Read the stories from Poland

Kamila Kadzidlowska from Poland

I live in country, where words “family, children, life and sovereignty” are on the lips on every concerned Mrs. Politicians. Since you become parent here, you realize how much these words really mean to those, who decide about our future.

Leo, my first son was born over 12 years ago as a healthy and strong kid. Unfortunately it didn’t last long. From his first months the problem upper respiratory tract infections appeared and was constantly recurring. I cannot count how many times per month we went to the doctors and hospitals, how many strong drugs and antibiotics he had taken at such a young age, and how much we have paid for this - since our public health system is not efficient enough to treat all the little patients who face such problems.

Two years later, Julian, our second son was born – healthy and strong at the beginning, as the first one. Unfortunately, just a few hours after his birth, he developed a very severe skin allergy. With every week his condition was worsening. Instead of gaining on weight, he was losing, he wasn’t able to digest properly, nor sleep, or even keep his little palms open. When he was 3 month old, neurologists in one private clinic misdiagnosed him as child with CMG – cytomegalic intra uterus virus infection. We had three months of confusion - with no improvements in symptom, and I was also getting sicker with cold like symptoms.

A Doctor discreetly told me to stop breastfeeding my son. Her hypothesis was that I am suffering from a chronic infection of the respiratory system, against which the very sensitive digestive and nervous systems of my child are defending themselves by giving symptoms almost identical to congenital CMV.

I can’t describe our happiness when it turned out, that our son is not terminally handicapped. Our anger was also no less at the doctors and nurses, who haven’t had noticed all that time, that these problems of our newborn could have been related with his breastfeeding mom condition and - as it turned out later - with the monstrous smog season, at the beginning of which Julian was born.

As “just parents” we had no clue about it as well, when Jeremi, our 3rd son was born. And when he also started to suffer from the upper respiratory tract infections, we just looked for the cause in us - parents who seem to be taking insufficient care of their children.

The turning point came when in the winter of 2017, despite the fact that all our children had cold, we decided to go on a long-planned family trip, far away from Poland. Our surprise was when they suddenly recovered, just after 3 days in completely different region of the world.

Few days after returning to Poland, our kids began to fall ill again…

- Don’t you see a correlation between infections and the quality of the air here in Poland? – I asked the Pediatrist that was about to prescribe them another medicaments. Indeed, she admitted adding, that Ministry of Health never really paid attention on this problem. Perhaps because it would have to lead to the real revolution in our energy sector and cause a break down in the pharmacy industry…

Since then always from September till April, in the smog season here in Warsaw, my children take an antihistamine drugs, which help them survive this period. This morning, my 5 years old son woke up with runny nose. No wonder. The temperatures here lowered lately and people living in our area started to heat their houses by burning coal. Jeremy's respiratory system responded. The list of diseases we are all exposed here breathing in cancer-causing air for more than half the year of is endless. The social costs are counted in millions.

In last years the awareness of the impact of pollution on the condition of Polish citizens and health services has increased significantly. Doctors are upgrading their knowledge and they try to inform citizens, but what choice do we have living here?

In 2018, during the COP24 hosted in Poland, we could hear our president saying proudly, that ,we will never give up coal, as it is our treasure, and guarantee of national sovereignty.

This state head declaration sounded terrifying to me. I know that as long as policy makers who profit from burning fossil fuels remain in power, I cannot delude myself that Poland is a safe country for my children and their generation, whatever our efforts as parents.

Unfortunately, such a greedy and short-sighted policy that neglects the health and environmental costs of burning fossil fuels is destructive not only for the conditions of polish families. It also exacerbates climate change, which already threatens the lives and health of children in vulnerable countries all over the world.

At the end on this story I would like to remind my fellow citizens from Poland that we all subsidize coal industry from our taxes. No-one will care about the health and future of our children if we won’t. The point is to deal not just with the symptoms, but to finally treat causes.

Klaudyna Jackiewicz-Szewczyk from Poland

It shouldn't be a privilege to ventilate your house. It shouldn't be a privilege to play outside in spring, autumn or winter. It shouldn't be a privilege to have a herb garden. It shouldn't be a privilege to do sports outside. Most importantly - IT CANNOT be a privilege to breathe clear and fresh air! Fresh and clean air should be our fundamental right.

This year, the Polish Supreme Court has ruled that the right to clean air is not a personal right. (Can You imagine?) It makes me sad and mad in the same time.