The Family Book

Zagreb

Zagreb

What’s the most dreadful (or wonderful) experience you’ve ever had as a customer?

When my dad passed away I had to do a lot of paperwork for my mom. Among them all related to her pension as a widow. I went to the Social Security office with all the documentation required, at least all the documentation I had. But I crashed against a rock.

– “The Family Book, please”, said the official

The Family Book is a document the Spanish authorities give you when you start a family, but because my parents got married in Croatia, the Spanish authorities at that time didn’t give them that book.

– “We don’t have a Family Book I already gave you my parent’s marriage certificate. That proves my mother is my father’s widow and has right to her pension.”

– “Without the Family Book your parents are not legally married here in Spain, so she doesn’t have right to the pension”

– “But you have the marriage certificate and your people didn’t gave them the Family Book because they got married before they came here.”

– “That’s not my problem. I need the Family Book.”

No way to convince that woman my parents were legally married and were legally recognized as a married couple in Spain despite they never had the damned Family Book. So I had nothing to do but go home and look for new ways to prove my parents marriage. I did coming back with the birth certificates of all of us where mom and dad appeared as our parents legally married, but the clerk was not satisfied.

– “I need the Family Book”.

I looked at her in disbelief. I was desperate, sad, angry, hopeless. Another clerk who was following my case saw my despair and called me a said. A window of hope opened. But then she said in a whisper.

– “I see what’s your problem. I’ll give you a phone number.” – she was writing it in a post-it – “Call here. Is a Red Cross social worker, they are doing a very good job looking for identities for people like your family”

Then I exploded

– “Look, my Mother has the Spanish nationality since before you were born. She has for children born in Spain. We have lived here legally for decades without a problem and now you are telling me to go to the Red Cross to ask for a new identity as if we just arrived yesterday illegally in a boat?. I don’t need a new identity. I have my legal identity before you were born. This has to have another solution”.

Because we were mourning my dad I didn’t explain to my mom the problems I was having with the paperwork. I didn’t want  her to worry about. But at that point I had to tell her because I needed her help. She began to look for old documents and found a certificate about the ownership of her apartment in Zagreb. The document had all the communist paraphernalia of the old Yugoslavia: the red star, the sickle and hammer, cyrillic characters, and the names of my father and my mother in it.

– “Try with this,” she said.

I had nothing to lose so I did

– “Here I have another document about my parents marriage issued by the city council of Zagreb, the city were they got married”, I said trying to sound convinced.

When the officer saw the strange characters, the red star, the sickle and hammer and all that, without understanding a word of the document, except the names of my parents, she said immediately:

– “This will work”

And it did. The application went on and my mother had her pension.

Daily Prompt: Are you being served?.

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