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The Brit-Polonian Connection
By Robert Strybel, "The Polish Answer Man" The Brit-Polonian Connection

The Brit-Polonian Connection

By Robert Strybel, Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer

ul. Kaniowska 24
01-529 Warsaw, Poland

Over the past four years, since Poland’s joined the European Union, more than two millions Poles have found work abroad, mainly in the British Isles. The result has been the emergence of a completely new Polonia. New Polish publications, Web sites, businesses and organizations have been set up. Many previously poorly attended or nearly-defunct Catholic parishes have bee revitalized, and thousands of Polish babies have been born. In those parts of England, Wales, Scotland, Ulster and Ireland where Polish migrant workers are concentrated, they are often sufficiently numerous to influence their surroundings. In the future, the recent influx of Polish immigrants may become a significant political force in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Whatever the case, there are now enough new-wave Poles in the British Isles to warrant a closer look at some of their activities.                                                                         

Who are the Britain-bound Poles: Poles account from two-thirds to three-fourths of the Central and East Europeans who have been flooding into the British Isles since those countries entered the European Union in 2004. Most fall into the 18-34 age bracket, and average age of the Polish immigrant is popularly estimated at 28. The large majority of these are single, but many are expected to choose their future spouses from amongst fellow-migrants. The usually reliable Centre for Economics and Business Research calculates that the average migrant worker earns £20,000 per year (about $40,000), roughly six times more than the average wage in Poland. Much of it is sent back to families in Poland. Unlike the intial wave of Polish migrants who mainly found menial jobs as construction workers, janitors, cleaners, truck drivers, waitresses, care-givers and domestics, more and more are now working in banks and offices or going into businesses for themselves. Some plan to settle permanently, others intend to return to Poland after setting aside a nest-egg, but a great many are keeping their options.

Ealing – London’s “Greenpoint”: Many demobilized Polish World War II soldiers and other DPs settled in this London borough which continues to attract a successive wave of Polish newcomers. Today, the average young Polish immigrant lives there and in the surrounding area with other young Poles, watches Polish television and listens to Polish Radio, reads Polish news on the internet, communicates by phone with family and friends at home for little or nothing, travels back cheaply by coach or air for holidays or family celebrations, goes to mass at the local Polish church, shops in one of the innumerable “Polskie Delikatesy” where Polish delicacies and Polish newspaper and magazines are available. He or she also tends to socializes in Polish cafés, pubs and clubs. Some Britons resent the Poles’ ethnic solidarity, but from a purely sociological point of view this is only yet another Polonian community in the making.

Reaching Brit-Pols via “Polish Express”: Since being established October 2003 “Polish Express” has into the UK’s biggest Polish weekly newspaper.  With a circulation of 60,000 copies, it provides some 250,000 readers with Polish, Polonian, British and world news, sports, entertainment, information on jobs, careers and property as well as classified ads. The online edition of “Polish Express” (www.polishexpress.co.uk/en/newspaper.aspx?id=3) is available in both Polish and English-language versions.  Those interested in targeting the UK’s Polish community or obtaining more information may contact:  sales@polishexpress.co.uk or phone: 0 208 96 444 88, extension 401.

Catholic Poland in the UK: The arrival of well over a million Poles has significantly influenced the religious life of the United Kingdom. Polish Catholic Mission for England and Wales recognizes 83 Polish communities with 163 center where mass is celebrated in Polish. Besides the spiritual benefits of attending Sunday mass in their native tongue, for Poles it is also a social occasion–an opportunity to meet friends and enjoy various cultural activities offered by the parishes. There are arrivals are alone and seek the familiarity of the church and presence of fellow Poles. There are 12 Polish Parishes in London, the most popular being Mother of the Church Parish in Ealing, Our Lady of Czestochowa (Islington), Christ the King (Balham) and St Andrew Bobola (Hammersmith.) Other parishes have increased their number of masses to meet the growing Polish demand.

Poles at British universities: More and younger Poles are now seeking an academic education. At present some 7,000 young Poles are enrolled at British universities, a 56 percent increase over 2007. Poles now rank in sixth place among the European Union at British institutions of higher learning, ahead of students from Italy and Spain. According to university official Emma Short, “Poles are ambitious, diligent, intelligent and have an excellent command of English.”

“Daily Mail” accused of defaming Poles: The Federation of Poles in Great Britain, the British Polonia’s main umbrella organization, has filed a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission accusing the “Daily Mail” of defaming Polish residents in the United Kingdom. The FPGB claimed the paper had a deliberate policy aimed at encouraging discrimination against immigrants, in particular Poles and their families. However, a spokesman for the Daily Mail, dismissed these charges, claiming, Britain’s second-largest newspaper provides balanced reporting about Poles. “We do reserve the right to criticize bogus asylum claims, benefit cheats and tax dodgers no matter where they were born,” he added.

Scotland fears Poles’ departure: A study carried out at Strathclyde University has warned that the economy of Scotland, which has become highly dependent on Polish migrants, could suffer when they return home. The most vulnerable to the future withdrawal of the migrant workforce include the hospitality, construction and food-processing industries as well as agriculture. Of the Poles who came to work in Britain last year, 60% said they intended to stay in the country for several months and only eight percent planned to remain for more than two years. The soaring value of the euro against the British pound means Scottish wages are now less attractive as a source of funds to send home to relatives in Poland. High euro-paying Germany could siphon off many of the Poles when it opens its labor market to migrants workers in 2011.

Polonizing the British bobby: A decade ago the Thames Valley Police used to spent around ₤80,000 ($160,000) a year on translation, but with the influx of large number of Poles into such areas as Slough translation costs have risen to about ₤1 million ($2 million). Policemen have also been enrolling in Polish-language courses and a booklet containing basic phrases encountered in police work has been issued. Polish immigrants have been hired by the police to answer emergency phone calls from their compatriots, Across the British Isles the demand for Polish policemen has increased.

English girls bully Polish rivals:  Pretty Polish girls have become targets of jealousy and bullying by British schoolgirls who claim their classmates no longer pay much attention to them. And British schoolboys are known to pick fights with their Polish rivals to win a Polish girlfriend. Polish girls are especially vulnerable in classes where they are greatly outnumbered. In addition to name-calling and other forms of mental abuse, attractive Polish schoolgirls sometimes get pushed around so badly that they have to change schools. Some have developed anemia, depression, ulcers and other gastric problems due to the stress and want to return to Poland.

Young Irishman kills two Poles: A seventeen-year-old Irishman has been arraigned by a Dublin juvenile court on charges of killing two Polish immigrants during an argument. The Poles, Pawel Kalita, 29, and Mariusz Szwajkos, 27, died of multiple stab wounds with a screwdriver  after they refused to buy alcohol for a gang of underage Irish toughs. The crime triggered widespread outrage across Ireland, prompting Irish President Mary McAleese to attend the Poles’ funeral mass celebrated by Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. 

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