Bartosz Walusiak, 16: ‘Who is Enda Kenny? I don’t know’

‘I don’t identify myself as Irish. I try to stay in touch with Polish culture’

“It was very frustrating at the beginning, because I couldn’t really communicate with anyone.” Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

“It was very frustrating at the beginning, because I couldn’t really communicate with anyone.” Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

 

This article is part of The Irish Times Generations project. Since April 2014, people ranging in age from 12 to 102 have shared their views on Irish life, past and present, with reporter Rosita Boland. Read all those published so far at irishtimes.com/generations

Bartosz Walusiak lives in Cork

My dad, Wojtek, came here from Poland – from Jawiszowice, in Malopolska – for the purposes of making money, during the Tiger. He and his friend set up a painting company. I was six. He went out ahead of us. My mother, Aleksandra, and I stayed behind for eight months, and then we followed him to Ballincollig.

I just dealt with it. I was really excited for the idea of moving somewhere else. What was hard was that we had lived with my grandparents in Poland. They lived upstairs and we lived downstairs, and I was really close to them. Saying goodbye was hard, even though we went back a lot afterwards.

We knew for a couple of months before that we were coming here, so my mum sent me for English lessons in Poland. I only had the very basics, but I’m glad I came here when I was very young, because it made it much easier for me to pick up the language.

It was really hard for my mother. She stayed at home by herself a lot in the beginning. When we came here first we were looking to go back after one year, then two, and now we are still here. She was always living here with the hope of going back to Poland. She does speak English now, but I would not say she is totally fluent.

I went into senior infants. It was very frustrating at the beginning, because I couldn’t really communicate with anyone, and no one would play with me.

I met discrimination when I came to Ireland, because of my accent. When I was unable to communicate some of the other children in my class were basically bullying me. They were mean. Sometimes adults couldn’t be bothered, either, to help or to try and explain things to me.

The main thing I pulled out of that experience is that I really didn’t want to be like those people. I pulled out of it the strength to stand up for myself.

I got a computer when I was very young, and I’ve loved computers ever since. I mainly break things and fix them, software mainly. I’ve built my own computer lately, from ordered parts.

I’m very interested in computer science and programming, and I do some coding.

We have uniforms at our mixed school, but you can still see the difference between people who care about the way they look and the ones who don’t care.

I don’t know a single girl who wouldn’t care about how she looks. I don’t know why. I started to notice this around the time we were in fifth or sixth class. Maybe they’re competing with each other.

Someone told me once that girls spend a lot of time in front of the mirror not to impress boys but to impress each other.

Everyone in Ireland is very chilled. People’s views on life in Poland mostly come from the fact that we are surrounded by countries that we had war with. After the second World War, and communism, people had the mindset that everyone is trying to cheat them and there is only yourself to look out for, and your family.

Polish people don’t see everyone around them as their friend, which is very different to Ireland.

I don’t identify myself as an Irish person. I try to stay in touch with Polish culture as much as I can. I am an active member of the Polish scouting association. Everything I have aspired towards is according to what the scouts should be like, because I’ve been in the movement for quite a while, and that is what has shaped me. I’m not at all religious, though. That’s the only thing that goes against the ethos of scouting.

The most important thing for me now is getting through the Leaving Cert and getting into UCC to study computer science. Other people my age have other goals, like getting better at sport; that is the whole world for some of them.

I’m in transition year now, and my main interest at school is maths and science. My end goal is to study as much as I can. I want to stay here to study, because all my friends are here. It would be great to work someplace like Google some day.

Who is Enda Kenny? I don’t know who he is. My friends and I don’t talk about politics. I listen a lot to music: punk, rock, rap, metal.

In comparison to my friends who want to grow up as quickly as possible, I want to stick with my childhood as long as I can. I don’t want to be big and serious all the time.

I don’t think I know more than three people my age who don’t drink or smoke. I know more people who smoke weed than who smoke cigarettes.

I don’t really feel the need to do either of those things. I don’t spend enough time with people who drink to feed my curiosity to try it myself. What I value most is being yourself, not pretending to be what you’re not.

My parents split up two years ago, but I am still really close to my father. I didn’t find it difficult when they split up, for some reason. I thought that I should, though, and it always kind of bothered me. He worked a lot of night shifts, so I didn’t really see him as much.

Since six weeks ago I have a sister, Matylda. We have different fathers. I never wanted any siblings, to be honest, and 16 years of a difference is quite a lot, but I am happy about her now.