Interview with Marek Kazubski about the situation of the deaf in Poland

An interview with Marek Kazubski, president of the Social Movement of the Deaf and their Friends (Ruchu Społecznego Głuchych i ich Przyjaciół) and the Polish Federation of the Deaf (Polskiej Federacji Głuchych). Automatic translation. Have you noticed an error? Inform us.

Tomasz Smakowski: Hello. Do you know who this gentleman is? You certainly know. Today we are going to talk about what he does, what his plans are, reminisce about what used to be and what will happen in the future. You are welcome to join us.

Good morning, introduce yourself, who are you and what is your sign language?

Marek Kazubski: – Hello, my name is Marek Kazubski. I am the president of the Social Movement of the Deaf and their Friends (RSGiP) and the Polish Federation of the Deaf.

In these two organizations are you the president?


Interview with Marek Kazubski, president of the Social Movement of the Deaf and their Friends (RSGiP) and the Polish Federation of the Deaf
Marek Kazubski

School days – school for the deaf in Srodborow and Wejherowo

I have a question, maybe I’ll go back to history a bit. Where did you attend school – elementary school and subsequent years?

I went to elementary school in Srodborow, near Otwock. I finished vocational school in Wejherowo in the profession of carpenter.

In what years?

I remember that I graduated from school in 1982, go back 3 years – it was to the vocational school that I joined in 1979. I attended a technical school for half a year, but moved to a vocational school with a carpentry profile.

Going back to your school days, how do you recall your educational period? Was it fun, or did you have the feeling that something was missing? Did you want to learn more, gain knowledge? I’m curious, what was it like?

In the past, I didn’t think about whether I was missing something. Deaf people had time for everything. Consciousness, accessibility was foreign to me. It was cool, normal. Teachers only spoke at school, but at the time I didn’t feel any lack. Overall it was really cool. Then I went abroad and started to learn about different things.

You went to school in Srodborow. Were there deaf or hard of hearing people in that school? What was the environment like?

We were all together, deaf and hard of hearing. There was no development for our society, at school they said, they forbade us to sign. It’s a pity for words, we suffered a bit. With friends in the afternoon, after classes, we played ball. It was fun. As for education, there was no development.


Teachers only talked, I didn’t understand anything.

Ban sign language in a school for the deaf!

It’s a shame, it’s terrible. Deaf people told me that there were situations where teachers spoke to you , but when you sign, you got your hands slapped as punishment! Is this true?

Yes, it is true. At school and during lessons we were getting our hands slapped. We could sign only after school.

Impossible, terrible times!

When a teacher saw a student who was signing, he should respect that it was his language. But they didn’t care. Those used to be the times.

When you went to school in Wejherowo, were they deaf themselves?

We were all mixed up. There were those who were deaf and hard of hearing. When I went to elementary school, I only signed, I didn’t use articulation. When I went to vocational school in Wejherowo, they pointed out to me that when I sign, I had to use articulation. I began to get used to the combination of articulation and signing. But at that school, the teachers didn’t sign, they spoke. I was a very capable student, but I couldn’t write in Polish. The teachings didn’t harmonize, and when the teacher just talked all the time.

The best were technology classes, there the teachers were great. They didn’t care if you knew Polish, if you could read and write in Polish. There was a task, I answered by signing. From signing I was getting only A’s.

Well, that’s nice.

When the teacher just talked and read, not understanding anything. I had a total blank. In technical classes I was a model student. But still, I couldn’t do the grammar of the Polish language. Polish Sign Language (PJM) was lacking.

My parents also went to school in Wejherowo. When they told me about their school days, they said it was a beautiful time. The school for the deaf had a rich life: sports, competitions, athletics and various other things.

I have this question: you chose the profession of carpentry, did you feel that you were properly prepared for it? However, when you finished school, going to work, was it different? I’m curious, how was it?

The teachers prepared us very well for the carpentry profession. Very well indeed. They taught us welding and a lot of other things. The problem was that they spoke, but the preparation for the profession was really good.

Professional work

After graduation, did you work in this profession?

I worked at Ursus on agricultural tractors. When I finished school, I immediately went to work, I needed money. I worked in tractor assembly for three years. And no, sorry. First I worked in foundry, but only for 3 months – this job finished me off. Very hard work. First I worked in foundry, then in tractor assembly, 2 years as a carpenter. Later my brother set up a foundry-related business and I work there.

It was the same with me. I graduated from school as an electronics assembler. I didn’t deal with it in my life.

Sign Language System (SJM) or Polish Sign Language (PJM)?

I have a question: which do you find yourself in – the Sign Language System (SJM) or Polish Sign Language (PJM)? Previously, you fought very hard for there to be only Polish Sign Language. Has that changed today? You use Polish Sign Language, but do you also use the Sign Language System?

I don’t understand SJM, the same way I don’t understand Polish language at all. I only use Polish Sign Language (PJM). Completely PJM yes, SJM no.

Work in the Federation of the Deaf

Ok, I have a question: you sign nicely – as president of the Federation and the other Association, you certainly receive messages, letters that you do not understand. There is no one to help you. How do you cope then?

There is a board of directors in the federation that helps me with this. In a situation where an answer is required, I sign, and other people write it in Polish. I am deaf, I don’t have a problem with this, that I can’t speak Polish and I don’t need to write well. In various situations, this is a roadblock, but that is why I want there to be a sign language law. When I receive various letters, I try to read them, I more or less understand what they are about. The people who help me in the Federation usually explain the content to me.

When your sign language is put on paper, surely there is a lot of it and you send a hundred, a thousand letters each?

Yes, we write a lot. We are constantly trying to adapt different things to everyday life. I have a problem with writing, but I have people around me who have ideas, can read, write. In this way we all integrate.

Very good. You can send up to a thousand letters to the Ministry, Offices, various institutions, but do you get answers to them? Do they say, “Great, bravo for what you are doing”? Or do you rather meet with a response: “Well, okay,” but they do nothing and push your issues aside?

This is a very long process. When the PO was in power in 2018, I sent letters. I didn’t get during their tenure, any response. When the power changed, PiS is in power, it is a little better, little by little it is changing. The problem is that the same thing is being rolled out over and over again. The issue is the total availability of subtitles on TV. They predict it for 2029, and I don’t like it at all. Attendance allowance is.

My deputy at the Federation, Tom Janiszewski, is talking about the disability act, which should be in the Polish Constitution. He takes care of all this, and has more successes to his credit. He is a very important person.

I dream that there should be Polish sign language all the time, I fight for it all the time.

There are elections, plans. There is Ms. Wróblewska in the parliament, who deals with issues of people with disabilities. She is trying very hard, she is pursuing her goals. She has been great in dealing with all this.

There will be elections, there will probably be someone else in her place. More changes, more new people. I’m already tired of it, there’s no telling what will happen next. For my part, I know that I will certainly not give up and will continue to fight.

Law on Polish Sign Language

Very good, bravo. What are your goals? Tell me about them. One I already know. You want there to be a law on Polish Sign Language. What’s next?

In 2013 there was a demonstration, then there were 13 demands. Now I want there to be 16. The Polish Association of the Deaf (Polski Związek Głuchych – PZG) is a closed topic. We are all integrated, we manage to fight together for good. There is one organization that functions not very well. PZG is working, doing its work and it’s OK. I have my goals, my activities, they have their activities and everything is OK.

Tell me because you have set goals. How do you know that they are necessary and good? Do you set them based on your experience or do you do an analysis among the deaf community?

I observe, I talk to deaf people. Thanks to my doggedness and my experience for 9 years in business, I learned what politics, taxes, literally everything is about. I observe what is happening abroad, also in our country.

If it were not for my awareness, I would probably be an ordinary person who goes to work for 8 hours, I would have no idea about anything. I learn everything. Once I was left alone in the Federation, that’s why I started to delve into everything.

Some people have a little different thinking, but these are my actions that I have learned, through experience at work. Other people, they go to work, they have no idea about anything. And that’s wrong, they should cave in and fight for their rights. That’s why I choose people individually to work with.

Well, you meet with deaf people. And what do they tell you, what are their needs?

The most important thing in our lives is that we should have sign language interpreters. Everywhere! At work, in institutions, so that there are these interpreters everywhere.

Another thing is that there should be a law on Polish Sign Language and it should appear in the Constitution. This is a very long process. If there was a law, you could try to have an act in the Constitution, but there are no results on this issue. I want there to be provision of interpreters and a law to be created. The rest are lower priority issues.

Sign language interpreters

Why is this the situation with interpreters? Why are there not enough of them? For 40 years there has been the same problem.

Now the situation is the same as before. There is the same problem over and over again. There are no good translators. I have my new plans in the elections. I want to present how the situation is related to them. I have responsibilities as to the demands.

There are no interpreters who are available 24 hours. There should be an office of interpreters who respond to emergency numbers for the deaf. Interpreters should also be paid an appropriate monthly salary for their work. Emergency numbers should be adapted for the deaf. The state is saving money. This needs to be changed in all institutions. The state has no money to provide an interpreter. In such an office there is a sign language interpreter on duty once a month.

There are sign language courses on the market now. When you go to an office, such a person who knows sign language, hardly flinches or flinches in the Sign Language System. Simply put, the whole interpreter environment is terrible. It’s all functioning badly. It needs to be cleaned up.

Where to get good interpreters from?

– There were few interpreters on television, on TVP 1, TVP 2, TVP 3. In the past, interpreters were under one institution. CODA worked only in PZG, they mainly dealt with translators. Now there is availability for translators, there are a lot of CODAs who work in television, various institutions.

CODAs are very happy with their work, I can see that this is changing. There is not that the translator belongs under one organization, he can translate everywhere. They make mistakes, but this is not bad, they need to learn Polish sign language. The most important thing is that they are there, they are interpreting and they are satisfied with their work.

Life of the deaf

Last question, why is it cool to be deaf?

Hm… Now it’s cool to be deaf. Before, I belonged to a certain organization, where I was limited. Deaf culture and other things – it was all told in a nutshell. Most hearing people talked to each other, we deaf people talked about stupid things, we knew nothing.

Now that I myself run my associations, Federations and meet deaf people who run their groups, it’s really nice. There is a lot of culture, contentment, conversation. Deaf people are aware, we talk about problems. We are all curious, interested.

It used to be different, things are changing. PZG has its own ideas and activities, but we – the deaf – really have a lot of ideas. I really have a great sense of satisfaction that it all looks like this.

Thank you very much for talking to us today. You see, it was a piece of history about what was and what will be thanks to the Federation, in which they deal with the problems of deaf people. Marek is very involved and active. I have a suggestion. Would you like to cooperate?

Yes, thank you.

Thank you very much. Thanks, Marek.

Sign language interview: Marek Kazubski and sign language interpreter, Tomasz Smakowski.
Marek Kazubski and Tomasz Smakowski.
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