Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Poles in the UK

As one of the few EU countries to open its borders to workers from the new Member States, the UK has benefitted from an influx of primarily young Poles and other central Europeans prepared to leave their homes and families and take advantage of the opportunity offered to them in the UK.

There's quite a lot of hysterical ranting from the British gutter press about the new workers 'coming over here and taking our jobs' but the UK has really benefitted from the arrangement and other countries, most recently Spain, are following their lead and inviting the new members to be a *proper* part of the EU club.

I went to London at the weekend with a couple of Poles and saw evidence not only of the new generation of Poles to have taken up residence in Britain, but met some Poles who have been in the country for 40 years.

Marek's great-Uncle was in the RAF and is now a British citizen. 'They didn't want to, but I had fought for them and they had to let me become British' he told me, with a twinkle in his eye. His late brother-in-law was a Catholic priest who came to England and built up a Polish Catholic community in Ealing. We went into the church and heard the end of a mass, in Polish. I scanned the notice board which was crammed with posters for events, a mix of English and Polish. We walked past the kitchens, serving soup and Polish dishes to a group of pensioners.

Later we went to Fawley Court, a Christopher Wren stately home in Henley-on-Thames in which Marek's other great-Uncle, the Catholic priest, had lived and worked. The house and main park had been bought in 1953 by the Congregation of Marian fathers, who started a school for Polish boys and started renovating the estate. We met a very jolly Priest who ate Polish-style dinner with us, teased me and Marek about the absense of any wedding plans, and showed us round the museum and house.

I never realised that Polish was going to be such a useful language to learn but in the four days we were in London, we met Polish tourists and Polish hotel staff and heard Polish being spoken on the streets. When we walked down the road we saw signs for Polish beer, newspaper racks for Polish papers and were told about Polish shops. Forget the Chinese, I reckon the Poles are going to be the superpower of tomorrow.


At 3/22/2006 03:57:00 PM, Blogger Gustav said...

And we don't blink an eye when we walk down a street in Warsaw with signs in English, with English bookshops and restaurants with English or American food. Hearing English in Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw or Gdansk is hardly surprising.

Welcome to the new world order of labor mobility.

Fun, ain't it?

At 3/22/2006 04:21:00 PM, Blogger Aaron Fowles said...

Check this out:

I don't agree that Poland is going to be the superpower of tomorrow. Chicago has had advertisements for Polish beer for about 100 years now and nothing's happened. Granted it's different than the situation in London where, to the best of my knowledge, Polish is absolutely ubiquitous and not confined to one neighborhood.


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