Choosing an Irish future over harsh reality of home


For some immigrants, returning home can be even harder than staying away, writes Ania Majewska

LIFE FOR the Polish immigrant back at home in Poland can be tough. Abroad, you save enough money and you go home full of enthusiasm and new experiences. But often there is disappointment and many returned migrants start suffering from depression a few weeks after they are back. It can be hard, even though they lived in Poland before.

The beginning of the depression can start when people are living abroad. You come across various difficulties like making new friends, coping with linguistic and cultural barriers, long working hours, etc.

You miss home and want to go back, but at the same time you can feel pressure from family to send money home.

The divide between life in Ireland and life in Poland is vast. It takes time to settle down in a foreign country. Little things like different food, taps, plugs and weather can make a difference.

And then when you go back home, you find out you have fewer friends then when you left and they have less in common with you. You start seeing things in different ways.

It is difficult to go back to your family home quite the same person you were before leaving the country. I spent a year in Dublin and I went home to Warsaw to finish college, hoping to stay there forever. After two months I experienced obstacles. My friends had moved on. They were working hard and studying at the same time. Some of them got married and had children. Many of them did not find time to go for a cup of coffee with me.

Moreover, they didn't answer my text messages. They were living their own life and struggling with their own problems.

"I don't want to know about the millions of zlotys that you saved in Ireland," a friend told me. I hadn't seen my Polish companions for a year and I had so much to say about my experiences and life abroad.

After some time I started feeling lonely and it was making me sad.

Three months later my savings were gone. I spent them on fees in college and I was financially supporting my family. I hoped that with my experience working abroad I would find a job, but I didn't. I still didn't have my degree. When the winter arrived in Poland I had no money to buy winter shoes and I couldn't ask my mum to buy them for me.

Working in Ireland provided me with sufficient income to live easily and independently. I used to go shopping every week, even though I was paid the minimum wage. This was not available to me in Poland. I was feeling lost. I made a quick decision and I came back to Ireland shortly after I got my degree. Just like me, many immigrants who are back at home face different lifestyle and work opportunities. The standard of living is lower. The Polish currency, the zloty, has got stronger against the euro. The prices in Poland went up and are as high as in Ireland. The salaries are still at the low level compared with Ireland.

Many Poles are not as independent as they used to be when they lived abroad. Often they worked as labourers and did not improve their careers. When they went home, they got any job they could and were paid much lower wages and they had to get used to spending money carefully.

Many immigrants feel lost and lonely not only when they live abroad, but also when they are back at the family home.

They swing between two countries and they don't know where they belong. The longer they live in a foreign country, the harder it is for them to return home.

Some Polish people are happy in Poland with their children and families. But a large group of them did not settle back.

The Polish government tries to make returning Poles feel welcome. But many of them said: "Thanks very much, I love my country, but I think that I will stay abroad for another few years. At least I get more respect and money for my work here."

Ania Majewska lives and works in Dublin