Poles may lift travel restrictions soon

Good news is not frequent in Poland, even now with martial law at an end. But a small item modestly displayed in most newspapers recently brought some cautious hope, at least to young people.

''Easier to travel abroad - communique of the Ministry of Internal Affairs,'' said a headline in Zycie Warszawy, which put it on the front page.

Young Poles were more embittered by the freeze on travel - particularly to the West - than by any other aspect of martial law.

Many educated young people have had requests for passports to travel to Western countries in abeyance since before martial law was imposed in December 1981.

It is not surprising, therefore, that to ever-skeptical young Poles the wording of the ministry's communique was still enigmatic enough to preclude any euphoria.

But, if - and one must emphasize ''if'' - the announcement means what it says , they soon may be able to travel again on conditions similar to those before martial law.

Passports will be issued, it said, for trips to hard-currency countries on the basis of invitations. When martial law was imposed, many Poles already had invitations from family members in their pockets. But one of the first decrees invalidated all passports.

The only stipulation now seems to be that invitations must be renewed. What gratifies young Poles most is the ministry's ruling, for the first time, that invitations from acquaintances or friends (and not just from relatives abroad) will be acceptable.

Other authorized trips are: exchange programs by civic and state administrations; sporting, cultural, and religious trips planned by (authorized) institutions; and trips in response to invitations from foreign institutions like universities and scientific bodies.

Ironically, young Poles are already discovering that getting visas for some Western countries may be as difficult as their struggle for the passport. One West European neutral, for example, is requiring that the visitor spend at least issuing a visa.

Some Western countries with already formidable unemployment problems fear many young Poles with relatives in the West may try to turn short visits into permanent ones. The Polish authorities themselves may have some fear of a youth exodus if passports are issued too easily. But young Poles had a good ''return'' record when travel was easy.

It seems, anyway, a risk the authorities are ready to take if the easing of travel restrictions should bring a favorable response from the West.

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