With a fierce gaze, Emilia Malinowska struggles to live within an environment that still has “a lot of stereotypes and social fears” from the communist era.
“Perhaps the most prominent among these stereotypes is the need to remove inwalidzi, or “invalids” from the larger society – or to ensure that they remain on the periphery, at the very least. Indeed, the communist ideology promoted a reverence of the healthy, fully able-bodied worker. All those individuals who contradicted this archetype by displaying any type of disability or “defect” were immediately removed from the general population,” she was quoted saying in the report Leaving the Ghetto: Learning to Embrace Physical Disabilities in the Polish Labor Market of the Humanity in Action.
Emilia would just close her eyes and tremble slightly when discriminated, confident as she is with a degree and current employment.
“Before 1989, disabled people didn’t exist. We had no disabled people in Poland.”
This was why, Emilia explained, persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Poland are either unemployed or underemployed.
“The absence of public facilitates and assistance, compounded by the intense societal prejudice against their disabilities, left this persecuted group with two disturbing options: to remain perpetually confined to the boundaries of their homes, or to become ‘working prisoners’ of sorts, trapped instead in a spółdzielnia inwalidów, or an invalid cooperative.”
It serves more harm than good, Emilia asserted, because these workplaces “actually functioned as ‘special ghetto factories’ that only perpetuates the communist vision of an ideal society that, ostensibly, consisted solely of competent, able-bodied workers.”
If it’s any consolation, though, Poland has already enacted two laws to safeguard the PWDs in its society. The Employment and Vocational Rehabilitation of the Disabled Act of 1991 legally defined a PWD as an “individual with an essential physical, psychological, or mental impairment that impedes the individual’s ability to earn wages”; while the Act on Vocational and Social Rehabilitation bestowed financial support to companies that would employ PWDs.
“My body is disabled, but my life is not disabled. I don’t feel disabled in life.” ~ Emilia Malinowska
Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Emilia Malinowska