Start a new topic

From Studio to CafeTran Espresso – From London to Gdansk

The avant-garde of professional translators already shifted from Studio to CafeTran Espresso 2019. Here's an interesting article about how the rest of the world switches from British to Polish quality of life:

The future lies in Poland, not in the United Kingdom

7 December 2018

In London: the originally Polish Daria Biolas (28), lives in the British capital, but wants to return to Gdansk. Photo Justin Griffiths-Williams

Daria Bialowas doesn't think it's worthwhile to think about the little things in life. She wants to meet at a branch of Costa, the British chain with moderate coffee and an even less tasteful interior. That is nice and close to her office. She says she loves Soho, the bustling London nightlife district, but can't name her favourite pubs. "I just go to the pub on my way from work to the metro," she says. That's so handy.

How different is it when the 28-year-old Polish-British talks about the big things. She is fierce on the British. "I grew up in Gdansk," she says, city of anti-communist workers' uprisings and Lech Walesa. "My father and grandfather always told me that people are capable of changing their world. They had nothing in Poland, they demonstrated, they changed the country," she says. "The British were not prepared to fight. They were dissatisfied. They voted in the Brexit-referendum. They are still dissatisfied and blame others.

Daria continues. She cherishes her British passport. "For me, it means that voting is absolutely mandatory. That is part of being a responsible citizen. Especially many young people do not appreciate this. They only took action against the Brexit after the referendum.

Next Tuesday, 11 December, is a crucial day for the Brexit. Then the House of Commons will vote on the resignation deal of Prime Minister Theresa May. If it is up to May, the free movement of persons will end after the Brexit. That, according to the Prime Minister, is one of the greatest benefits of her agreement. She firmly believes that the influx of Eastern and Central European workers was one of the main reasons why 17,410,742 British voted in favour of the Brexit. EU citizens will then in the future "no longer be able to push in the queue" to work in the UK, May recently said.

EU citizens already living and working in London, Derry, Edinburgh or Shrewsbury may be eligible for a permanent residence permit. Everyone who crosses the Channel until the end of 2020, the end of the agreed transitional period, will also be given the opportunity to do so.

So nobody has to leave. Yet there is an outflow going on. The latest figures (end November) from the Office for National Statistics show that in the period June 2017 to June 2018 many more people from Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia left the United Kingdom than left. Net (inflow minus outflow) fourteen thousand employees from these countries left home. This will put an end to the wave of migration initiated in 2004 by European integration and the right of EU citizens to settle anywhere in the Union. By 2018, more than two million people from the eastern part of the EU will live and work in the UK.

Poland is not perfect, but have the feeling that the future is bright. I didn't have that in London

Daria is one of those two million. She moved along at the age of 14 when her mother got a job in England in 2004. Her mother, educated in biotech, got a job in food safety. They moved to Peterborough, a little exciting city north of Cambridge.

Slowly Daria let go of her Polish side. When she just moved she had many Polish friends. "So many families came over. With a few friends we had a Polish walk," she says. Of course not criminal, hurry them to say so. They were just very close. In the last years of high school she ended up in a class without Poland. "That felt fine. I already felt quite British at the time. Sometimes it was tiring. Always explain what the other side of your identity looks like, what you eat, which holidays you celebrate. Sometimes it is nice to be fully understood.

After high school she went on to study Middle Eastern history at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, a renowned university. She ended up in a cosmopolitan environment and thought it was fantastic. Her best friend was an American of Indian descent. Together they travelled: hitchhiking to Iran, travelling through Jordan. They got lost in Petra, the rock city in the desert. They roamed around for hours after sunset. They got a lift from two boys in a pick-up.

While bumping over a cart track in the loading bay, she stared at the Milky Way in the sky. Beautiful. At the same time she was convinced that she would be raped and murdered that evening. The boys neatly drop the two students off at the tourist hotels. "That evening I got to know my limit. I know I'm adventurous, but it shouldn't be too extreme," she says.

"For four years I did not visit Poland. I did not see my friends or family. I really considered it to be my time," she says. "If I had stayed in Poland, it would have been more difficult to do so. Why do you learn Arabic? Why don't you just marry and have children? Why do you have to be different? Those were the questions I would have received from my Polish surroundings.

It happened

The independence she gained during those travels made her think after the Brexit referendum. She does not want to be tied to a place, to a pattern of expectations. It took a while, but in the end Daria made the decision. She is going to move. Back to Poland. "The Brexitreferendum was the drop," she says. "I thought: this will never happen. It happened anyway.

Purely legally, the Brexit has little impact on its situation. But the political chaos and the whirring about Deal or No Deal with which television stations and newspapers turn out every day did leave an impression. Daria, the type of highly educated, talented immigrant for whom the Brexiteers believe Global Britain wants to remain attractive, had the feeling "that I want to build a new life".

NRC Brexit

Every Thursday the latest developments regarding the planned exit of the United Kingdom from the EU.

She wants to name a few things clearly. She doesn't leave because she doesn't feel appreciated or unwanted. She does not leave the UK because she has been experiencing xenophobia since the Brexit referendum. "I don't want to say it's an exaggerated story, but here in London I've never noticed anything about it. She has lived and worked in the capital since 2011 and feels at ease there.

She knows that Poland is not heaven on earth. In London Brexit causes a deep malaise, but in Warsaw the national-conservative cabinet of Justice and Justice (PiS) dismantles the rule of law and unleashed a cultural struggle.

"I don't agree with the ruling party in Poland," she says, "but I do feel I can contribute something to that. The country is not perfect, but I get the feeling that young people can still control it, that the future is bright. I don't have that in London.

It all started before the Brexit, with the observation that she sneakily got tired of her lifestyle. "London exhausts me. Hard work for a good salary that is completely swallowed up by too high a rent for an apartment in Haringey, a lively but anything but chic district in North London. Every day she spends a long time in the train or metro, an endlessly long working week. Even by WhatsApp making an appointment to call her about a meeting takes a long time: sorry, sorry, sorry, it is insane pressure at work.

I was a bit naive'.

Daria does the human resources management of a London chain of steak restaurants. "During the day I'm busy with office work and in the evening I'm often still arranging things in one of the shops. Before the referendum, she received almost daily applications from Polish cooks and waiters. "I thought that the referendum would not make a difference in the short term. After all, anyone who happens now can just stay here. I was a bit naive.

Now she only gets one Pool per month at the most. Will it ensure that more British people are adopted, as Brexiteers want? "No. They are not there. It means that we now offer something more. No minimum wage. A little more holiday money".

In the United Kingdom after the Brexit, the future is uncertain, she says. She fears stagnation or even deterioration. "Economically, the Brexit is a bizarre fantasy. As if the United Kingdom could be just like Norway, but without huge oil wells".

She thinks Poland is in a better shape in an EU Member State. The growth that has exploded in recent decades has not yet been eradicated: this year the Polish economy grew by 4.8%. More and more international companies settled in her home country. She can work for that.

Her mother and her brother had already gone before her, back to Gdansk. "My brother could never completely ground in the United Kingdom," she says. "The quality of life here was not enough for him. And, as she was in Poland earlier this year, she didn't realize it for her anymore. "In Warsaw or Gdansk I can pay a nice loft. I don't need to be hunted to live and work long days to live in an apartment that is shockingly shit. My British friend finds it astonishing that my family members have a normal job in Poland and yet live in a modern way, without mould in the bathroom and a string to turn on the light.

Every night before she goes to sleep she thinks about her upcoming move.

Daria has arranged an interview in Poland. One autumn day she travelled to Stansted, the dilapidated London airport where the floors are always dingy and a clean toilet is untraceable. Two hours later she got off at Lech Walesa airport at Gdansk, a modern airport of glass and steel.

At home in Gdansk

"Gdansk feels like home," says Daria, walking along the steep Dutch and Flemish style bell facades that dominate the centre of the former Hanseatic city on the Baltic Sea. "Here my grandparents took me for a walk and to buy ice creams", she says in front of the bright pink Royal Chapel, a baroque building with green copper domes as tufts of confectionery on a cake.

When she went to the United Kingdom with her mother and younger brother, her father and older brother stayed here. She is now the last one to remigrate.

Behind her, on the banks of the Motlawa River, a construction crane stands out against the sky. Where once was the nerve centre of the port, luxury flats, hotels and offices are now being built. When Daria looks around in Poland, she sees change. "Compare the state of the country with 2005 and it is a huge leap forward.

Since 2014, a high-speed train connects Gdansk with Warsaw in less than three hours. Also the Poles themselves, traditionally reserved, "have become more open and less grumpy". The sense of progress on all fronts makes Daria optimistic. And it helps her to reconcile herself with the downsides of Polish reality.

My generation also dares to travel, to dream, to move to Argentina for a dream job. That was not so long ago unprecedented

"The most frightening element remains politics," she says. The provisional boiling point of the clash between its values and those of the ruling elite was the attempt to tighten one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the EU, under pressure from Catholic lobby groups. It resulted in massive women's protests throughout the country. "So silly", says Daria, an atheist, who is diametrically opposed to the government on women's rights. "This country has fought for its freedom, even its right to exist, to be Polish. And then we, as women, still have to fight over this. Deciding on your own body is a basic right.

The influence of religion and a "post-communist mentality", in which authoritarian thinking, distrust and risk-averse behaviour are central, "remain difficult," she says. "But there are many young people with a healthy mentality. In Poland, everything changes with every new government.

Another annoyance: "The homogeneity here. Everyone has blue eyes and a ghostly white skin and asks you when you are getting married. In my Polish high school there were some children of mixed Polish-Asian descent. Other students kept asking them where they came from, while they just grew up in the same neighborhood as I did. That was already annoying to me at the time. You would never have that in London.

But also in this area Poland is changing. Gdansk, which has been alternately Polish and German and which attracted people from all over Europe, is again internationalising.

Poland moves

While we drink coffee on a terrace with billboards for a hip Hamburgs soft drink brand, one group of tourists passes by one after the other. They speak German, Dutch, English and Norwegian. "I can't remember so many foreign visitors. Warsaw, a magnet for ambitious Polish and foreign workers, is much more cosmopolitan, she says. "Poland has made a huge catch-up with EU membership. My generation also dares to travel, to dream, to move to Argentina for a dream job. That was not so long ago unprecedented.

It is not yet like London, no. But the crucial difference is that Poland moves. "When I compare the news in the UK and the news in Poland, I think I choose the least harmful option.

Not everything in Poland is new. In the tower block where she stays with her father, "the grandmothers still know who I am and they greet me just like when I was a child. Unlike in London, where you have to create community spirit yourself.

However, reintegration does not happen automatically. It took her younger brother a year to find his way. "At first he found it difficult to write in Polish. He left his Polish school when he was twelve. We had to help him with his CV when he came back. He had to pretend he was fluent in Polish. He now has a job in the IT sector and plays for her guide in those corners of the city that have changed beyond recognition.

"The most frightening element remains politics," says Bialowa.

Photo Maciej Moskwa/ TESTIGO

Daria realises that she too will have to make an effort: she is less special today than ten years ago. "At that time, as an international, you were a real sight to see. Then it really felt like I had a head start.

The job interview for a hotel chain in Warsaw went well. Part of the conversation was in Polish, part in English, to test her. But even if she gets the job, she rejects it. "This was an exercise. Only in 2019 does she make the final switch. She knows she has a lot to catch up with.

Business vocabulary, political jargon or Polish literature are not her strongest points. "I have no foreign accent in Polish, but I do struggle with new snake. With her little brother she speaks a mixture of Polish and English. "Ratio: 50/50". And sometimes I say 'thank you' here without realizing it. Thinking is mainly in English, sometimes a bit in Polish.

It reflects its identity: " sometimes more British, sometimes more Polish. And in both countries I am confronted with situations that give me the feeling that I do not belong there. A feeling that could become more intense when she really starts moving.

Her parents were already divorced before her mother moved to the UK, "but now they seem to come from different worlds". Her mother has become a very different person. She has that 'I don't belong anywhere' feeling. Her attitude towards the UK was: 'it is their country, not mine'. Daria's father, on the other hand, travelled a lot, but was never a migrant. He is more liberal, she is conservative. For her, change is tiring. Daria: "Change is still pleasing to me.

And so, just like emigration, remigration is not irrevocable. She keeps her British passport. "If I fail to integrate in Poland, I still have my plan B.".

1 Comment

This really makes me wonder how smart people can be so stubborn as to stick with Studio. This guy is even on Mac.

Login to post a comment