Acquiring skills or credentials alone cannot change the fact that they face prejudice dailyby Weronika Strzyzynska / March 9, 2020 / Leave a comment
Krystyna Czerwińska came to the UK in 2007, not intending to stay long. She just wanted to earn enough money to study architecture back in Poland. She was part of what Professor Anne White, researcher on Polish migration at University College London, refers to as a “great wave of enthusiasm” for UK migration. After Poland joined the European Union in 2004, many young Poles saw Britain as a promising opportunity. “There was this idea that it’s worth giving it a go, that you should experiment. That you can afford to be flexible,” White explains. Krystyna’s UK experiment was ultimately successful. Today, she runs her own company offering advice and legal services to small and medium business owners and has founded the Yorkshire Polish Business Club.
Krystyna is a poster child for the generation of Poles who used British kitchen sinks and conveyor belts as stepping stones to lucrative careers. However, stories like hers have never captured the attention of British public, and in light of the recent political discourse in which the term “low-skilled immigrant” functions as a polite euphemism for “Eastern European,” she seems like an unrepresentative anomaly.
This is perhaps not surprising given the lack of data on professional and educational development of migrants in the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics roughly forty percent of immigrants from A8 countries—countries which joined the European Union in 2004—are overqualified for their jobs and twenty-four percent hold university degrees. However no research shows how many pursued higher education after settling in the UK. Nonetheless the phenomenon is easily observable even in counties like Cumbria where the Polish community is small.
“If I graduate,” explains Ola Adamczyk, a thirty-eight-year-old housewife studying computer science at the Open University, “I’ll have the chance to work, but not in the factory at the conveyor belt like an ordinary factory worker.” Ola, who lives in Carlisle, hoped that studying would help her assimilate and benefit her language skills. “To feel more at home, at least a little bit,” she explains. “When I first arrived, I had the impression that I am a person who is undesirable, unwanted, and not accepted. Our neighbours hung notes in our shared backyard…