Friday, July 21, 2006

Pole to Pole

The “G2” supplement in today’s Guardian has a special feature on the impact of the one million Polish citizens now living and working in the UK and the consequences for the country they have left behind.

Since the UK, Ireland and Sweden became the only three EU countries to open their labour markets to workers from the new accession states in 2005, East Europeans have been coming over in droves. The impact has not just been felt in the big cities, but also in remote rural backwaters. Few people in Britain or Ireland can have failed to notice this trend. Ambitious young graduates most of whom speak fluent English are now working as waitresses, labourers and au pairs, but earning more money than they would in a professional job in their home country. Some of the more enterprising immigrants have opened Polish shops specialising in East European produce and set up Polish language newspapers and radio stations for the ex-pat community. In the area of London where I reside (although not noted for being a particularly Polish area) many of the local shops have recently begun to stock Polish bread, beer, sausages and confectionery.

But what of the country they’re leaving behind? Poland is a fascinating country with a rich culture and a varied, but turbulent history. The article by Helen Pidd and Luke Harding examines the mood in Wroclaw in the south-west of the country. The latest crisis to hit the country is the brain drain to the lands of opportunity in the West. The exodus of a mainly young, educated workforce has resulted in labour shortages within the country. The medical profession has been particularly badly hit. Businesses have been forced to close down. On the plus side the country’s unemployment levels are falling and the economy has benefited to the tune of almost £4bn in money being sent home by expatriates.

The availability of cheap flights from Western Europe to the former Eastern Bloc countries may have benefited their tourist industries, but unfortunately the lure of cheap booze and liberal licensing laws has resulted in legions of stag and hen parties descending on Prague, Warsaw, Rīga and Vilnius.

Despite its problems Poland seems to have a natural resilience. The country has been repeatedly carved up throughout the centuries by various empires. In the 20th century it has seen occupation by the Nazis and repression under communist rule, but has managed to pull through. It can do so again.

6 comments:

Cybez said...

It's OK I've learnt "NIE PODDANIE" :-)

northernsole said...

Na zdrowie, Cyberscribe.

Lorainne said...

err.....Chopin....that is the limit of my Polish....I mean the Vodka brand of course...there was a composer by that name too....

Anonymous said...

Here are some links that I believe will be interested

Anonymous said...

Really amazing! Useful information. All the best.
»

Anonymous said...

Great site loved it alot, will come back and visit again.
»