Finding ways to make a living, 2001 – 2004

In Goldap, I wanted to join the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and continue the Bible study. Yet, when they found out I didn’t have a legal status in Poland, they said I couldn’t get baptised as a Witness, and needed to regularise my stay to be able to do that. At that time, we were de facto stateless, belonging to no country. A question may arise, how on earth it even happened? Ok, when the USSR collapsed, the residents of the former republic inherited the citizenship of the country they lived in. As we were staying in Poland at that very time, and weren’t ‘registered’ as inhabiting in any of the places in a former USSR, we didn’t get any citizenship. In that way, we were left stateless. We tried to approach the regional authorities a few times, but were sent back with nothing.

When they told me that, I was broken-hearted, and felt rejected. Then I thought it wasn’t God Jehovah who rejected me, as God doesn’t reject anyone, but only people. And one day, when we were trying to get a free lift to one of the cities to busk on a street, one man stopped and picked us up, who turned out to be a pastor of a Pentecostal church. He invited us to come along to his church. Vlad was unbeliever, but I felt the need to be among people, and one day I came to their service, and then started to attend regularly. They found out I played the piano, and invited me to join the worship group, and I stayed in that church for a few years. Meanwhile, in summer, me and Vlad were still busking. We normally had the middle daughter with us, and the older took care of the younger at home. Of course, it was risky, but we had no choice. Usually, we asked our neighbour to have an eye on them.

One day, when we were playing on a street in Goldap, two older people approached me and asked whether I could work with a senior folk singing group. I agreed, and we started to work together. I was teaching them how to sing properly, even in two voices. It was a group of over 50s, mostly ladies; there were around 15 members altogether. We were participating in regional folk festivals, and always got the highest prize or recognition. Well, I was a professional musician after all! The local authorities noticed that (as they gathered all the praise for our achievements). So, when we as a family applied for a Polish citizenship, I was awarded it but Vlad refused. I thought that the fact I was working with that signing group impacted the final decision. 

I was receiving some money for the work with the group from the local community centre. It wasn’t enough to live on, though, and Vlad came with the idea to learn English, then offer some tutoring for school kids. Mostly it was the task for me, as Vlad had to take care of our daughters, and be stay-at-home dad. Besides, we thought the woman would be more welcomed. I was learning English for 3 months, just managed to learn enough grammar to be able to explain it to children. Then, we started to go door to door and offer private English tuition. In that way we managed to get some responses from families, and I started tutoring. Two days a week, in the morning, I was working with the singing group, and in the afternoon, I was going to my students’ homes to teach English. 

On one occasion, I had to explain the ‘conditionals’ (‘If’ sentences) for a college student. I just learned them myself, looking though many examples, trying to understand it. Then I just went for a lesson with that student, and he understood. That was very brave – I was learning and teaching at the same time! But it actually worked, and the parents were referring me to their friends. I also got two piano students, and somehow, I was able to make some living. I was also continuing working with a singing group, and we became quite famous in the region. Vlad was taking care of our girls, teaching them some French, and Japanese fencing. He made some costumes for himself and the girls, and they exercised every second day, quite intensely. 

Despite some small successes and positives, it wasn’t life the family with little children could be happy with. There were other problems that suddenly arose – our family got ‘divided’. Me and the girls were Polish citizens, but Vlad wasn’t. We were experiencing hardships from time to time, and I thought it would be really helpful to get some housing benefit, as I saw some of our neighbours were receiving it. But, when I went on and tried to apply, I was told I wasn’t entitled to as my husband wasn’t a citizen. My children were also refused free meals at school. Gradually, such situation and inability to achieve stable income, brought us to the point of considering a divorce. Unfortunately, without some help from the authorities, we couldn’t sustain ourselves on an acceptable level. We were worrying for our daughters, what future they would have.