Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
When on the 1st of May 2004 Poland joined European Union, many young people decided to leave the country. One of the most favourite destinations was Great Britain. While hundreds years ago it was the United States of America that seemed to be the perfect place for immigrants, now the Poles found a new paradise – closer to their relations, with cheap and convenient air-plane connections, a place that offers them higher wages, wide opportunities and access without visa. As most of the Poles learn English at school, undertaking job there seemed to be easier than in other European countries.
Citizens of Poland were the largest group of immigrants to the United Kingdom from EU countries. The statistics say that about 1,5 mln of them chose this very country, however, Ireland for example was also very popular.
Among immigrants there were whole families, fathers and mothers who left their children and spouses in the homeland. The largest group, however, were young people who just graduated from school or university or even took a year off from studies to make some of their dreams come true. Many of them planned to spend a year or two abroad, just to save some money for buying their own flat in Poland or setting up a company but after the time spent there, they bind their life with the country that provides them easier life. The jobs they took were mostly in customer services. Most of them found the life in Great Britain much easier than the one in Poland – they could easily find employment, they could afford renting their own apartment, spending money on leisure time, and at the same time they could still visit their relations and make savings.
Beside many successful ones there were also those who failed. They came to the country, so much advertised by others, with no knowledge of English and with no money on them. What were they hoping for? Better life. Instead of this they lost all they had and became homeless, being ashamed to come back home to admit that they did not manage in different conditions.
While Great Britain let many of Poles develop and improve skills, for some of them it was the start of a new career – career of cheaters. They made money by lying and pretending to help in finding a job for their nationals. They took money for mediation and ensuring accommodation. Instead of this they fled leaving their nationals helpless and broke.
The new immigration changed something in culture of Poland. Now almost everyone has somebody he knows, a neighbour, friend or relation in Great Britain. During Christmas the planes to Poland are full of people longing for their homeland. Some of them come back with new experience or money for investment, other settle down for good. There are also more and more mixed relationships and marriages – what makes Poland more international.
What do the Poles think of it? There are couple of programmes and campaigns promoting Poland among those who can bring something to the industry. Numerous documentaries show the misery of those who did not succeed. One of the new Polish TV movies is called ‘The Londoners’ and takes place in England. All that would have never happened without opening the boundaries for working Poles. But there has been also a lot of good happening. People here became more open to other cultures while those who are in the UK let the British get to know Poles as hard working and easily adjustable immigrants.