Pole to Pole

It's 10 years since Poland joined the EU, and Polish nationals became free to come and go from Britain as they pleased. There are now at least half a million Polish people living in the UK, and Polish is now the second most spoken language. After the initial "flood" of migrants, many returned home richer. But some others, like Magda Bond, one of the presenters of this programme, have chosen to make permanent lives here and never want to go home.

But now Magda has to decide whether to take British citizenship. It's not just a question of sentimentality - if Britain were to leave the EU, then the legal position of Poles living in Britain would be unclear: in theory, they would have no automatic right to stay. But beyond that, the question of whether or not to take citizenship forces Poles to think about who they are and what they are really doing here.

Unlike previous waves of post-war migrants, most Poles arrived with no definite intention of staying. Poland is close enough that it was easy to go back if things didn't work out. But for many, life intervened: they found British partners, had British children, and slowly acquired British accents and became addicted to British soaps.

But ten years on, how well integrated are the Poles into British life? Do they feel they belong yet, and do they feel welcome? As Magda prepares to take the official "Life in the UK" test, she and Jolyon talk to Polish people here: a Polish businesswoman who feels her compatriots are still not stepping up to the plate in terms of community engagement; a Polish psychiatrist who reveals what his Polish clients tell him; the Polish UKIP candidate. She discovers that Poles do not love the NHS: many believe that British GPs prescribe paracetemol for everything, even when antibiotics are called for. She learns that many Poles feel "stigmatised" by British politicians, and under-appreciated. And she discovers that Poles are world-class grumblers, possibly rivalling even the British.

Presenters: Magda Bond and Jolyon Jenkins
Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

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28 minutes

Last on

Mon 16 Jun 2014 11:00

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