about the project
oral history archive
collections
contact
about emigration museum in gdynia
search
A A contrast version
+add your story
Magdalena Czarnecka

 

My story of emigration began almost five years ago, when I met Paweł. I lived in Gdańsk at that time and one December evening, the fate made our paths meet in Tri-City. When it turned out that Paweł lived permanently in England, and our acquaintance quickly turned into a serious feeling, my whole life has changed completely. For nearly two years we had a typical long distance relationship, spending a fortune on plane tickets and plying between Poland and England.


I remember our longing and the deepening feeling of suspension between two worlds and the moment in which for the first time I thought to change everything. It was the most spontaneous and totally emotional decision that I’ve ever made in my life. Out of us two it was me who had less to lose - there was virtually nothing more apart from friends and acquaintances that kept me in Tri-City. I quitted my job without regret, my family accepted my decision to leave the family with understanding, although there were those who reminded me as I used to swear that I would never ever leave Poland ... Well, as you can see the old saying "never say never" in this case came true, and I felt that it was the time to start a new stage of my life.



Simply England



My journey was actually more like moving – a trip in a car packed up to the roof through whole Europe was quite an exciting event for me at the time, and from the very beginning I had quite positive feelings. I was open and ready for new experiences, though by nature I am rather pessimistic and I don’t like changes. I knew that I would have the roof over my head as well as support, so I did not have any concerns on the material level. Of course, I was aware that if I found a job quickly, it would allow me not only to be financial independent, which I was accustomed to living in Poland, but above all it would break the cultural and linguistic barrier and make friends in the new environment. From the beginning, I assumed that I needed a little time to acclimate and I did not want to do anything at a push. The mandatory issue was to arrange all kinds of formalities - a bank account, telephone, registration in the offices, which was a good language training in the new reality. I remember my first contact with the real language, when I realized that I didn’t understand half of what Englishmen were saying to me, though in my own opinion after several years of learning English in Poland I could speak without any problem. It turned out, however, that there is nothing better that a course with native speakers - so far, although I've been here three years, I'm still learning and at every step it turns out that there are still 1000 new phrases that I hear for the first time in my life. After all, I think that I passed this crash course in slang and colloquial language with a good result - today I feel confident and not nervous as in the beginning.




I found the first job after half a year, so my acclimatization process was quite long and slow. Due to the change of the culture and environment I knew that in order to start functioning in the new reality I would have to start from the position much lower than the one which I had in Poland, but the option to work in the kitchen, doing the dishes was unacceptable for me. In this way I started my English career in one of the biggest clothing chain stores. I treated it as a mental and physical test, and after a few months I managed to get promoted - I was employed in the office at an administrative position. Because in my first job there was a lot of young people, at the beginning I did not have, unfortunately, the best opinion about Englishmen and their diligence. I also remember that actually no one tried to establish contact with me, so I felt quite alienated. The first acquaintances I made only with other immigrants - from India, Asia, Italy, who proved to be more open and honest in relationships than the British. Besides, there is nothing better to create a sense of solidarity as commenting on, not quite understandable for us, the British culture and lifestyle. All the time I’m trying to develop and pursue my professional career so that I can learn as much as possible, and to show that the education received in Poland didn’t go to waste. In England studies are paid, which is why most people end their education at college and start working at the age of 18-19, sometimes earlier. For this reason, the more important thing here is experience and what kind of person you are, not the number of held degrees.


After all, I still believe that my chance is still in front of me and thanks to the perseverance I can reach my goal. There is no denying that in the UK the spectrum of career opportunities is huge and in my opinion it is not only easier to get a job here than in Poland, but also there are no problems to change profession. All you need is appropriate courses and certificates gained from local institutions and, of course, good English, without which you can’t achieve much. I can definitely say that after three years of emigration my confidence as an employee grew, I am more open and it is easier for me to believe in my own abilities. I have not met here with job insecurity and with problems that every day give Poles sleepless nights, and which in some way related also to me when I lived and worked in Gdańsk. It is not only about financial considerations, even though work at a medium level allows to maintain a very good standard of living, but about evaluation systems of employees, social packages, functioning of companies and a whole bunch of other things that I didn’t experience in Poland. Despite the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, I have reservations about diligence of the English, Poles, as the majority of immigrants are five times more efficient and reliable, generally I assess the United Kingdom positively.




Everything all right



After three years in England, my attitude to homeland has become definitely more sentimental. I think that anyone who does not have problems with defining their identity, do not deny longing for the home country, because it always is and will be somewhere deep down in all of us. Now, certainly, I appreciate more the traditions and customs cultivated, for example, on the occasion of Christmas, because I know that it all adds up to my Polish identity and defines me as a person. I believe that immigration has a positive effect on us, because it allows us to appreciate things we hadn’t noticed before, to risk, to take the chance. From the perspective of time and experience I am proud of the values passed to me by my parents and the famous Polish hospitality, the excellent cuisine, the beautiful Polish countryside, which I miss so much on the island. In the sentimental dimension I pay less attention to the shortcomings of Poles, although there is no denying that discontent, complaining and general dissatisfaction with life hit me every time I come to Poland. Although here in England sometimes I have enough of exaggerated politeness and questions if everything is all right and how I am (especially when, for example, I just have a flu, but in accordance with the generally accepted custom, I must answer: "I'm fine, thank you"), it is here in Poland where I feel that in spite of myself and our national characteristics I'm super-nice and smile to everyone. The results are surprising, but sometimes it happens that people, unused to kindness, become even more suspicious and unkind.




>>> read more

I care very much about keeping in touch with family, friends and acquaintances. In my situation it is much easier because both my mother and sister also live in England, so in Gdańsk I visit only my dad. My emigration verified many relationships with friends - the contact with some of them is not so close anymore, which is natural, but I still have a solid group of people who I am very close to and who I meet every time I come to Poland. It was and still is my life, though time passes and things change so much. Even when I still lived in Poland, I remembered about various anniversaries, birthdays etc., so now I also regularly send cards, which, unfortunately, I noticed, is a dying tradition. I regularly keep in touch with my friends via e-mails and always want them to know that they can count on me in spite of the distance which separates us. I think my emotional relationship with Poland stems from the fact that in England I haven’t managed yet to make close friends, so I do not have a chance to talk frankly with someone and share my experiences. It is not that all this time I haven’t met any people here, just the opposite, but I did not feel, on the other hand, the desire from the other person to develop the acquaintance. Englishmen, despite the polite surface, are quite reserved and not too spontaneous, also the warmth and openness of other nations for them is unnatural. Usually they talk about material issues, financial situation and work, so it’s hard to drag from them anything more personal, as well as break down the social barriers.


Certainly, emigration teaches greater openness to people and increases the tolerance level (although unfortunately it is not the case with all people). I am perfectly aware that there are still some limitations in me, and looking at other immigrants who acclimated in England more easily, I try to work on myself and step by step adapt to the environment, to take certain things more easy.


Listening to Poland on the radio

All the time I follow what is happening in Poland, mainly thanks to Radio Three, I’ve been a fan of for years and which accompanies me almost every day. Because I don’t have a TV, the radio and the Internet are my windows to Europe and Poland. I also buy from time to time my favorite Polish magazines, I read a lot of Polish books. I do not try to live in England with Polish life, because this way existence here would resemble more relegation, and I am here after all, out of my own free will. I try, however, to keep the balance between Polishness and Britishness, because then I feel that I'm still myself, not losing in the eyes of the natives in value. Basic knowledge of the country in which you live is necessary in my opinion, and I noticed that positive comments about the events and customs in England get the English speakers interested and make them begin treat us more like their own people.


I've never met with unpleasantness because of the origin, even though the English do not really have a good opinion of the immigrants and in the environment of the middle and lower class you can often meet with unflattering comments about foreigners. All these negative opinions are based on stereotypes and, unfortunately, relate mainly to the common belief that immigrants take up the work of the local residents and apply for benefits which are paid from taxes of the rest of society. Of course, in each opinion there is an element of truth, but on the other hand, many Englishmen, especially the young ones, are just too lazy to work, and immigrants willingly accept such job offers, even at a much lower rate and worse conditions.


Looking at Poland from the perspective of a three-year emigration in the UK, I see all the time a huge gap between the living and working conditions between the two countries. In England, you can criticize many things, ranging from lifestyle of Englishmen and the rainy weather, but there is no denying that they have a higher standard of living, as well as simple and more practical solutions in many areas of life. Therefore, for the time being, we decided that we want to build our future and start our adult life together here, but on the other hand, we are open to the possibilities and solutions that can appear in front of us. Happiness can be found everywhere, if only we can define who we are and remember our roots.