Although there are not as many divorces in Poland as in Sweden, where the 70 percent divorce rate is the highest in the world, Poland has its own unenviable record. There have never been so many marital separations in the history of Poland, and experts predict the number will increase.
In 2003, 49,000 divorces were recorded in Poland. In 2006, the number increased to 73,000, and in 2007, it probably exceeded 80,000.
What is the reason for the avalanche of divorces? The answer: economic emigration. Two million Poles live abroad. Three-fourths of them departed after Poland joined the EU in 2004.
It is estimated that 600 thousand to 700 thousand Polish couples will soon be living apart. How many of the marriages will not stand the test of time and distance? Krystyna Slany, Jagiellonian University demographer, forecasts pessimistically that one out of three will break apart.
Barbara Chrostek, a District Court judge in Lodz, says the emigration of a spouse to England or Ireland is one of two main reasons for divorce. (Adultery is the other.)
The typical scenario is almost always the same: One of the spouses goes abroad to earn a living for both of them. The separation, loneliness and moments of misconduct connected with alcohol destroy the relationship.
The most common reason of divorce is adultery. Usually it takes place in the first few weeks after the spouse goes abroad. The feeling of total anonymity abroad – and as a consequence impunity – are the first step toward doing things that we would never do in Poland under the careful watch of family, friends and ? a spouse. After a few months of separation, all that remains is to seek a divorce.
“Of course I did not plan it. It just turned out to be this way,” said Alicja, married for 12 years with two children. “My husband is in Poland. I am here ? At the beginning there was just a job and sometimes meetings with friends on the weekends. In the end I could not stand the loneliness. Peter appeared at the right moment. He became not just my lover but my true friend.”
Most of those going through divorce are about age 30. They want to separate fast, painlessly and begin a new life.
“Some of them come to the court with prepared papers for sharing the property and the children. All that’s lacking is a court decision,” said Waldemar Zurek, a district court judge in Krakow.
People who go abroad in search of a better life are not only crossing national borders but moral ones as well. Adultery and divorce cannot be seen as a natural consequence of separation. Everything depends on the individual. However, loneliness and difficult working conditions can produce a desire for a sympathetic person to talk to.
Elzbieta, an emigrant for several years, says that “emigration is just a false mirror or a detector of the truth of ourselves. The darkest parts of our character appear, demons which are not seen when we are at home in Poland.”
Separation also deepens family crises. The parent still at home assumes a heavier burden for the children. And children more and more often are cared for by babysitters or other care givers. The next symptom of family separation is that people cannot talk to each other and spend free time together. Children do not talk to both parents. Spouses have time for only rare encounters at home. There is no time for family meals and discussion of what happened during the day.
Is there any solution? We can say prosaically: love.
However we must remember that love is like a flower. When not cared for, it withers. It needs everyday attention and care, everyday conversation and concern for each other.