Death in the City

Suicide in the UK
Suicide in the UK

Having read the papers over the past few weeks and talked to a few of my friends and family members in England, I was shocked that the reality of life in England for many Poles is deadly tough. Deadly. Literally.

Suicide in the UK
A few of the Polish newspapers (and English dailies) have reported cases of Polish people in England committing suicide because they are completely unable to cope with life in the England.

Economic Collapse
One of the biggest problems seems to be that England (and the United Kingdom) are portrayed or are seen as a land of milk and honey, a land of economic freedom and well being. The reality is somewhat different. England has for a few years now not been a capitalist’s dream. Economists in the UK might claim otherwise but the British economy is teetering ever so close to a full-blown recession.

When Will It End?
What seems odd is that many Poles are still going to the UK in search of employment and a better life. The Polish ex-pat clubs and churches are filling up as never before. Hordes of new faces fill the chairs in the clubs and the aisles in the churches. The Polish Catholic Church is being forced to send an increasingly large number of priests on missionary work in England in order to cope with the rise in Polish parishioners. The papers talk of a mass return of Poles to Poland but this does not seem to be taking place.

Tough Poland
The consequences of all this are plain to see – growing disappointment and disenchantment with life in Britain (which is not good for the EU and could lead to greater social divisions and resentment) and more frighteningly, a rise in suicides amongst Polish immigrant families in the UK. Is life really so bad in Poland that people leave the Land of the Vistula without knowing that they’re leaving for a country who’s currency has lost value to the złoty (and that it could actually be better to work at home because of the strong złoty) and that the country they’re journeying to is experiencing an economic downturn? is life in Poland that tough?

14 thoughts on “Death in the City

  1. I wonder whether the Poles who are going to GB and Ireland now are those from the countryside – lower earning potential, less informed about the current reality of English life by the media or their acquaintances. I think the urban Poles can earn more back home now, and they’ll have heard that British reality isn’t the Agatha Christie-chocolate box village with Mr Darcy brooding at every corner.

    It’s something I’ve been talking about a lot with Poles recently; Britain, in the end, turns out to be as inefficient, bumbling, and (occasionally) corrupt as Poland, whereas the mother country starts to look more ‘normal’ and even positive in the light of some real information for comparison. I wonder whether workers coming to England from other Eastern – sorry, Central! – European countries have the same impressions…

  2. I think communism is to blame (sic!) The attitude of being able to ‘get it sorted’ prevails and the mindset was that virgin England might be a place where they can wheel and deal and squeeze as much out of it as possible, but like every other country you have to work hard to make money.

  3. I’ve talked with a number of Poles in the UK and Ireland in the last couple of years, and flown with them back and forth to Poland on Ryanair and Aer Lingus. My sense is that the ones who have their act together generally have an exit strategy from the British Isles. They plan to work hard for a year or two and then are going to return to Poland where they have cultivated some prospects for the longer term during frequent trips home. The ones who don’t seem to have things together often see the UK and Ireland as a new life, and while they have maintained connections with Poland, either they aren’t planning to go back or don’t have a clear plan or timeline to do so. In general, the two groups seem to map to the difference that Jim notes between the urban Poles and the rural ones, although I’d also include the small cities (e.g. Wloclawek-sized) with the latter than with the former.

  4. Very good point, Peter. I think the temporary/planned and permanent/unplanned is a useful, if overgeneralised, distinction which can be pretty reliably mapped onto the urban/rural distinction. Does that mean it all comes down to planning and thinking ahead?

  5. I’d say life in Poland is tough and in many cases unrewarding. It’s difficult to reach a higher standard of living (if you consider e.g. having technological gadgets). I heard of people coming back from UK and US and suffering depression due to the changes in the way of living. Some state help has been organised to aid those people. That is awful. It’s hard to be an optimist with the prospects one has for the future in this country.

  6. The situation you’re describing reminds me so much of the one in the US. Evnthough the currency and economy are much weaker then they used to be, a great number of people there live a lie, one of the greatest lies ever. America is no dream land. Yet (from what i’ve heard from the Polish living there) people will come there and stay and speak of this place as heaven on earth. Nobody would mention the recession, growing unemployment or the condition of the healthcare. Nobody ever mentions how dirty New York is…
    And so the illusory American Dream persists and we remain fed with it by other people and movies until we can come and see for ourselves…

  7. I have to say that I really admire people going to work in foreign countries who do not speak the language. I spent almost a year in Italy and I cannot imagine not being able to understand a word in Italian or not being capable of communicating with my employer or colleagues. A crisis comes, it is a rule, but if you have friends there, they will help you to overcome it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s