Continued from Part I
Integration and Influx
And then came EU accession. The Poles in England were overjoyed that at last their homeland was truly free – a member of NATO and now the EU. They took in the new Poles with open arms inviting them into their houses, clubs, churches, giving them beds, money and jobs, anything to help their fellow Poles who had had the horrible experience of communism. This is what the Polonia had been fighting for all their lives. This was the actual realisation of a generational dream which had taken on mythical proportions during fifty or more years of forced exile.
What happened next can be called many things but I call it a disaster. The so-called ‘imports’ (a term developed by the now native Polish-Brits) hit the Isles like a tempest flooding the communities with fresh blood, new ideas, new language, new values. The old generation found that they had absolutely nothing in common with these fresh-faced fellow Polish youngbloods. Polish churches in the UK are full but the divisions are clear. The old generation tend to sit near the front (or in the pews that they’ve been sitting in for years) and the ‘imports’ sit or stand at the back.
Observing these two communities who were different in every aspect I got the feeling that something was very wrong. The only thing that brought these two wholly different groups together was some vague notion of Polishness. In fact, the language of the two groups was drastically different. The older generation use a fossilised Polish with a large number of borrowings from English (‘hoover’, ‘sink’, for example), whereas the new ‘imports’ use words like ‘spoko’, ‘luz’ which are alien to the older Polonia group. These divisions have become highlighted by the fact that the new Poles have an awful reputation in the UK which is tarnishing the reputation of the Polonia.
What we are witnessing is the forced melding together of two social groups which have absolutely nothing in common (bar the above-mentioned vague notion of Polishness). The Polonia worked to bring freedom back to Poland and their love for the homeland is admirable yet idealised. The younger group chose to leave their country, have not had to work to build up a community and have an ambivalent attitude towards Poland. Watching this dangerously bubbling melting pot one gets the impression that something is about to explode and explode very soon.