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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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...