Michal Siewniak Reflects on Polish Migration

The below article by one of our members, Michal Siewniak, was printed in the Welwyn Hatfield Times. 

Why some Poles are leaving Welwyn Hatfield and UK?

Like some of us, my family also decided to renovate our house during the health pandemic.
Nothing major, however our houses needed a talented handyman. Unfortunately, I have no
manual skills. I asked Zbyszek, WGC resident who worked in our house before, to help out. We
knew him well and we were confident that he would get the job done.

One afternoon Zbyszek told us that he and his wife decided to go back to Poland. I knew that
they were planning to return after their son moved back with his family a few years ago, however
I was still surprised. During the same time, another two people left the UK for Poland.

It is not always easy to leave your native home and settle somewhere else. Equally, it is quite
hard to re-emigrate and re-settle in the country of your origin. A German friend of mine said to
me once that after 30 + years of living in the UK, she had to “re-integrate” in Germany. Some of
these conversations, about a few “Welwyn Hatfield - European returns” helped me to pause and
reflect on the causes of the Polish departure from the UK. This trend has already directly affected
many of my fellow countrymen and countrywomen.

It is estimated that almost a million Poles lived in the UK before the Brexit vote. Some, mainly
anecdotal evidence, suggests that around 200,000 members of the Polish community have now
left the UK. It is a significant exodus of Poles, which, in my view, might continue in the future. So
what are the reasons why people have left or are leaving?

The Brexit vote, its consequences and post-Brexit uncertainty is definitely one of the key
reasons. I do feel that many of us didn’t really know which direction the country was going to
take. Will my immigration status change? Will I be able to work, buy or rent a house? Will my
civic rights be safeguarded and protected? Many of my friends felt in a “limbo state”. For some,
the result of the Brexit vote also had some emotional connotations of feeling “unwanted” or as a
second class citizen. Many might have felt that our contribution was not always valued and

Moreover, and possibly more importantly, the health pandemic repercussions; inability to travel,
visiting our loved ones (often elderly and in need) or job insecurity triggered in people a complete
shift in their decision making process. The freedom of movement, one of the pillars of European
identity and something which me and my family have hugely benefited from, has in a way ended.
Many of us had to ask ourselves a number of existential questions, and balance the importance
of life opportunities against the need to look after or be close to our family members. Has the
pandemic strengthened the family relations for many Europeans? Quite possibly.

There was one other factor, in my view significant, which “helped” people to decide; the state of
the Polish economy. Pre-pandemic world seems like a distant memory, however it is important to
emphasise that the Polish economy had been doing very well before the pandemic hit: the
standard of living, wages and endless (literally) employment opportunities in Poland might have
been the reasons why some Poles decided to make a move. After being in Poland over the
summer, I can see that in spite of some political challenges, the Polish economy is bouncing
back and the standard of living is pretty good.

I must admit that the subject of migration, a global phenomenon, fascinates me hugely. Our lives
post Brexit and post COVID will be different, however I do believe that our desire to move around
and broaden our horizons will never stop. Let’s hope that many of us find “home” whether we go
and whether we settle. Zbyszek and his family are back in Cracow and so far, they really enjoy
the experience!

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