I am a Polish citizen. This fact was confirmed today, after an odyssey of bureaucratic trials-and-tribulations that has taken one year.
Poland follows the “right of blood” when it comes to citizenship, as opposed to Canada that predominantly follows the “right of soil”. That means that the citizenship of your parents counts, more so than where you happen to have been born. In my case, my grandfather was a Polish citizen. I simply had to prove that fact, and to prove that he did not lose his citizenship. But “simple” does not in any way describe what I had to undergo to establish convincing proof!
My grandfather was born in Galicia, when it was a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in a part that after 1918 was in the Republic of Poland. To establish this fact, I was lucky to have his original certificate of birth and baptism. Unfortunately, this document was written in Latin, and I had a devil of a time getting an acceptable translation into Polish. Immediately before my grandfather emigrated to Canada in 1928 he obtained a passport in Lwów, Poland (which is today Lviv, Ukraine). This Polish passport is, of course, golden proof that my grandfather was a Polish citizen. Next, though, I had to prove that my grandfather did not do anything to lose his Polish citizenship. In 1935, my grandfather was naturalized as a British subject in Canada, and in itself this may have been considered as an act giving up his Polish citizenship. Because he was deemed fit for military service in Poland, and because he did not serve in the “foreign” Canadian military or with the federal government of Canada, he did not in fact do anything to give up his Polish citizenship by being naturalized as a British subject. All I had to do, then, was to prove the negative, and I did this by having an official search made of Canadian records, and a report made that no evidence exists. With this letter in hand, the rest was a matter of proving my line of descent, through birth and marriage certificates from Canadian provinces.
In total, I obtained and presented nine official documents, from five legal jurisdictions, originating over a period from 1904 to 2013. These were all translated into Polish and the translations verified. The layers of bureaucracy would make Byzantium proud! For one letter, to take an example, I had to have its signature notarized, then have the notary’s signature stamped and verified by the Canadian government, and then have the Canadian government’s stamp verified by the Polish government. The pay off to this rigamarole was success. With every objection overcome, my presentation of evidence was accepted as convincing proof.
I am starting to come to terms with an existential fact. I have always been, from the moment of my birth, a citizen of a country whose language I do not speak, and which I have never visited. It is important that I did not obtain Polish citizenship, by seeking that which I did not have. What has happened is that I have confirmed Polish citizenship, by coming to realize something that was true all along, but simply not proven until this moment. I see this not so much as getting something that I wanted, but as finding out something that is true about me. I am a Polish citizen.