Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Stolen Hopes

"What do you think?" she asked me, staring over her Bloody Mary.

This is what I heard tonight from a friend (well, she's a bartender at a place I frequent) about her and her boyfriend's plan to go to England for the summer. We were sitting in a restaurant that had already closed. We were allowed to stay in because her boyfriend delivers food for them.

As everyone in Europe knows, Poland is going through yet another diaspora at the moment. This time, though, it's mostly young people leaving instead of whole families. I feel so dearly for people like my bartender friend. She has no idea what to expect. Her boyfriend has a job lined up for six pounds per hour doing construction work. They are filled with hope and still plagued by anxiety. Why else would they ask an American about work conditions in England?

I told her that if there is a tourist industry in this town then she has a good chance of getting a job, however locally low the wage might be (I'm not so sure about this point since Poland has joined the EU, but I remember hearing about Poles working for ridiculously low wages a few years ago). She sounded mildly hopeful, but when her boyfriend left for a moment, she told me that she would really rather stay in Poland because she likes her job here. She would only go to England because she'd miss her boyfriend too much.

England is a shangri-la for many Polish people. It's the local version of the American dream: Work hard, earn money, be happy. Learn English for free. It's a success story for many but now, due to some tax irregularities (I bet beatroot knows more about this than I do), that dream has lost much of its gloss. There are still so many young people ready to throw caution to the wind and make that journey. I don't know whether to take this as a testament to their bravery or to the condition of the economy in Poland.

As we part ways after our Bloody Marys, I can't help but wonder what will happen to my new friends but I do know that their hopes, imparted to me in a dark room after hours, live in the hearts of thousands (maybe bordering on millions) of their peers and compatriots. I sincerely wish them all the best.

5 Comments:

At 5/20/2006 11:33:00 AM, Blogger beatroot said...

I know thatb there will be some problems with tax and insurance when they come back to Poland.

But that is a big 'if they come back '...

They won;t until the economy improves and socially, Poland drags itself out of the stone age.

 
At 5/20/2006 11:53:00 AM, Blogger Aaron Fowles said...

That's a good point. But what about those kids that only want to go there for a summer and then discover that they can't come back without forfeiting a chunk of their saved income? Their dreams of a temporary stay could then be shattered. They could get caught in a rather vicious circle.

 
At 5/21/2006 12:37:00 PM, Anonymous Axure said...

The funniest thing is that a citizen of Poland that goes to work in UK has to pay taxes both in Poland and in UK. That can sum up to as much as 50% of the income.

 
At 5/22/2006 11:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very Important. This is not a joke.
Body: JOIN THE MARCH OF EQUALITY IN WARSAW

The March of Equality will take place on the 10th of June in
Warsaw.

The March of Equality is a political manifestation against
any discrimination of minorities in our society. It is not
only about gay people, but also about the disabled, national
and racial minorities and the rights of women.

The rights of citizens of the European Union are being
trampled by the Polish authorities.

We are fighting for ideas and liberties which are obvious to
the majority of European societies, yet in Poland are still
considered extremist, libertine, perverted etc.

The organizers of the March of Equality have serious reasons
to expect that this year's demonstration will not be
properly protected by the authorities. Year after year,
groups of violent youngsters from right-wing organizations
have been trying to attack the peaceful rallies by throwing
eggs, and even stones or bricks at the protesters. Over the
last two years the mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski, tried to
use his authority to block the March of Equality. Courts
overruled his decisions. This year, Mr. Kaczynski is no
longer the mayor of Warsaw; he's been elected the president
of Poland.

The process of modernization of our society will take many
years and it is probably impossible to accelerate it. But no
change will ever happen if the public debate fells victim to
political, religious and ideological censorship.

We will execute our civil rights. We will march on the 10th
of June, despite our fear that we will fall victim to
physical violence. The presence of foreign observers will
diminish the threat. It will also have a positive impact on
our society. Poles will realize that the European Union is
not only a sphere of economic liberty but also a
Commonwealth of values. If a society wants to be member of
this Commonwealth, it has to obey its rules. Your presence
at the rally will also demonstrate that the other members of
the EU care about the state of our democracy; that they are
not indifferent towards our problems.

We already know that some MEP's - mostly from the Green
Parties - have openly expressed their support for our
demonstration. Many of them will come to the March.

We hope that this protest will not be treated by the
authorities and public opinion in Poland as an event
organized by the "leftist extremists" as they are being
refered to by the official propaganda. It is very important
to us to underline that our agenda is the mainstream of
European politics, and not extremism. We hope that we will
have a chance to meet and discuss the ways of social
development in our country. We are counting on you!

POLITICAL BACKGROUND

Poland has a new ruling coalition. Six months after last
year's parliamentary and presidential election, three
parties have signed an agreement to rule together. While the
main political power remains in the hands of the Law and
Justice party (PiS), two smaller partners have joined the
government. Both of them received the posts of deputy prime
ministers for their leaders.

The ideology of PiS is right wing, conservative and
nationalist. It won the election thanks to the support of
Radio Maryja, an orthodox-catholic broadcast with strong
influence over frustrated and ill-educated people of rural
Poland. Radio Maryja can be found in annual reports of the
Human Rights Watch as an example of xenophobic and
anti-semitic rhetoric. Aggressive propaganda of RM has led
to public condemnation by the Pope Benedict XVI, but despite
this and many other protests it is still protected by the
political establishment.

PiS would be considered a relic of old-style politics in any
Western-European country, but it is relatively liberal
compared to its two smaller partners.

The League of Polish Families (LPR) is a neo-fascist
movement. Its leaders have often expressed hatred of other
nationalities. Photos have been leaked to the press of their
rallies, where members of the party were using the fascist
salute. Their MEP, Wojciech Wierzejski, is well known for
his violent homophobia. Three days ago, when asked about
next month's March of Equality, he said: "if they [gay
people] decide to come and demonstrate, then they should be
hammered into the ground with baseball bats".

Well, Wierzejski's friend, and leader of LPR, Roman
Giertych, has just been nominated as vice-PM and minister of
education of our country. During a press conference on the
16th of May, he said that he would put an end to the
"promotion of deviation" in Polish schools. Any meetings
between students and activists of the gay movement will be
strictly forbidden.

After Giertych's nomination, a wave of protests swept
through all major Polish cities. Thousands of young people:
high school and university students, parents, alongside with
teachers and intellectuals, took to the streets to show
their opposition to the nomination. Within two days, over 60
000 people signed a letter posted on the Internet demanding
his resignation. In response, Giertych commented that the
protests were organized by left-wing extremists, communists
and the "homosexual lobby". Mr. Wierzejski, again, sent an
official letter to the Minister of Interior, asking him to
investigate the ties between homosexuals, pedophiles and the
drug mafia.

The Self-defense party (Samoobrona) is a political movement
of frustrated farmers. Twelve years ago they started
refusing to pay back their bank loans and their protests
became violent. The charismatic leader of Samoobrona,
Andrzej Lepper, is a cynical political gamester. He is also
a criminal with multiple jail sentences for organizing and
taking part in violent and often bloody riots. Even three
days ago he was sentenced for one and a half years of
probation for throwing public insults at another politician.
He announced that hed appeal to the European Court of
Justice against the Polish state for this sentence. That
means that he will be appealing against himself, since he
just became our deputy PM and head of the Ministry of
Agriculture.

Let's face the facts: Poland is ruled by a coalition of
nationalists, criminals and neo-fascists, unparalleled in
the European Union.

If You have any further questions or remarks, please feel
free to e-mail me at a_lazarkiewicz@mac.com or call me on my
mobile number: (+48)501297344. The Democratic Party of
Poland is not directly involved in organizing the March, but
we are trying our best to support it.

The internet site of the March (with english and german
versions): http://www.paradarownosci.pl
Please, pass this message on to anybody who might be interested.

Antoni Lazarkiewicz,
Partia Demokratyczna (The Democratic Party of Poland),
demokraci.pl

 
At 5/29/2006 09:06:00 AM, Blogger Vilhelm Konnander said...

It appears Poland is lacking a joint taxation agreement with many EU-countries. Normally, Poles would only have to pay taxes in the country of employment. Now it seeems they have to pay both there and in their country of origin. This issue must clearly be addressed, for the sake of Poles working abroad and because it hinders the free movement of labour within the EU.

 

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