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Polish Immigrants Rise Above Economic Troubles in Britain


Nearly 7 million immigrants live in Britain, and one particular group has grown drastically since 2004 when their countries were admitted to the EU. Today 600,000 Eastern Europeans reside in Britain, of which 66 percent are Poles. The Polish community keeps growing and is faring better than the rest during tough economic times in the UK.

Cooking up a little taste of home. That’s the goal each night at London’s oldest and arguably most well-known Polish restaurant - Gessler at Daquise.

But it’s more than food for many at this restaurant - which sits in an old Polish community turned posh London neighborhood.

For Polish immigrant and waiter Jarek Hunek, it's not only a job, but a place where he can connect with other Poles in London. He relied on friends in this tight-knit and growing community - concentrated in West London - when he moved to the Britain earlier this year.

“They helped me to find a job and an accommodation, a room in their home. They explain everything I should know about England and London,” said Hunek.

Czhanuek also had one other advantage in his job search.

“And it was easy for me - because as you can hear I speak English, so it was much easier," he said.

Analysts say fluency in English is a big advantage for immigrants looking for work. But a willingness to take any job also helps and is a key part of why 84 percent of Poles in Britain are employed. That number is higher than that of the native population.

Oxford University’s Carlos Vargas Silva said Poles are faring better than other immigrants during this recession because they normally come for work - not family reasons.

“They are willing to accept jobs in the labor market that are different from the ones that the local population is willing to accept. So they are willing to accept jobs that are very low given their skills.”

Many are highly skilled and educated like Hunek, who has a nursing degree but has chosen to work in the food industry.

Economist Jonathan Portes said despite the fact many Poles and other Eastern Europeans are overqualified for low paying work in Britain, many are young and likely will move up in the job market.

“My view would be that in the short term that is actually not too much of a problem because they are mostly young. They will move on,” said Portes.

But for older immigrants, like 57-year-old Edward Brzychcy, being fluent in English is not enough. He has been looking for a job in Britain for a year. And he said the job search is made harder by all the young, educated applicants.

“But there are people, as you see here, from all over the world. And everyone is trying to find a job. And that's what I am trying to find, too. I hope I will be able to find it finally because I don’t intend to go back to Poland,” said Brzychcy.

And neither does Hunek. He not only has a job, but one he enjoys and that allows him to straddle the best of his two worlds: From the sidewalks of fashionable London he takes a few steps through a glass door to the sights and smells of childhood back in Poland.


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