‘I call myself half-Irish. I can’t see myself living anywhere else’
New to the Parish: Anna Pupin arrived from Poland in 2006
Anna Pupin with her husband Bartosz Romanowski and their three-year-old son Jan. Photograph: Dave Meehan
When Anna Pupin was 17 years old she spent her summer holidays hanging out in a house in Glenageary. The sporty teenager was facing into her final year of school and would soon be offered a basketball scholarship at a university. However, the only thing that mattered to the young Polish teen was following her boyfriend to Ireland.
“The European border opened up in 2004 and after that he decided to leave. We were literally going out three months when he said ‘I need to go to Ireland, everyone’s going’.
“I knew I had to finish school and I wouldn’t follow him straight away but I’m very emotional and sensitive. It’s not that I fall in love easily but I always give 100 per cent whatever I do, so I love 100 per cent. Maybe if he’d just broken up with me and left I would have gone ahead and played basketball in Poland. But I was determined to be with him.”
Pupin decided to spend a few months in Dublin before committing to the full move and spent the summer of 2005 with her boyfriend and his friends at a small house in the south of the city. Pupin returned to her home in the southwestern city of Zgorzelec to complete her final year of school and stepped on board a flight to Dublin in May 2006, less than 24 hours after sitting her final exam.
She found work through friends as an accommodation assistant at the Blackrock Clinic and began to settle down in her new home. Unfortunately, the young couple’s relationship failed to stand the test of time and after two years they broke up. Pupin was heartbroken by the split but had settled into life in Dublin and decided to stay.
“I moved in with three random guys who were all like adults to me because I was only 21. I really liked it and they kind of treated me like a sister.”
Having been obsessed with the sport as a teenager, she says her friends on the team back home in Zgorzelec were like sisters.
“Back in secondary school all the girls on the team were in the same class. We travelled around Poland for games and were third in the Polish championships. That was a big achievement for a club from a small town.
“I was probably a pretty good player and have all my trophies at home. I just fell in love with basketball and couldn’t see myself doing anything else. We had girls on the team who liked to go out and have fun whereas I treated it really seriously. Once I commit to something I do my best to stick with it and give 100 per cent.”
I’m not single anymore and I have a family. I can’t do everything and I want to be close to my son so you have to sacrifice your social life.”
However, her decision to follow love to Ireland meant her aspirations to become a professional basketball player took a back seat. She tried joining a team when she first arrived in Dublin but said without a car, it was difficult to make training. “I was probably too shy to go and look for a basketball team and thought my English wasn’t that good.”
It took a few years, but she eventually made her way back into the sport by joining the Liffey Celtics basketball club, playing with the club for three seasons and being promoted to the premier league team. In 2011, she was named player of the year. Around, the same time she met Bartosz Romanowski, a former professional Olympic handball athlete. The couple began dating and two years later, their son Jan was born.
Pupin had to take time off basketball during her pregnancy and due to a collarbone injury but she eventually got back into the game, first by playing Division One ball and then returning to Liffey Celtics. She is still a dedicated player but has less time for socialising after games.
“I’m not single anymore and I have a family. I can’t do everything and I want to be close to my son so you have to sacrifice your social life.”
The sports enthusiast is also now studying a degree in clinical measurement science at DIT and with the support of her mother and in-laws who often visit from Poland, she is able to continue working part time. Romanowski’s parents visited for three months last year while Pupin’s mother has been in Ireland since January to help look after Jan.
“Because Mum and his parents have been around we were able to go back to college and get our qualifications. We can’t wait a few more years and then decide. It will be tougher then, especially with Jan getting older.”
Pupin says she has developed a real interest in the health sciences after years of watching a cardiothoracic surgeon work with patients. “My goal is to work within the profession and I hope one day to be able to work as a cardiac physiologist.”
After more than 10 years living in Ireland, Pupin struggles to imagine moving back to Poland. She missed her friends a lot when she first moved over but has realised that over the years their lives have taken very different paths.
“I’m happy to be here and call Ireland my home because obviously my whole adult life has been here. When I go back to visit now my friends have their own lives and live in different cities.
“Because I’ve been here such a long time I sometimes call myself half Irish. I’ve met really nice people along the way who have helped me a lot. Obviously I’ve worked hard for it, I didn’t get anything for free, I’ve earned it.
“I’ve never lived in Poland as an adult so I don’t have a comparison. It would be a very big step to go back. For now, I can’t see myself living anywhere else.”