure that takes up to 60 days. The procedure is free of charge and is conducted by the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange / Narodowa Agencja Wymiany Akademickiej (NAWA). Educational documents on higher education issued by Ukraine after June 19, 2006, must undergo the nostrification process.

“The nostrification of an educational document can be a complicated and lengthy procedure, taking several months to two years. Additionally, this job is paid and costs approximately 3600 PLN. Teachers are unable to work in their field while waiting for their educational documents to be recognized, and are therefore compelled to seek employment elsewhere”, Olena Svidzinska, the deputy director of the Ukrainian School in Warsaw, stated.

The Polish government plans to require Ukrainian children to attend Polish schools and introduce Ukrainian language classes from September 1, 2024. Students can take the Ukrainian language matura starting in the 2025/2026 school year.

Larysa Zhyhun, head of the MriyDiy Foundation, stated that increasing the number of Ukrainian teachers in Polish schools will be challenging due to the shortage of qualified teachers.  Nostrification of diplomas is one of the reasons for this shortage.

Civil society activists emphasized that the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine has a draft law on mutual recognition of diplomas with Poland. However, the law needs to be finalized and agreed upon with the Polish side. This would greatly facilitate the process of employment in Poland for Ukrainian teachers.

Public services can be received remotely.

Educators in Poland face a new requirement under the law that Ukrainian citizens (and other foreigners) working with minors must present an extract from the Ukrainian register of persons convicted of crimes against sexual freedom and sexual inviolability of minors.

“This document cannot be obtained remotely at this time. This is a significant issue for educators caring for Ukrainian children in Poland,” stated Myroslava Kerik, the head of the Ukrainian House Foundation.

Civil society activists appealed to Vice Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk to expand the catalog of public services that Ukrainian citizens can receive remotely to include the aforementioned certificate

Ukrainians can access schools of national minorities.

Poland has five Ukrainian-medium schools and around 120 interschool centers that teach the Ukrainian language. However, these educational institutions are only accessible to members of the Ukrainian national minority who are Polish citizens, not Ukrainian citizens residing in Poland.

“We have been appealing to the Polish Ministry of Education for a long time to allow Ukrainian children to attend schools and interschool centers. If this were to happen, our children would have more opportunities to learn,” said Myroslav Skirka, head of the Association of Ukrainians in Poland.

Standardization of teaching Ukrainian as a foreign language

Some participants drew attention to the fact that a unified standard and levels of testing for Ukrainian as a foreign language have not yet been created. The National Commission for State Language Standards has worked on such a project for several years, but so far without results.

“It is not possible to take a test of Ukrainian as a foreign language abroad. In addition, there is no system of evaluation of knowledge of Ukrainian as a foreign language according to the European system (we are talking about 6 international levels A1-C2). This makes learning Ukrainian much more difficult. You can take a state exam in Ukraine, but foreigners do not want to go to Ukraine because we are at war,” said Oleksandr Pustovyi, director of the Ukrainian Saturday School in Warsaw.

Larysa Zhyhun emphasized that Ukraine should create a unified standard for testing Ukrainian as a foreign language as soon as possible. This should be done following European recommendations on language education.

“In parallel, the government should apply to join the European Association of Foreign Language Examinations Boards ALTE, which is responsible for this process,” said Larysa Zhyhun.

Marriage in Poland

Ukrainians in Poland face another bureaucratic problem when it comes to marriage.

Getting married in Poland can be complicated, especially for foreigners. To register a marriage, you must provide a certificate that confirms your ability to marry according to the laws of your home country. However, some countries, including Ukraine, do not issue such certificates. In these cases, individuals must apply to a Polish court to be exempt from this requirement. Petro Petreniy, a representative of the religious community of the Greek Catholic parish of St. Nicholas of Charnet in Warsaw, stated that such consideration can take up to six months.

The event participants suggested optimizing the work of Ukrainian consular offices in Poland to solve the problem. These offices have the authority to register marriages. However, registering for a consulate visit through the electronic system is challenging due to the high number of applicants, according to Petro Petreniy.

Importing humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Civil society organizations collecting humanitarian aid for the Ukrainian military have asked Iryna Vereshchuk to review the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine’s Resolution No. 953, which deals with passing and accounting for humanitarian aid under martial law. The new procedure requires all imported aid to be registered in an electronic automated system with a clear list of all goods.

Small organizations are now required to register, which has caused significant complications. They may be hesitant to report and could face penalties for late or incorrect submissions. Galina Andrushkov, head of the Uniters Foundation, stated that many organizations will stop sending aid after April 1, when the possibility of importing humanitarian aid using ordinary paper declarations disappears. This is because aid will only be allowed after registration in the electronic system.

The head of the Euromaidan Warsaw Foundation, Natalia Panchenko, also mentioned this problem. She emphasized the excessive reporting and bureaucracy involved in transporting humanitarian aid.

Natalia Panchenko said that a large Polish company owner approached us to transfer three trucks of good hospital beds to Ukraine. He requested our assistance with the paperwork and transportation to Ukraine. Unfortunately, we had to decline the request due to the complicated paperwork. Additionally, Ukrainian hospitals and state institutions are hesitant to accept such cargo due to the complex reporting process.

Double taxation

Myroslawa Kerik noted that remote workers in Ukraine are subject to double taxation. Ukrainian employers deduct personal income tax from salaries before transferring them to bank accounts, and Ukrainian citizens who are also Polish tax residents pay PIT (analogous to Ukrainian personal income tax) from their salaries, resulting in double taxation of income. Unfortunately, there is no system in place for the refund of incorrectly paid PIT. To solve this problem, we need to improve the existing mechanisms in the Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation signed between the governments of Ukraine and Poland 20 years ago.

Mobilization Law

The participants approved the changes to the mobilization rules legislation. However, they emphasized the necessity of providing additional explanations of certain provisions of the draft law for Ukrainian citizens who have been abroad for a long time. Specifically, they referred to a new provision that states consular services will be provided to men only if they have military registration documents.

Petreniy stated that many people who have lived in Poland for 10, 20, or more years may face difficulties returning to Poland if they leave to obtain their military registration documents in Ukraine. This situation complicates the lives of Ukrainians abroad and discourages them from returning to their homeland in the future.

Refugees’ route to Poland through the Baltics.

During the meeting, another issue was raised regarding Ukrainian citizens who entered Poland through the Baltic route from territories occupied before 2022. Many of them lack documents confirming their citizenship. This is particularly common among children of Ukrainian citizens born in the TOT of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and certain regions of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

“There are cases where Ukrainian citizens in Poland do not have Ukrainian documents due to cultural characteristics or life circumstances, even though they came from unoccupied territories. In such cases, Ukrainian consular officials strongly advise these citizens to return to Ukraine and obtain documents there instead of solving their problems in Poland. However, this option is often unacceptable for these people”, as Myroslava Kerik emphasized.

23 civic leaders from 15 Ukrainian civic, educational, volunteer, and religious organizations attended the event. Additionally, representatives from the Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of Poland, including Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Vasyl Zvarych, were also present.

At the end of the meeting, Vice Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk thanked all the participants for their contributions. She stated that these consultations would be held regularly, and the recommendations of Ukrainian civil society activists would be forwarded to the relevant ministries.