Poland: Credit Union Responds to Members' Needs (1995)

  ------------------------------------------------------------
   This document has been made available in electronic format
           by the International Co-operative Alliance.
  ------------------------------------------------------------

                        The Solution
        Polish Credit Union Responds to Members' Needs

       A report from the World Council of Credit Unions

Artur Kosniak takes his job seriously. As manager of Maritime
Employees Savings and Credit Union in northern Poland, saying,
"I'm sorry. We cannot help you," is not in his vocabulary. Andre
Alkiewicz and Richard Skowski are grateful for his attitude. 

The problem

When these two 40-year-old draftsman first met Kosniak, they were
scared of having harm done to themselves and their families. "I
was in constant fear that I would lose my house or, even worse,
that something terrible would happen to my wife and two
children," said Alkiewicz.

Both of them, along with 13 other people, co-signed loans for a
fellow employee. Unable to deal with the spiraling amount of
debt, the employee committed suicide, leaving Alkiewicz, Skowski,
and the others responsible for paying back the money lenders.

Realizing their US$ 300 a month salary would not be able to cover
the more than US$ 10,000 in debt they owned, they turned to the
credit union for help. 
    
    Polish Credit Unions: Part of the Solution

These days credit unions are still relatively new financial
institutions in Poland, although they once existed in the
hundreds before the communist regime came to power after World
War II. 

Today, credit unions are part of the economic rebuilding going on
in that country. With funding from the U.S. Agency for
International Development and the international credit union
movement, the World Council of Credit Unions, working with the
National Association of Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions
(Poland), has assisted the Polish people in establishing 110
credit unions during the last three years, serving about 50,000
people. Maritime, which was established in September 1994,
already has more than 2,000 members, US$ 400,000 in assets, and
four branch offices. More credit unions are also being planned,
all with the mission of meeting people's need for financial
services and guidance.

    Credit Unions Look after Members

Kosniak, indeed, takes this pledge to heart. He not only helped
the men consolidate a portion of the loans so they could afford
monthly payments, but he then took the extra step of working with
local lawyers to prepare litigation on behalf of all the
employees affected by the crisis. As a result, the usurers have
agreed to forgive much of the outstanding balance, and the other
lenders have consented to await the results of a lawsuit against
the original borrower's estate. 

"I have no idea how we would have solved this problem without the
credit union. I am glad it is a part of my new life in Poland,"
Skowski said.

For more information, contact the World Council of Credit Unions,
PO Box 2982, Madison, WI 53701-2982, USA, or fax +1 608-238-8020.