Emigration? Never thought about it.

We Poles know something about emigration. This makes it even harder for me to understand the irrational fear and aversion to refugees in my homeland today.

Photo: Mason Taylot/Simon Taylor

It just happened. A quarrel with my girlfriend ended with me sitting on a plane with a one-way ticket. I was one of the first drops of that huge wave that was about to flood the British Isles. It also carried over my beloved, who had by then forgiven me.

As a young journalist, from day one I observed how the incoming masses of my fellow Poles adapted to the new situation, and how the Scots started to perceive us differently. Just a year or so after the borders were opened for Poles, Polish internet portals, papers, shops and pubs started to pop up all around Edinburgh. The carnival lasted for three years, as the majority fell victim to a credit crunch. Only the best ones survived – and of course, the Poles survived as well.

Migrations of the masses are nothing new to human history. Sadly, most of them have happened – and still happen – when people flee wars, enslavement, and extreme poverty. We Poles know a little something about it. There is even a period in our history known amongst historians as the Great Emigration (Wielka Emigracja), when thousands of Poles left the territory of modern-day Poland due to political repression between 1831 and 1870. 1 This makes it even harder for me to understand the irrational fear and aversion to refugees from Syria that exists in today’s Poland. Our migration to Britain after 2004 was something completely different from all the previous ones our Polish ancestors had to go through – it was easy. We left because we wanted to, we were free to come back at any time, we felt welcome, and from day one we were able to become equal members of society. Most of us appreciated it very much.

Of course, bad things sometimes happen between Scots and Poles; there have even been some terrible crimes. But it’s not the fault of Poles or Scots themselves. The statistics are to blame. It is perfectly normal that in a such great sample of people, a few such cases were simply bound to happen.

It was completely random that I came to Scotland of all places, but this is where I have built my home (or rather, gotten a mortgage for a flat), fathered a son (even two), and planted a tree (our potted Christmas tree, last year, but sadly it did not survive).

Someone once said, “It’s not important where you were born. Your home is where you choose it to be.” I think it’s true.

Maciej Przybycień

Maciej Przybycień

graduated from Interactive Media at the Telford College in Edinburgh. He works as Costumer Service and Social Media Agent at H&M. He was a founder and editor-in-Chief the online Polish magazine Gazeta Elektroniczna (GazetaE.com).