My name is Lukasz Filim, I am 36 years old and from Poland. I came to England on 9th May 2004, just nine days after the UK, along with Ireland and Sweden, opened its borders to European citizens to live and work here. I registered, as you had to then and paid my £50 registration fee ( think that is £100 now). I got my National Insurance number and I started paying taxes. I work in banking. Before I came to the UK I had already been working for the National Clearing House in Warsaw for three years . Once I finished my studies I began to be interested in coming to England. My sister was already here, I sent her my CV, which she circulated for me. I was contacted by Nat West, who showed an interest in me. But when I came here did not get a job there and start working for Pizza Hut as a driver and waiter for 2 years.
I was offered a job by two other Polish banks but preferred to come to England. The Polish have a certain view of England; they think of it as a special place. They think London is magic. Our Polish government in exile was based in London, during the Second World War. Many
Polish men joined the British army. Polish soldiers are valiant, highly motivated fighters. There had been such a history of fighting to reinstate our nation, after the Polish partitions, that we saw ourselves as good soldiers. We had Polish brigades in the First World War and we were happy to lend our strength to Great Britain during the Second
Lots of men stayed after the war, married and made their lives here, so there have always been strong links.
Two significant dates for me are 1066 and 1989. The first because it was the last time
England was invaded, that makes it a special country in Europe. It has no history of
invasion, of being trampled on by other countries. Maybe that is what makes English
people confident, with a certain savoir faire.
The second, 1989, was when the Solidarity movement in
Poland made the peaceful change of the communist system and after that the Berlin wall came down. It was the new beginning for our fledgling country.
I also came because I like English people; I find them open and welcoming. They know
how to enjoy life, they are used to foreigners, they understand cultural differences. They are well educated and the quality of life is better here. Britain is well connected in the world. It is much easier and cheaper to travel from here for instance.
I came too because the UK economy was, and still is, strong, even now, when it is not in
good shape it is stronger than many of the A8 (Accession countries) economies. We
should not forget that Poland for instance, was devastated during World War II, 6 million Polish died and our cities and country were destroyed. A whole generation was wiped out, academics, lawyers, teachers, officers, politicians - our intelligentsia you might say. It was as if the head of the country was cut off, but even so the people worked really hard and rebuilt the infrastructure, although of course Russia had taken over and imposed 50 years of communism. So in a sense, we are still a young country economically. We have only been growing our new economy for just over 22 years. We have a different mentality and view of foreigners in Poland. We are not are so used to difference. It will take time for us to build our destiny.
The only difficulty I have experienced here is with my English. I thought I spoke pretty good English when I came. I had studied English for a number of years. But it has taken me a while to become really fluent.
I do plan to stay; in fact I have British and Polish nationality now. I do feel a bit disconnected from the Polish environment and to some extent miss elements of the culture, like strong family ties and different attitudes to older people.
I fear English people are not happy about Europe, they don't seem to realise how well they are doing. Some seem to feel the proportion of people with foreign roots it too high. I am not sure that is the fault of Europe.
I know I am eligible to vote here in the UK and I do. I have to do a lot of extra homework to see who I want to vote for.
As to the European Union, there are lots of things that need to change. It is still very young and I am not sure where it will go. As to getting involved with Europe, that is a natural progression from getting involved in your neighbourhood, your borough, your city, nationally. If you feel responsible you are
likely to get involved . Although don't forget this kind of community action may not come as easily to everyone. The key to ruling in totalitarian states was exactly that - divide and rule,. So very little trust was built up between citizens and none between citizens and authorities. The EU creates chances to learn from each other, some countries you learn from, some you teach. It also creates chances to enhance trade. That is the attraction, the common benefit, the enlightened self interest.