Evictions and housing issues are an enormous problem in contemporary Poland. Piotr Ikonowicz, a veteran of the Polish left, has been actively assisting those who are facing wrongful evictions; fraudulent seizures of their finances by banks; those with medical needs; and those with other various legal problems at the office he runs, the Office for Social Justice in Warsaw.
Ikonowicz is a busy person, working in a small office space where shelves are overcrowded with books and files of paperwork. The clutter promptly signals to any person entering the place that the office is indeed busy, and that poverty and inequality are pertinent issues in Poland. The atmosphere is inviting, open; every person volunteering and working initiates considerate conversation with all who are present.
We paid a visit to discuss with Ikonowicz day to day functions of the office he runs, and how they manage to continue working without state financial assistance. Ikonowicz explains that their work is successful because of its community-driven focus, and how help is made available through community members volunteering. Ikonowicz explained that what his office is not a social movement or a political initiative: “It is a way of life. If someone comes here and says, ‘I want to help and make a sacrifice,’ I will turn them away, because if one considers ‘help’ a sacrificial act, then I don’t want such a mentality around here. Help is not a sacrifice; help is necessary and normal, it is something that people need to receive and give every day.”