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"She was beaten and locked in a caged bed," say parents of disabled children in Poland

Kasiah, 18, was admitted to one of Poland's residential institutions for disabled women and children before turning 18, and was released two years later in worse condition than when her parents last saw her. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), "her family said she was barely able to speak or walk" as a result of the strong medications given to Kasiah. Kasiah's mother revealed shocking details about her daughter being abused for up to two days at a time.


"My child had a nightmare for about a year and a half. She was beaten and locked in a caged bed for the entire day or two days," she told HRW.


Jordanow, a town of 5,000 people in Poland's southern province, is home to the residential institution. Before becoming a foundation for intellectually disabled women and children, this facility was operated by the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a "Roman Catholic religious congregation of women" aiming to carry out their "mission of love and service" to "poor women and children," according to their mission statement on their website. Kasiah's case, on the other hand, is one of many revealed by institution employees.


According to a report from Poland's Wirtualna Polska Magazine, staff was instructed to address women and children with insulting comments such as "they raised you in a stable," "your mother is a prostitute," and "if you are bad, you will get fucked," and disability experts outlined the staff's abuse as "unparalleled bestiality." Punishment methods included "mopping" the disabled, "locking them in a cage," and even leaving them outside in the cold without shoes. The magazine published a photo of a young girl lying in bed, a rope tightly wrapped around her waist and the bedpost.


On July 26, 2020, one mother, Marta, testified about the horrific details her daughter, 19-year-old Nastka, told her after pleading with her not to be sent back to the institution. According to the report, Nastka has "Dravet Syndrome," which is "genetic epilepsy characterized by temperature-sensitive/febrile seizures, treatment-resistant epilepsy that begins in the first year of life," according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Nastka was imprisoned in a caged bed after pushing her mother away. Nastka told Polska Magazine that she felt like she was locked up.


“"There are bars everywhere! Both here and here! And here we are! Stop it, I can walk," I told them. I am capable of defending myself. When I was told to go to the cage, I [kicked] the door with all my strength. I clutch my hands, I weaken, and they throw me there," she explained.


If Nastka made a mistake, the staff would tell her, "if you don't stop, I'll beat you, goddamn waffle!" Staff would also exclaim, "get the fuck up!" after being struck by a broom. When Nastka needed to use the restroom while imprisoned, they yelled, "shit under yourself!"


Former employees have also come forward with horrifying testimonies about the abuse that residents face.


"I recall a scene from the common room. The patient was in her forties or fifties. A significant amount of disability. She screamed, made noises, and rocked in her chair. With an open hand, one of the sisters slapped her across the face. The woman's head smacked against the wall. My sister noticed me. She became concerned that the new one was spreading somewhere," Bozena, a former caretaker, told the magazine.


Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that Poland is not the only country with such horrifying cases of abuse against disabled people. According to the HRW report, the organization has reported on cases of abuse in "Armenia, Brazil, Croatia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Serbia." According to the report, an investigation has already been launched, and management has been "entrusted" to "a different provider." However, more action is required in Poland to prohibit acts of injustice against the disabled.


When the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) entered into force on May 3, 2008, it was ratified by 185 countries, with Poland being one of the 164 signatories. As a result, HRW proposes that such institutions be closed and that the country "invest in community-based services that support people to live independently in their communities." Furthermore, those associated with the Catholic Church closely monitor such institutions to ensure that no abuse is inflicted on disabled people.


In more than 30 wards on each floor of these residential institutions, innocent disabled women and children are left alone, their screams and wails echoing down the halls as caregivers turn their backs, leaving permanent scars on the children who are abused daily.

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