Leaving Poland

The following is the story of my life in Poland and why I decided to leave. It is interwoven with the subject of software creation of the application called "BitCrypt". You may like to read it in order to know what motivated me to write that program.

I have been trying to sell BitCrypt on the Net. Later on I have been trying to give it away for free. Whenever I do that, people ask a lot of questions. Many of them would require explanations that are not software related but rather demand deeply personal statements. Questions like: "Who are you?" or "What is your motivation to write a program like this?" To answer them I have to explain myself. On the other hand, if I had not then people would not have trusted me enough to use the software.

Even if I explain myself in detail, a lot of people may not believe me, or would not accept the software. I can not help with that. What I decided to do is to open up and tell my story, which is behind the creation of this encryption application. You may read it as just another story that might have happened. Equally well you may decide to believe it and to take it at the face value. On my part, this is what really happened.

People have different life stories. Some are simple and direct, they have childhood of some sort, then they get married and have kids. Even those seemingly ordinary lives contain some drama in them. I do not think there is a singular person on Earth that would not experience some form of drama in their lives.

There are also those whose lives are twisted and stuffed with crisis's. Maybe they have exciting jobs or live in an area where the tension is high. I guess my life is more like this, even though, on the surface it seems to be very ordinary.
I do not intend to tell the story of my life in here. I would like to provide information that is related to the software that is published on this site. As it happens there were some events in my life that exerted high pressure on me, and resulted in creation of this software application. I would like to tell about those events. Maybe the software would be more credible in this way. Another document called "Algorithm" is also published on this site so those who are interested in the programming aspects related to BitCrypt may read that as well.

It began with my mother. She was born in a city called Sarny, in eastern Poland. That is, that was a part of Poland before the Second World War. Nowadays it is a part of Belarus or Ukraine as some maps show. I understand that there were a lot of Jews in that area before the war. My mother, with at least part of her family, moved to the central Poland during the war. She was telling me that it was safer in that village they have settled than in her place of birth.
If you ever ask my mother if she is Jewish she would deny it. I think she is afraid. I actually think she is very afraid. That "very" should be typed in all capitals. Thus, she is Polish, and a devoted Catholic. When I was born she circumcised me into the Jewish faith. I do not know my father very well.

I had an adoptive father. He was Polish, and with my mother they had a daughter. I think my adoptive father did not like me very much. However, this is just a guess. He has never told me anything that could be taken against him. He tried to build a home that would be enriched by his contribution. He would take extra jobs to earn some more money. As far as I remember, we always had a car. Even in the sixties. At that time it was equated with substantial earnings. He wasn't earning that much. He would take those additional jobs to earn that money. Sometimes, he would go oversees for a number of months, as part of an official visit, and earn additional money in this manner.

When he was about twenty-something he joined the Communist Party. At that time he lived in Plock some two hundred kilometers north of Warsaw. My mother told me that he was very powerful in there. This is a phenomenon reserved for those communist times. A young guy who sells himself to the cause and is made powerful in his youth. He could make you or break you, if he wanted to. My mother had a girl friend who stayed with her in the same boarding room. He sent that girl to Warsaw so that she could study at the university and get a masters degree. He wanted to marry my mother, so he prevented her from studying. She married him and became a housewife. He could do things like that.

My adoptive father studied engineering and got himself a masters degree. At some stage he enrolled at the Polish Army. His masters was from a civilian university. At the army he decided to become a part of Polish Air force. When I was born he was a captain. When I can recall him from my early memories he was a major. When I was a teenager, he was a colonel. As far as I remember he was stationed in Warsaw. Firstly, at the Command of Polish Air Force. Later on, at Ministry of National Defense. That was from 1968, when his department had been rearranged and some of his colleagues had been reassigned to southern Poland, and the other half had been incorporated into the Ministry. He stayed in Warsaw and became a part of the Ministry of National Defense. He worked in an office building just next to the Warsaw Polytechnic. Anyone who knows Warsaw would know the place. There is another set of buildings belonging to this Ministry. It is located at the street called: "Zwirki i Wigory". You can't get into any of those buildings unless you have a proper pass. Well, that is obvious, isn't it. There are solders standing at the doors up there. This is also obvious.
I visited him in his office on a couple of occasions. I think he just wanted to show me where he worked. What would you expect, just a lot of offices with ordinary office desks. On the other hand people walking down those corridors had a lot of stars on their shoulders, and all of them wore uniforms. We had an argument at some stage. He broke my tooth. I had it fixed at a dentist office that is located in the second of those complexes I mentioned above.

My adoptive father died when I was nineteen. It happened about six months before I enrolled at my first university. In Poland one stays at the secondary school until nineteen. I was a good student at school, especially in mathematics and physics. I think there were like three of us, students, always competing for being the best in mathematics at school. When I finished the school, I enrolled at the Electronics department at the Warsaw Technical University. In Poland, the university was free, but you had to be really good to be accepted. At that department where I wanted to study there were seven candidates per admission place. One had to pass admission exams, and to do it better than those other candidates. That meant, three physics exams and two mathematics ones. They accepted me.
Some time after my adoptive father died, my mother told me that he had said referring to me: "He will not finish university studies, and if he does, it will not be in Poland". This is what he said. If you like puzzles then this is one of them. I just could not understand how come he became so prophetic all at once. Moreover, why would I have to leave Poland if I wanted to finish my studies?
His prophecies must have worked because I became a really bad student. To such an extend that after three years they crossed me out of the student list. My head was just not good any more, and I could not understand what I was being taught.
After they threw me out of the first university, I enrolled at another. Strangely enough I passed those entry exams again, and I did that in a very impressive manner. This time it was the Warsaw University, and their Physics department. They accepted me without any problem, and I started to study again. As a student I was lousy again. They threw me out of the university after another two and a half years.

I think my adoptive father must have been a prophet. I just could not finish my studies while in Poland. Moreover, I became afraid of being drafted to the Polish Army. Poland has compulsory conscription for all males. If you do not like it you are a criminal, and you go to jail. Every Polish boy has a choice in life. Either to become a soldier or to become a criminal. Definitely most choose to be good citizens and take the gun.

My problem was not with that. The problem was that I had that strong feeling that I would not survive those two years as a soldier. There are many accidents in the army, and I was acutely afraid that I will become another one like that. I have even heard of soldiers being accidentally driven over by a tank. Those things happen, especially in the eastern block countries.

At that time I was freshly married, and together with my wife we decided to leave Poland. It was a bit of a miracle. We bought a holiday package to Greece. That was supposed to be our late honeymoon trip. Then instead of returning back to Poland, we boarded a ship destined for Italy. Here we took a train and went to a small city called Latina. It is situated about a hundred kilometers south of Rome. There is a refugee camp there. We went to that camp and told them that we wanted to stay in the West.
They had put us into a converted prison cell and said that they will process our petition. They took away our passports, and we just waited for their decision. There was nothing dramatic in all of that, just the time consuming wait. After about two weeks they said that we are going to be accepted. The process of our emigration had truly started then.

You need to know a couple of things about this form of travel. A refugee camp is not the nicest place to be in, but it is not as bad as one would expect. Surely, there are a lot of different people in there. You do not know them, and one is never sure who is the one you are talking to. Anybody can get there, some people with genuine case, and some criminals as well. You never know who is who. Moreover, there are some spies in there as well. Before we had even properly applied to be considered by New Zealand, we received a phone call from Poland informing us that the Polish authorities knew where we were going. The camp is like a pot to which any vegetables from any garden are being thrown together. You may find some of them to be tasty, but many are just rotten. Because of that anyone who has any brains is very careful in such an environment.

The same applies to the authorities. When you get there they screen you. They ask the most obvious question, that is, "Is this a real case or just someone who is trying to get an easy ride to the West?". This is why they process you slowly.
After about two weeks they moved us from the prison cell to the proper building. Our case was being considered, and our files prepared by one of the charitable organizations working there. Moreover, they informed us that we were to apply for the "Political Asylum". I need to explain something about that here.

People call it asylum but in fact it is called 'status of refugee'. This is a piece of paper issued by the United Nations to selected few who have been recognized as truly persecuted in their countries of origin. There is a special commission representing UN which has the right to grand such status to emigrants. It means that they were able to establish that the person or persons had they basic human rights negated in their county of origin. These could include religious freedoms, political convictions and anything that is deemed to be the most basic right of a person. There is a lot of emigrants moving from one country to another, but a tiny percentage of those receive this form of recognition. There is a number of reasons for that, one of them that it is extremely difficult to prove that one has actually been persecuted. In most cases those who do the persecution do not advertise such fact. Quite the opposite, they like to do it in the dark.
On the other hand, a refugee who is granted the status is like a lottery winner. This is because, the status opens the doors to all countries belonging to the UN. If you have the UN asylum you can go to any embassy you may fancy and say you would like to go to their country. If you want to go to France, Britain, Germany, Switzerland, the US, anywhere really, they have to accept you. They will give you permanent residency from the start with all the rights of the local population. You can work there and after some time accept their citizenship. It all comes as a package. Most of all, you can choose the country, any place you like.
We had a friend in the camp who got the asylum. He went to the USA. In the package he received, he was given two years of full government sponsorship, with help to settle and the like. For a refugee the asylum is better than gold.

Thus, we had been told to apply for the asylum. We thought we did not really had a case, but we did anyway. Before the day we were scheduled for the commission we had been asked to talk, in private, with one of the commissioners. He was a Belgian man. When we talked with him, he asked us to promise that we will not stay in Europe. He said that they wanted us to go to New Zealand and requested us to agree with that. We agreed. In fact we never planed to stay in Europe anyway, however, we also did not plan to go to New Zealand. When we were leaving Poland we had been thinking about Australia.

The UN commission consisted of three men. One was from Belgium, the other one from Germany and the third from Italy. It looked more like a friendly discussion, even though it had the setting of an exam. At some stage the German man looked me in the eye and said something that puzzled me for a number of years to come. He said: "We are not going to give it to you, you understand, we will give it to your wife".

I simply nodded in agreement without saying a word. I would not know what to say. I did not understand what he was talking about. We received the asylum. A singular page of paper with a two inch in diameter stamp at the bottom representing the United Nations. From there we went to the New Zealand Consulate in Rome, and three months later boarded a plane for Wellington, New Zealand.
So what is that story all about. If you have suffered to read it up to this point you may be asking for the relevance of my story to the encryption application I have posted on this site.

The point is in those words that the German commissioner said. First of all, my wife did not have an easy life in Poland, but her experiences would not seem to be of the scale requiring recognition by the United Nations. Thus, she received the asylum, but why?
Secondly, he was definitely talking to me, and moreover, he expected from me to understand their decision. Why?
I have spent a number of years trying to understand what he was referring to. And it came to me at some stage that the answer was very simple indeed. In order to understand what had happened I had to look from their side and not mine.
People come to the refugee camp. The UN needs to distinguish among them. Some of those coming had been persecuted, others are just economical refugees, still some others are criminals and maybe even spies. So the UN needs to use their resources to find out about those who came. Depending on the background you come from, the different level of difficulty in verification of someone's story presents itself. In my particular case my life story sits in a file in an office in Warsaw. People working at high ranking military positions have families. The members of those families have files kept by the authorities. I have a file like that. The most likely place where this file is stored is Ministry of National Defense in Warsaw Poland. If you want to check on my history you need to go there, and have a look at my file. Easy.

Thus, what that German man was saying to me was quite simple. He could have said it like this: "We have a man working for us in the Ministry in Warsaw, and we asked him to have a look at your file, and he thinks that you had some enemies in Poland, and so he thinks that you may have a case to present here." The problem was that he could not possibly say that. This is because Germans are not very liked in Poland. If he had said that, then the Polish Army would have found out about that man, and as far as I understand Poles, they would not have charged him with anything. They would kill him.

It was such a problem that he even could not show that they knew I had problems in Poland. So, I came out of Poland as a happy man, and my wife was persecuted by them. If this was the case, then no-one was looking into my files.

That, German spy working in Polish Ministry of National Defense, was not planted there to collect information on would be refugees. He was there to report on things that were important. Believe me, he had something to report. My case was tiny and accidental. Worth nothing really comparing to those great problems he had to deal with on the daily basis. To me however, he was a life saver. Moreover, it left an issue of sorts in my mind. This is, how he was to pass the information to the recipient somewhere in Germany. You see, he could not send an encrypted e-mail. He could not send any form of enciphered information. He could not use open source software and boldly deliver his information. This is because if he did that he would expose himself. Surely, he had a method. I do not know how they were passing the information. Still, I had been impressed with a desire to create a tool that someone in his situation could use for the purpose of sending information without being detected. This is what BitCrypt is supposed to do. If you are a spy in Polish Army, and you are being watched, you should be able to encrypt your text into an image and post it on the Internet as part of your friend's website. This image is to be created and modified in such a manner that it would be impossible for anyone to establish that there is any encrypted text inside. I have spend three years of my time to bring this tool to perfection, and I hope it is really good now.

By the way. Together with my wife, we have finished university studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. In the process I picked up some awards for the best Physics and Mathematics student. Moreover, we went to the United States of America and studied Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics. Most of our grades were A's. We passed the Doctoral Candidacy Examination and returned to New Zealand after completing the coursework. We had not completed the theses but this is another story...