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Karolina Brdak

Karolina Brdak

I live and work in Paris. I cannot say how long exactly because I was leaving and coming back here several times. This time I've been here without a break for about two years, but I know this city for eight. The same as I’ve been with my fiancé, who is French - he showed me Paris. My experience of emigration is not linear, I left Poland for a longer time (I do not want to say that on a permanent basis) not knowing that it was happening. Paris was not the aim in itself, happened somehow along the way as a natural consequence of the development of the personal and professional situation of our relationship. I've had the experience of living in Ireland (1.5 year), Luxembourg (6 months) and Malta (2.5 years).

I left Poland when I was still a student, I never worked in Poland permanently, so I have no experiences that I could compare with the experience gained from other countries. However, listening to the stories of my friends, I suppose it would be more difficult to start my life independent of parental support at the level at which I have lived abroad since the beginning of independent life. I am lucky to be a representative of a generation whose entry into adulthood coincided with the colossal historical change, which was the Polish accession to the European Union and the opening of borders and the labor markets in most European countries. Moving, looking for work, regulating my residency status I felt accepted and supported by the administration of a particular country. I always felt comfortable and natural as a Pole in places where I lived, and I have never met with reluctance or prejudice.

The experience from all the countries where I have lived since I moved from Poland I judge as positive. In each I was able to find employment, a bunch of friends, to get to know the culture and atmosphere of the city in which I lived. France is a country which, after Poland, I feel most emotionally attached to. Not only because it is a country of my fiancé and it might be the country of birth of my children, but also because more than anywhere else I feel I belong here. I feel comfortable with the language, culture and mentality. The feeling of immediate acceptance and appreciation in the family of my partner, which especially at the beginning of the emigration experience was a great support, contributed to it.

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Polish teacher in the heart of Paris

Graduating from Polish studies I was aware that I would have a lot of difficulties in the labor market abroad, that perhaps I would never have the opportunity to work in a job connected with my learnt profession. Despite this, I consciously (since the third year of studies I have lived outside Poland) graduated from the Polish studies at the University of Gdańsk, which today I am very happy about. It determined me to seek work in a very narrow area, made it possible to attend a number of interesting trainings and led to a situation in which I am today. I must admit, however, that although studies at the University of Gdańsk are maintained at a relatively high level, I finished them with a sense of the lack of a specific profession and with confidence that the professional development would depend entirely on the level of my determination, mobilization and discipline.

After several years of experience in different environments, I was able to get the coveted job in the literary world. I work in an English-language bookstore in the heart of Paris, called ‘Shakespeare and Company’, whose extremely rich history and unique activity in the Parisian artistic life attracts readers and literary enthusiasts from all over the world. In addition to selling books, I participate in the creation of a rich program of literary meetings, lectures, soirées, festivals, concerts; I deal with the recruitment and training of apprentices. I can say that in professional terms, I work exactly in the place where I imagined myself 11 years ago, taking entrance exams to university. With a successful professional and personal life, I do not have, however, a sense of definitiveness of this situation. I have never said goodbye to Poland forever. Just the opposite, with each single visit I experience the belief that perhaps the next stage will be moving to Poland and trying life here. I would like to give our couple, future family, the opportunity to learn and experience life in both countries, with all their advantages and disadvantages.

I am still very much connected with Poland, perhaps more than when I lived here permanently. I am familiar with everything what is happening there. Thanks to the Internet I have access to all media, which I use regularly. Radio Three and Two are listened to in our home almost all the time. I also try to keep up with the Polish publishing market. In the bookstore where I work, I promote books of Polish authors, I try to get foreign readers familiar with them. I discover Paris through the prism of experience of Polish writers and artists, who were always here. I visit my family and friends every 6-8 weeks, so I am able to maintain bonds and real relationships with my loved ones.

Emotionally and intellectually I live with everyday lives of the two countries simultaneously. Both countries I love with another kind of love, whose colors and intensity are constantly changing. Living in such a love splits costs me more effort, but also enriches and inspires me to make decisions that I would never take in other circumstances.