MAY 14, 1949
NEW YORK, Friday—It is a strange feeling one gets to sit for an hour and a half and listen to a man rehash everything that has been said before in the selfsame committee, on the selfsame subject. And all this while one remembers the fact that the President of the General Assembly is asking everyone to try to finish their work that same night! On Thursday afternoon this is what we in Committee Three had to put up with in a speech made by the Polish delegate on the refugee item.
He recited at length all the bad living and working conditions under which the Polish workers, as displaced persons being settled in other countries, found themselves. He read from complaining letters, and the range of his complaints covered countries in South America and Europe and the United States.
The delegate from the United Kingdom later pointed out that it was a little illogical to complain in one breath that the countries who were taking these people provided them with too much good propaganda on the jobs they were doing and that the countries of origin were not allowed free access to them, and in another breath to say that when they reached these other countries, they were so unhappy that they all wanted to go back to their countries of origin.
The obvious answer is let them try out these other places and then they will go home and be completely satisfied. No country keeps people against their will, and if the Polish government is anxious to do something for its citizens it might offer to repatriate them whenever they wish to be repatriated, at the expense of the Polish government.
There was a time when we, in this country, received a great many emigrants from overseas, among them many Poles. They had come from very hard conditions of life and labor and they undertook to do in this country the same kind of work they had done in their own country. They contributed much to the development of America, but trade unions were not as strong in those days and I think some of us would be horrified at some of the conditions under which these men, who came here voluntarily as emigrants from Poland, worked.
Now, for the first time, Poland has acquired certain German areas and has a more balanced economy and needs her citizens at home to work and develop their own country. I wonder, however, whether living conditions as yet in Poland, considering how much she suffered in the war, can be as ideal as she demands, apparently, they should be for any of her people who go from displaced persons camps to foreign countries.
I would like to see conditions for our own workers, as well as for any refugees who come here, vastly improved in many cases. To be completely realistic, however, I doubt if anywhere else in the world they will have any more security or live under any better conditions than they will if they happen to be on the very limited quotas which are being accepted in the United States.
It is because of the fact that we are not looking for immigration that I suppose we were spared many of the most violent attacks in the Polish speech yesterday. But it does not make me feel any happier about the general atmosphere prevalent in Committee Three or in any of the other committees. This does not seem to be an atmosphere in which conciliation and a better understanding can grow.
(WORLD COPYRIGHT, 1949, BY UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE, INC., REPRODUCTION IN WHOLE OR IN PART PROHIBITED.)
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About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 14, 1949
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007
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