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Why Is The UK So Popular With Migrants From Poland?

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A Polish friend who was born in south London and is unhappy about the recent influx of Polish immigrants to Britain has ruined his commute to work. He says it’s not because of the large number of Poles who are now taking the public transportation system, but rather because “10 to 15 or more years ago, you used be in the bus and hear the most intimate conversations among Polonia UK. They would talk about all sorts of sexy conversations and speak with loud voices because they believed that no one else could be able to understand the language.

“Now,” he adds, “the whole bus is Polish. This means that nobody talks about anything interesting anymore.”

Polish as it was discovered this week is the most widely spoken non-native language spoken in England as well as Wales. Nearly half a million residents living in Britain are now using Polish as their primary language, which puts Polish ahead of Punjabi or Urdu and just behind English as well as Welsh. The information, which was gathered from the census in 2011 revealed the staggering number of Polish migrants currently living working, settling down and setting their roots within the UK. More than 521,000 Polish people have settled in the UK and have grown sevenfold since 2003 when only 75,000 were recorded as part of the census.

In many areas of Britain the statistics mentioned above are not a surprise. The increasing number of Poles to the UK has been apparent for years in the vast numbers of Polish supermarkets, grocersand churches , and cultural centers which have sprung up all over the country, particularly since 2004 the year that Poland became a member of into the European Union, opening up the borders to allow for workers to move freely. In addition to the long-standing Polish communities in the west – London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Nottingham and Slough – smaller hubs have sprung up in rural areas like Carlisle situated in Cumbria (twinned to the Polish town of Slupsk) as well as the Scottish Highlands.

Over the past 10 years, Polish culture has ingrained itself into British society. Major supermarkets, like Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose have now stocks Polish foods and drinks. There are ten Polish cathedrals within London alone, and in places like Balham and Ealing and the road signs translate into Polish in the villages of Cheshire. There are many Polish-owned bars, clubs, and bars, a loved publication (founded around 1940) and cultural centers which regularly stage sold-out Polish shows and plays.

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, Poland is the most frequent birthplace for non-UK birth mothers in Britain with 20,495 children given in 2011 to Polish mothers in the year 2011. The marriages that are between Poles and Brits also have grown exponentially. Poles have turned into British homeowners and business owners, as well as taxpayers. So , how do they have like no other other nationality have achieved this level of integration into British society in such a short amount of time?

The capacity of Poles to be integrated seems to be a factor in the main reason why many are drawn from Poland to Britain initially in the first in the first. “Work,” explains Robert Szaniawski of the Polish Embassy in London, “is the main reason that draws Poles towards the UK. The majority of them are young, and they’re mostly born in small towns. They consider it an opportunity to be active and experience something new So they migrate to Britain.

“They’re flexible and are able to change according to the demands of the market for labour. It’s the willingness to move to where the work is, which helps them establish themselves.”

The Polish economy is considerably less than Britain’s ($514.5 billion, as compared to Britain’s $2.43 trillion) and there is an extremely high rate of unemployment (averaging 12 percent from 2008.) while the minimum wage for an hour is just half of what is offered in Britain. While Poland’s economy has slowed – it fell half to just 2 percent in 2012 – the most skilled people are enticed towards the UK. In 2011, more than 45,000 Poles came to the UK, which was the largest increase in immigrants since the 2008 financial crisis.

Poles have a reputation of being hard workers, particularly in the field of manual labour. Adam Zamoyski, a British historian whose family is from an Polish high-ranking family claims that Poles can be described as “brilliant workers. When they travel they make sure they are a good ambassador and serve as ambassadors for their countries. They experience a more pleasant time in England than in Germany and France. They’re considered to be a burden in other countries. In England they’re treated with respect.”

However, with this massive immigration is the inevitable tension. A lot of British workers are blaming the continuous flow of cash-in-hand Polish laborers in keeping them out of work. Not all Poles who move to Britain have come to the country for lucrative jobs. Of the 371,000 non-UK citizens receiving unemployment benefits 13,940 are Polish which makes the country the only prior EU accession country to be among the top twenty. In 2010 there were 6,777 Poles were found guilty for crimes committed in Britain and there are over 700 Polish immigrants are in UK prisons (ranking among the top 5 nationalities among the 10,592 foreigners in the bars).

“As as with any group of immigrants there’s an underbelly” Zamoyski says. “There are numerous scams involving benefits, in which Poles are brought over to work, take their families, sign to receive child benefits and then return home with the cash. I’ve heard of older Poles harassing younger ones when they get towards the bus station, and taking their cash.”

In the Second World War that really established the foundations in Britain’s Polish community. The Poles contributed significantly to the Allied military effort by offering troops, intelligence, and essential equipment. Following the fall of France in 1940 and Poland was exiled and the Polish Prime Minister and his administration set offices in London and brought with them thousands of airmen and soldiers. Poles were the biggest non-British contingent in the RAF during the Battle of Britain and, as of July 1945 there were more than 150,000 Polish soldiers were under the direction of the British Army.

After the war was over, Churchill vowed that the British would “never forget the debt that they owe Poland and the Polish” and vowed “citizenship and the freedom within freedom of the British imperial empire” for everyone. Fighting against from the Communist regime in Poland Many were unable to return to their homes which led to the passage of the Polish Resettlement Act 1947, the first law for mass immigration.

The initial generation of Polish immigrants laid the groundwork for the current immigration. Nicola Werenowska, a playwright from Colchester is the wife of Leszek, an older Polish immigrants whose parents relocated to Reading following the outbreak of war. When she was researching the performance Tu i Teraz (“Here and Now”) which was recently staged in London at Hampstead Theatre in London, she surveyed 50 young Poles living in Britain regarding their personal experiences living in the United Kingdom.

“They visit for work, but the history of their migration makes people feel more connected,” she says. “There is generally positive feelings toward people from the UK within Poland.” Szaniawski agrees: “It’s a friendly, warm country, and there’s an enormous tradition of our grandparents and parents moving to Poland.”

The desire – and the ability to Poles to acquire English is another aspect that has played a major role in their integration. Based on the Polish Central Statistical Office, 40% of Poles between the ages of 25 and 64 have at least one foreign language, the most common being English and German.

Joanna Pietrzykowska, 27, an accountant trainee from a town of a tiny size in eastern Poland moved to UK 7 years ago in order to study English. “I originally came for one period of time but enjoyed the country so that I’m staying living here,” she says. “You can find everything you need right here right now including Polish food movies, books at the libraries. Everywhere I go, there is at the very least at a Polish person. My partner is an English partner, and have always felt very welcome. There are more opportunities for career advancement than in Poland and so why would I want to return?”

However, not all Poles enjoy the same positive experience of Britain. Certain, according to Adam Zamoyski, simply don’t wish to be integrated. “They do not have to master the language. They stay within their communities, in which you can travel through the hospital to the grave, without ever needing to learn English.”

Others, such as Sofia Pekala, 54, an employee who came into the UK after a move from Poland at the age of 22, have experienced bad experiences with British employers. “When I first arrived, I worked for the Farm in Penzance,” says Pekala who had her own clothing shop. “I was treated badly and only paid PS2.75 each hour, for laborious work in a miserable environment.”

Rafal Zbikowski 34-year-old who relocated from Krakow to Boston, Lincolnshire – where 3,006 of the 62.243 residents are Polish 8 years ago, from Krakow and says he’s encountered some tensions however he adds: “It has been a wonderful job. I moved from Poland to join a factory for food production and have been employed for the last eight years.”

So what do the future have in store for Britain’s Polish immigrants? Werenowska believes the roots that many Poles have laid will be around for a long time. “Of the Polish immigrants I talked to there were two main kinds,” she says. “The first is the ones who are looking to make the most money they can as quickly as they can, then return home with their family members. There are others who are in Britain because they are passionate about it, and who are genuinely interested in being a an integral part the British society. No matter what it’s clear that they’re in the UK to stay.”