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30 Mar, 2009 05:26

Unlucky Polish migrant workers return home

Millions of Poles left the country in search of better wages and more opportunities elsewhere after Poland joined the EU. But now a major effort is underway to bring many of them back home.

The village of Chudobczyce in the south of Poland used to be a forgotten place. Now, there are over a hundred inhabitants and almost a quarter of them come from the UK, but they are not British.

The new villagers are Polish workers, who used to live rough on the streets of London.

Thomas Flinik and Lec Bor are the leaders of the Barka foundation, a Polish non-profit organization that helps to bring fellow countrymen home.

”In the UK, they didn’t succeed, they didn’t earn money, they didn’t send money home, and after some time they are ashamed of returning home. So they come here to work for a few months, earn some money and then they return home,” said Tomasz Flinik.

Jerzy Tymchak is now a manager of the recreation center in the village. He came to the UK to work as a builder. But after all of his money and documents were stolen, the streets and parks of London became his home.

“The weather was beautiful so I didn’t care to search for somewhere to live. So I spent a few nights in the park with other guys and it was very nice, but only for a few nights,” Jerzy Tymczak said.

In a homeless shelter, he met representatives from the Barka foundation. They arranged documents and bought him a ticket to Poland. Local councils in London help to fund the organization, as it helps reduce the number of homeless in the capital. With the weakening pound and worsening economic condition in the UK, the number of Poles coming back home is increasing.

“Many of them lost their jobs in the UK or Ireland, so for them it may be easier to be unemployed here than abroad,” said Justyna Frelak, coordinator of migration programs.

Others return for better career prospects. Grzegorz Lukszo, now a manager in the investor relations department at the Poznan city council, like many Poles tried his luck in England. But even with his MA degree, the best he could get in the UK was a job as a waiter.

“English people treat you always like a foreigner, and you can work as a waiter which they accept, but you can’t work as a manager. For them it’s just unacceptable,” Grzegorz Lukszo said.

Poznan city authorities come to London to attract qualified Poles back home. After Poland joined the EU, an estimated 10 percent of the population left to find work abroad. As a result, Poland suffered acute staff shortages. However, as Poland is also sucked into the financial turmoil, returning workers may find limited opportunities at home.