Posted in diary | 9 Comments »
Yesterday I did a studio interview with Christopher George of Radio Slovakia International. We spoke for maybe twenty minutes, and the interview was edited down to about eleven minutes.
Audio, direct from Radio Slovakia International, unedited, 12.3MB, 26min 52sec (my segment begins around 15:00): streaming MP3 — downloadable MP3 (no longer available)
Google Video, trimmed to just my segment (11min 2sec):
Commentator: On the eighth of December, 2008, there was a press release that was different from the rest. A 36-year-old American, Mike Gogulski, started a process to become a stateless person and renounced his American passport and citizenship. This is not an everyday thing, so we talked to him on his feelings about the US and soon being a person of no state. Christopher George met him in our studio.
Christopher George: Before the interview, I must state that Radio Slovakia International, as an institution, does not share the ideas and ideology of Mr. Gogulski, but feel he has the right to express his own opinion via our broadcasts.
Mike Gogulski: My name is Mike Gogulski, I’m 36, a former American living here in Bratislava.
CG: How long have you been here?
MG: I’ve been legally resident for about two and a half years, and I’ve been visiting the country since about 2004… mid-2004.
CG: When did you start the process of becoming a person of no state?
MG: Well, in very real terms, the process only began a couple of weeks ago when I first visited the American embassy here in Bratislava…
CG: A few weeks ago?
MG: Two weeks ago, to actually start filing the paperwork. The mental process is one that started quite a long time ago… I suppose — really about ten years — when I first had this idea that said, “I want to leave America, go live somewhere else.”
CG: What is your idea of the US government… or the US in general, as an American?
MG: Well, the …
CG: …as an ex-American…
MG: …as an ex-American? Well, like every government, the United States government in my view is a criminal organization, it just happens to be one of the most powerful ones in existence today. So, where I see American politicians talking loudly about ideas of freedom and democracy and free markets, the reality, I think, is rather different.
CG: Do you believe in the system? Do you believe in American politicians when they go electioneering and so on? Do you believe that … they’re a politician and they have a set of beliefs that they will follow?
MG: With respect to politicians there’s a couple of important things that I believe. The first is that the desire for power over other human beings really ought to be considered a sort of mental illness. The other is that politicians, especially at the national level… they don’t hold the real power in the system. The real power is held by what you could call plutocratic interests… the politicians are the instruments for the implementation of their policy.
CG: Do you think this is problematic in the system in that most politicians are sponsored by various companies and lobbyists and so on before they even get into office, and when they are, they…?
MG: Well, yes, sure, there are any number of cases that you could look back on and see politicians taking campaign contributions from certain industries or from certain companies then later repay the favor by sponsoring or signing on to legislation that favors those entities, even when those acts of government are contrary to the interests of the people. So, sure.
CG: Your attempt to become a person of no state in relation to Slovakia… is this a place where it is possible and easy to fulfill this goal?
MG: From my reading of the law and the treaties regarding statelessness and stateless persons, I believe that in Slovakia it is possible to become a stateless person, if one thinks that’s desirable. Is it easy? I don’t know yet. I’m just beginning a bureaucratic process with the Interior Ministry, by way of the Aliens’ Police, to become documented as a stateless person. Slovakia is signatory to one UN treaty on the status of refugees and two on the treatment of stateless persons which set up a number of conditions that give congruent rights to stateless people legally in the territory as are enjoyed by citizens and legal residents with citizenship.
CG: I have here in front of me a scan of your trvalý pobyt, which means your residence permit…
MG: My residence permit.
CG: And it says that it expires on the 21st of the fifth [sic], 2010…
CG: Do you see this as problematic? What is the process? You’ll have to go there and renew it, of course…
MG: My understanding right now is that… I’ve sent a letter to the Foreign Police saying I forfeited my American passport, which contained my povolenie na trvalý pobyt… na prechodný pobyt, actually, it’s temporary, not permanent…
CG: Oh, it’s not even trvalý…
MG: Yeah. My understanding is that my legal residence here is tied to my person, not to my citizenship. So, I’m still a legal resident by virtue of a file entry having been made at the Foreign Police office. I’m applying now for them to issue a 1954 Convention Travel Document for me as a stateless person and then re-issue the visa sticker.
CG: So, do you see any problems in the future with extending your residency permit?
MG: If the Slovak government decides that I am “undesirable”, for whatever reason, and makes a notation in my residency file with the Foreign Police, the Foreign Police have broad discretion to refuse to renew or grant a residence permit. So it is possible that they would refuse to renew it. What position would that put me in? I’m not exactly certain. I would be a stateless person now no longer legally present in the Slovak Republic. Would I be deportable to America? I’m not quite sure.
CG: And with regards to your application, do you see it being just a formality, and it’ll be accepted?
MG: I hope so. That’s certainly the impression that I got from a letter that I received from the Foreign Police in response to an inquiry about applying for a Stateless Person’s Travel Document, and in which I mentioned that I would renounce my American citizenship. Of course, you know, the bureaucracy likes to answer questions directly, so there may be other factors that come into play when I actually face the application and approval process. But I don’t expect anything dramatic.
CG: So your application went in on the 8th of December, if I remember, right?
MG: Well this was my application to renounce my US citizenship. I haven’t yet filed the application for these other documents from the Slovak government because I am waiting for a certificate from the American government certifying that I’ve actually lost my citizenship.
CG: How have the few days since then been? Has it been a normal average day, normal average week?
MG: Normal average days, normal average week… I go to the grocery store and I buy food and nobody asks me for ID. I go to the bank machine and withdraw cash and there’s no problem. I ride the bus and eat in restaurants and do my work. [ed: my final comment here, stating that my cat doesn’t even realize anything has changed, was edited out of the broadcast.]
CG: Do you see this being a long, drawn-out process?
MG: I hope not. What I’ve been led to expect by the American embassy is there will be a period of up to 30 days while they process my application to renounce. By the end of that period I should either receive the Certificate of Loss of Nationality or receive a letter stating that my application has been rejected for some reason, together with my passport returned to me. After that, I will apply immediately to the Foreign Police for this Travel Document and my new visa… my replacement visa. That’s a process which can take up to three months. So, there’s a possibility that it might be March 8 or April 8 before I’m documented again.
CG: So, you obviously don’t see yourself going back to America.
MG: No plans…
CG: And, Slovakia? Are you interested in staying here?
MG: Well, I’ve been here for some time already and I feel quite at home here. My professional work as a translator is connected directly to the Slovak language. I have a small community of friends here. I don’t have any real desire to leave or to go anywhere else.
CG: And to other people, would you suggest this as something to do if they feel that they are against, or that they clash with the system?
MG: Well, it’s a terribly dangerous and risky kind of step to take, I think. I wouldn’t go out preaching that Americans ought to renounce their citizenship as a means of protest. However, if there are some who think they might want to do that, well, they’re certainly welcome to contact me through my website and ask me about my own experience. But there are limitations and restrictions that anybody doing that is going to have to accept.
CG: What about the current change that has been happening in America? Where do you see this, where do you see the new presidency going?
MG: There was a comedian back in the 1980s named Bobcat Goldthwait who once had a great line in one of his stand-up routines that said, “Blaming Ronald Reagan for how screwed up the country is is a little bit like blaming Ronald McDonald when you get a bad cheeseburger. Neither of them really run the show.” Barack Obama, a very charismatic politician who has rode himself into office kind of on a wave of messianic fervor, is already being revealed as a tool of the plutocratic elite that really controls American politics and American policy. So, as far as “change”? Maybe they’ll move some soldiers from Iraq to Afghanistan instead.
CG: So no administrative problems, really? Because it seems you have letters from most … embassy, and banks, and … I guess the list goes on. People and institutions that are happy with the situation, really.
MG: There were two main concerns for me in renouncing my citizenship. One is with respect to the identification function that a state passport provides. So, for example, if I walk into Tatra banka, where I’m a client, and ask to withdraw money in cash from my account, they want to see my passport. At the moment I don’t have a passport or a stateless person’s Travel Document, so what I have for this interim period while I’m undocumented, in order to manage the ID function, is, one, this notarized copy of my passport and visa. The second is I executed a power of attorney designating a friend of mine as being able to sign for all legal acts in my name. So, if I needed to withdraw cash from the bank, I would take her along to the bank branch and she would present her ID and sign for me, based on the power of attorney.
The other function of the passport, obviously, was to hold the residence permit sticker. Right now I don’t have that, so I could have a real problem if I were stopped by the police.
CG: If anyone out there wants to visit, or to find out more information about yourself, could you please give them the link?
MG: My personal blog, my website, is www.nostate.com, just n-o-s-t-a-t-e-dot-com.