“Urząd” – Polish for “Screw you!”

It’s a lovely day today a sunny and lazy Sunday morning with time to sit on the terrace and watch the war zone that our oak tree has become since the acorns sprouted. Squirrels, Jays, Magpies and a pigeon are competing noisily about who can collect the most acorns. Thankfully it is also a morning that gives enough time to squeeze out an increasingly rare blog post.

Since returning from holiday it seems to have been busy, busy, non-stop with plenty going on at work as well as trying to get back into the rhythm of the morning school run. The days are long and tiring with very little time for anything other than the routine stuff. Last weekend we shot up to the lake district, which was very nice although perhaps a little soon after the holiday. It was a very comfortable “Agrotourist” place not far from Mikołajki. There wasn’t a great deal of “agro” involved beyond them growing their own vegetables and fruit that were used in the meals but we were happy for that and you really could taste the difference. We’ll need another break in November so I need to think where we could go for a long weekend. I think having at least a four day break every three months should be compulsory to try and defuse the inevitable build-up of stress that comes with working hard and dealing with kids week-in and week-out.

Talking about stress, the highlight of the week just finished was starting the process of renewing my residence permit. The current one was for 5 years and expires later this month. Earlier advice, perhaps wrong as usual, was that this was an easy process and can be left until nearer the time. The build up to holiday had little spare time so it was left until after the holiday. Reading the small print now it looks as though the permit application needs a ‘meldunek’ (a certificate that matches you to an address) that is valid for at least two months. My current one expires on the same day as the residence permit and is therefore not fit for purpose and so I trolled off to the meldunek office on Nowogrodzska with all required people and papers to renew it.

We were shocked at how light the queue was, we took a number and were almost instantly called by an old lady who bore a striking resemblance to Nanny McPhee (at the beginning of the film). We explained what we were there for and why I needed to renew the meldunek now. She took one look at the old document and told us to piss off! “This expires in 22 days time so come back then!”.

After 10 minutes of rather sensible, I thought, reasoning her position had not changed. Her “system” (that she didn’t even bother consulting while we were there) would not allow her to renew my meldunek on any day other than the EXACT day it expires. So, after five years I am supposed to make sure that on that very day, no earlier, no later, that the meldunek office is open and that I’m in Warsaw with time to go visit them. I refuse to believe that that is the only day when renewal is possible, because it is too bloody stupid to be true. I just got the most bitter & twisted urząd lady on duty, should have taken another number and waited for a second opinion.

Best of all was her response to various other scenarios:

“But the residence card urząd require a two month meldunek for me to renew the card, so if we can get a new meldunek now I can then go renew the residence card.” – NOT HER PROBLEM

“But my residence card expires on that very day and will take time to renew so what am I supposed to do, leave the country?” – NOT HER PROBLEM

“But I have to travel a lot with work and cannot guarantee to be here on exactly that day!” – NOT HER PROBLEM

“So I’ll just go home and say goodbye to the family then, shall I?” – NOT HER PROBLEM

Satisfied that this cow was never going to change her position, nor was she ever likely to turn her computer on to check what she was saying, we left and decided to pop over to the urząd responsible for residence permits on ul. Długa to see what they had to say.

They didn’t have anything to say because it was Wednesday. They don’t work at all on Wednesdays. In fact, as you can see below, they only work 28.5 hours a week and not one of those hours is at a time that I can make without taking time off work.

So there it is, the opening salvo in the battle of residence card renewal has been fired and it’s 1-0 to the authorities. I wasted at least 4 hours of a busy working day, collected loads of papers and got absolutely nowhere.

I can understand there will be times when “the system” does not work completely as I would like but there are three things I consider to be unacceptable:

  1. Offices that are not open for sufficient hours to allow people to do these things WITHOUT taking time off work.
  2. Offices that close all day on a normal working day.
  3. People who take pleasure in making your life difficult. Even if they are correct and “the system” is that completely stupid, they can communicate this in a FAR better way than they do.

If “the system” is not that stupid and Nanny McPhee was just an evil bitch – she should be fired and the rest of them should be warned that the same will happen to them if they try the same tricks. I appreciate they are not paid much but they are paid by us and we are now 20 years after communism. It really is time this relationship was turned around – we are the customers, you are there to serve us so get your attitude and opening hours tuned into that fact ASAP.

I’m not begging for a residence card, frankly, given the amount of tax I pay this country AND the fact that as an EU citizen I have a right to be given one anyway, it should be them kissing my backside not the other way around.


10 thoughts on ““Urząd” – Polish for “Screw you!”

  1. I wonder if you could handle it all in English. In Poland every “foreigner-friendly” office employes clerks who barely speak English. Bereaucracy is designed to serve itself, not the citizens. Imagine how wonderful their work would be if only those nasty nitpickers didn’t come and bother them!

    PS. Mind the way you use “the system” phrase. Its meaning is very ambiguous in Poland these days and being in league with or a part of “the System” is the biggest possible insult.

    Will drop you an e-mail to you soon.

  2. And Tusky-Wusky promised us if he got in to power he’d reform this lot. But he couldn’t, because Kaczynski (L) would stop him. Now Komorowski’s in Belweder there’s no excuse. Oh yes there is – whines PO – if we reform the system, we’ll lose the next parliamentary elections late next year.

    It’s now time for radical reform. If it doesn’t happen NOW – and this garbage you encountered doesn’t get swept out of their comfortably urzędy – Poland’s going to go to the dogs once the EU money runs out round about 2014.

    I strongly urge Janusz Palikot to show his hand, and form a radical reform party tasked with cutting bureaucracy and the cost of bureaucracy. Poland can’t afford tax breaks for carers looking after disabled family members but it can afford to keep that ghastly harridan employed. Poland can’t afford a decent railway service between Warsaw and Kielce but it can afford to pay policemen to retire at 35. Poland can’t afford a dual carriageway road between Lublin and Bialystok but it can afford to subsidise the pensions of well-off farmers. Putting VAT up by one percentage point or taxing banks will raise 5 billion zlotys a year. Centralising all HR and payroll functions for the entire Polish civil service (so that employees of all ministries get paid from one office not 45) will save 15 billion zlotys a year. So get to it.

    For every two people adding value to Poland’s economy in the private sector, there’s an urzędas or buirwa sitting in some public sector office destroying it. Poland’s economy will fly if you take the handbrake off it.

    Tusk, you’ve talked a good talk but it’s time for action or time for someone else to do it for you.

  3. You’re right, there should have been a supervisor there you could have spoken to to confirm these things–that woman sounds like she has a whacked-out “last-day” theory. I’m interested to find out if it was true or not.

  4. I hate to say it, but my experience with the folks on dluga was unbelievably pleasant. I went in several times to get questions answered, and they were actually very helpful. And there was hardly any wait. And when I followed the instructions to the T – expecting a fight, bringing the required three copies of every application and piece of documentation – the woman looked through it and said, “oh, we don’t need to keep these”. Her attitude was great, not joyful, but pleasant enough. I even spoke in English and it all went fine.

    As for the 28.5 hours, I think that’s when their office is open to walk-ins. I would imagine that they have a bit of paperwork to do once the door is closed. I could be wrong, but just because the office isn’t open to the public, it doesn’t mean they’re not working.

    I guess I’m so defensive because I’ve done this in Holland and tried to do it in the UK and paperwork is a nightmare absolutely everywhere. There is an assumption – especially in Britain – that everyone is a criminal and their attitude is appropriate.

    My Polish experience was completely normal – maybe even better than normal. And certainly much, much better than what those people in the hallway have – the Ukrainians, Vietnamese, and Americans.


  5. Wow, you take a number and wait until it comes up on the little screen. How advanced! In Lithuania, you arrive at the closed door of the official you need to see, ask the assembled scrum of sitting and standing people ¨who’s last¨ and watch that person like a hawk until she goes in.

    As you wait, you see steam come out of your ears as a succession of people seem to enter ahead of you. These turn out to be the official’s husband dropping in for coffee, a person who was served earlier on but then needed to go to the bank to make a payment , a war widow and a pregnant mother who are served ¨without waiting,¨ and a sleek, sharp suited ¨businessman¨ with a man bag and pointed shoes who mysteriously never needs to wait.

    When you meet the official there is a 50% change of an experience described above, or else she gives you a motherly smile, signs and stamps a succession of forms in an instant, says how well you speak the local languege and starts chatting about her daughter’s new house in Lincoln.

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  8. This story is fascinating. Well, it seems the experience in urząd can varry, apparently different officials have different “standards” of demands from citizens in similar cases. My suggestion is to never give up, go their manager, and their manager and so forth – even the bloody mayor themselves. And refuse to leave until they deal with your matter;) or theaten with TVN UWAGA;)

    I had a terribly frustrating experience couple months ago with the meldunek and dowód osobisty of my grandmother, whose health suddenly worsened and she became incapacitated, and was admitted to a municipal care home.

    This sudden health thing, brought an insane number of practical issues, to name just two tiniest: no one was able to receive her mail, so no one was able to pay her bills. Care home by law should take 70% of emerytura, but no one was in power to set this up with ZUS (so the care home would throw her out). Her ID was the old no longer vaid paper one… Etc. etc. etc. etc. A burreaucratic nightmare.

    At first apparently urząd couldn’t do anything about dowód or meldunek, unless she doesn’t come in person to the office. Which is rather not likely, if you lie in bed all day and don’t know what’s going on in your own head. Or unless someone is not made, by a court decision, an official caretaker (kurator). And this procedure takes (and took) many many months (with all the expert opinions of a special commission, couple hearings and a nice bill to pay, but thats another story).

    After spending couple hours in urząd with my parents, and talking to people higher and higher in urząd hierarchy, enumerating all the practicalities, persuading them that it is their duty to care for the welfare of their elderly citizens, especialy veterans, who pay taxes for the very existance of this urząd, finally some short-cut ways were found. And things that were “impossible” just few hours ago suddenly became totally possible.

    It all made me realise how unprepared this country is, with its inflexible procedures, to deal with real problems on a daily basis, especially of the most needy of its citizens.

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