Am I entitled to Polish Citizenship
Polish citizenship is acquired by blood at birth through Polish parents. In Latin it is called ius sanguinis, bloodright. It is different from Canada where citizenship is acquired by ius solis, also understood as being born on Canadian territory.
Before we can establish whether you are entitled to Polish citizenship, you must understand the historical context of the land. Poland as a country has 1000 years of history, however there was a time when it disappeared entirely from European maps.
By the end of the 18th century there were three empires, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Prussia, and Russia. They divvied up the Polish territory amongst themselves. Below is the map of Poland from the 18th century and we can see how the territory of Poland was divided between the three empires during 123 years. It was not until the end of the First World War that Poland regained its independence in 1918.
Después de la independencia, en 1920 sale la primera ley de la ciudadanía Polaca. Esa ley otorga ciudadanía polaca a toda persona que vive en el territorio Polaco, sin importar su etnia o religión. En este territorio vivía gente de muchas culturas diferentes. Había judíos, bielorrusos, ucranianos, rusos, etc.
Therefore, citizenship is not the same as nationality. Thus it is possible that you have a Jewish great-grandfather who was also a Polish citizen. You could have a Belarusian grandfather who didn’t even speak the Polish language, but by law he was a Polish citizen.
We will analyze several examples, where in some cases I am personally entitled to Polish citizenship and in others I am not.
My great-grandfather Judel Borodowski was born in Zelwa in 1899. At that time Poland was not an independent country, and Zelwa belonged to Russia. Today it is part of Belarus.
My great-grandfather did not have Polish citizenship at birth, however, time passed and Poland regained its independence. In 1920 my great-grandfather was already 21 years old and still living in Zelwa, which was part of the newly acquired territory of Poland, so according to the first Polish citizenship law he obtained Polish citizenship. Here begins the Polish bloodline.
To survive the devastating famine that occurred in Europe after the First World War, my great-grandfather decided to emigrate to Santa Fe, Argentina in hopes of a better life. In Argentina he met my great grandmother Rebecca Bekerstein, who coincidentally was from the same town, Zelwa, and they got married in 1930 (It was not necessary for Judel to marry a Polish woman for his children to be Polish because Polish citizenship was passed on by the father during that era).
They had a daughter, my grandmother Dora in 1934, who also has Polish citizenship for being born to Polish parents under the 1920-1951 law.
During this time Polish citizenship of minor children as well as of the wife was linked to the citizenship of the father, if the father lost his citizenship, the wife and minor children also lost it. My great-grandfather never naturalized in Argentina. Since he was born before 1900, if he had naturalized the Polish bloodline would have ended. If he had been born from 1901 onwards he would have been able to naturalize because in 1951 the Polish citizenship law changed and men had their citizenship protected by their obligation to the Polish army until they were 50 years old.
My grandmother got married in 1956 and had a son, my father, in 1960.
During 1951 the second citizenship law came out in Poland, which caused many changes. There is no longer a difference if citizenship comes from the paternal side or from the maternal side. The law no longer mentions that one can lose Polish citizenship. By virtue of this new law my father is also a Polish citizen because he was born to a Polish mother and therefore I am also a Polish citizen and my children will be too.
There were alterations made to the Polish citizenship law in 1962, 1975 and 2012. However, these alterations did not entail major changes. You must always look at the date of birth of the individual to assess whether they obtained Polish citizenship because you must follow the law that was in force at that time, not the current law.
Now we will analyze a second case that shows that not everyone who had a Polish grandfather or great-grandfather has the right to acquire Polish citizenship. We will use the same example of my great-grandfather being born in Zelwa, only this time Zelwa was still Russian territory.
In 1915, in the middle of the First World War, we suppose that my great-grandfather emigrated to Argentina. Poland was not yet an independent country and he would have traveled with a Russian passport. When the first Polish citizenship law was enacted in 1920, he would already be living in Santa Fe, he never would have obtained Polish citizenship even though he spoke Polish and lived in what would soon be Polish territory. If he had stayed in Zelwa until 1920 he would have received it. He is not a Polish citizen and none of his descendants will be able to obtain Polish citizenship through his bloodline.
Now suppose he decided to emigrate in 1921 instead, Poland was already independent and he would have gotten his Polish citizenship and would have traveled abroad with his Polish passport. In Argentina he got married and had a son Isaac in 1923, later in 1932 he had another son Osher and he also had a daughter who was born in 1933 named Raquel. We are going to examine the case of each one of his children; they all have Polish citizenship because they were born to a Polish father.
The oldest, Isaac, had to join the Argentine army at the age of 21 in 1944. Due to this, he lost his Polish citizenship for being a part of a foreign army and the Polish bloodline ended. His offspring are not entitled to Polish citizenship.
Now Osher, at the age of 21, had to join the Argentine army in 1953. Since the law in Poland changed in 1951, the law of 1951 is applied, which no longer revokes Polish citizenship for being part of a foreign army. His children and grandchildren will be able to claim Polish citizenship.
Raquel decided to marry an Argentine man in 1950, she still has her Polish citizenship but any child born from that marriage before 1951 would not be entitled to Polish citizenship because at that time it was only passed on by the father. Any child of that marriage born after 1951 would be entitled to Polish citizenship since in 1951 the law allowed Polish citizenship to be passed on by either parents.
The map shows you how Poland’s borders changed after World War ll. It is estimated that almost half of Poland’s territory remained in the hands of the Soviet Union. The territory of Poland also moved to the west and took over part of the German territory. This is important to consider when trying to find family documents in the archives because it is very likely that you will need to search for them outside of Poland in what is now known as Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine.
The country itself where your Polish ancestors were born has no bearing on your Polish citizenship because geography is irrelevant in the ius sanguinis system. Polish citizenship flows through your veins.
These examples cover some of the most common cases. There are many additional details that must be considered when evaluating whether you are entitled to Polish citizenship. The best way to be certain if you are eligible for Polish citizenship is by completing the assessment HERE and then scheduling a free consultation with one of our experts.