Europe court backs expelled Poles

Source: BBC News

Poland must pay compensation to a man whose family was forced from its home after World War II, a European court has ruled.

The European Court of Human Rights said 60-year-old Jerzy Broniowski should be paid 12,000 euros (£8,000).

Mr Broniowski’s grandmother lost her home after the war when Poland’s border shifted westwards. In its ruling, the Strasbourg-based court said Poland had violated the European Convention of Human Rights. It also said the problem underlying the violation of Mr Broniowski’s human rights was likely to generate a large number of similar cases. The Polish state has already compensated the majority of expellees since they lost their homes at the end of the war.

In January this year a new law wrote off the state’s obligations to the remaining claimants, but about 80,000 people say they are still entitled to compensation – estimated at more than 2bn euros (£1.3bn). Those people are the descendants of the 1.2 million people forced to leave their homes at the end of World War II when a large strip of eastern Poland suddenly found itself in the Soviet Union.

Mr Broniowski’s grandmother was one of those people. She lost her home in what was then the Lwow in Poland and what is now Lviv in western Ukraine. At Yalta, Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill had agreed to shift Poland’s eastern frontier hundreds of kilometres westwards to the Curzon Line. In return, Poland got a large swathe of Germany.

For that reason, private property restitution is a particularly sensitive and complex issue in Poland. Not only were Poles expelled, but so were millions of Germans. On top of that are the large number of claims by descendants of Jews, murdered in the Nazi extermination camps, many of which were located in Poland.

Currently Poland has no legislation which deals with property restitution claims. This latest ruling is likely to add to the pressure to adopt some.

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