When I started this blog, I wanted people to change their view of Poland. Out with the old, in with the new.
Glad things are changing. There are more and more Polish cultural events in the UK, I see more and more people who come to London just to visit – not to work – and 2010 also looks promising for the Polish economy.
Out of all European Union states, Poland was the only country which actually enjoyed a positive economic growth in 2009. And people are beginning (at last!) to look at Poland in a different way:
Outsiders often have fixed ideas of Poland: a big, poor country with shambolic governments, dreadful roads and eccentric habits. Old stereotypes die hard, but the facts paint an increasingly different picture. By the grim standards of recent centuries, Poland has never been more secure, richer or better-run.
This is the beginning of a great article I found in The Economist last week. Horse power to horsepower is a must-read for anyone interested in economy, politics and, er, Poland, of course. I’m not going to quote from it extensively here, just wanted to share the link with you.
But I’ll repeat myself: glad things are changing!
Image of Warsaw © jesuscm via Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence
While sitting on the tube today I noticed a one-sentence funny ‘piece’ from Poland:
Zielona Gora, a medieval village, has been ordered by the government officials to drop a witch-burning drama from its birthday pageant because it’s deemed sexist.
That’s it. I’m not sure what the point is of such short pieces, you’d probably need the attention span of a fruit fly to find such facts fascinating, but apart from that, one thing struck me about this ‘piece’. Zielona Gora can be described in many ways, but not as a village. Checked it in Wikipedia – over 290,000 inhabitants (just under 200,000 for the city itself). You wouldn’t call York (same size as Zielona Gora) a village, would you?
OK, I’m not claiming my patriotic pride was hurt. I’m more annoyed with the poinlessness of such ‘journalism’, where basic facts go unchecked for the sake of a few (literally, probably) laughs. Ignorance or lame journalism? Or both?
Oh dear, it’s all doom and gloom in the papers this weekend. First it’s The Economist, which writes about the declining numbers of Poles coming to work and live in the UK. In short:
- the job market in the UK which sucked all the Polish workers in is beginning to tire;
- Poland’s economy is growing while UK’s is stagnating to say the least, and the pound buys you fewer zlotys than even a year ago;
- fewer people have registered for work and about a half of those who’ve come here in recent years have gone back home (although the figures and those relating to the overall number of Poles in the UK as as reliable as the British weather)
Then the magazine moves on to describing the positive things about the recent wave of migration from Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries.
Two issues stand out: first, the recent wave of migration, as the paper puts it,
“has gone some way to decoupling the issue of immigration from that of race”.
In other words, the issue of race has been replaced by the issue of economy.
Secondly, the availability of various low-cost airlines has made it much easier for many ‘migrants’ to travel home and back. Which also means, they can be much more responsive to the changing economic situation and, rather than signing up for state benefits if and when the unemployment rate goes up, most migrants are likely to head home instead.
Which they do and here’s the proof: Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza says that many people do come back home, but cannot cope with the ‘new’ reality and need to see a specialist to help them readjust. Even just a year abroad means they come back with a different approach to life and work and have to cope with different expectations (from family and/or bosses), hostility and other issues.
Told ya! All doom and gloom. So to finish things off, a piece from today’s Independent on Sunday, which claims that
“the Polish Hearth Club, the shabby-chic eating, drinking and smoking hole in South Kensington, may soon be put up for sale owing to the economic downturn.”
Hmm. Guess I’d better go and have a quick żubrówka with apple juice there before the credit crunch (or indeed departing Poles) consign it to history…
*I have to point out, this is not my own title. I have borrowed it from The Economist, which in a clever way, as always, avoids using yet another cliche in the title of the aforementioned article; I can’t even remember how many times I’ve seen ‘Poles apart’ used as a title for various press articles. Yawn!
Image: the medieval city of Toruń, Poland ©janusz I via Flickr used under CC licence