“I ended up as a migrant quite by accident,” smiles Borys Baran.
“I had come here on holiday four years ago to visit my cousin for a couple of weeks, and just ended up staying after that. I remember calling up my parents and saying ‘yeah I’m not coming home as early as expected….”
Borys is part of the staff at the Portobello Road branch of the acclaimed Gail’s Bakery, where he works with a host of other migrants in the UK – in fact, the only non-migrant is their manager Martin.
“It’s interesting, seeing how we all fill the gaps in so many job sectors here – it says enough that all my colleagues at the café are migrants.”
A typical day for the 25-year-old Pole means coming to work a little before 7am, when he starts his shift, and finally finishing at 2pm. At other days, he works the same eight-hour shift from around one or two o’clock in the afternoon till the café closes.
Although for Borys working as a migrant in the UK is not just about the money. He holds a degree in administration from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland, is fluent in English, and also wants to do a Master’s degree further on. If confronted with either a job that pays more or a one that has a lesser salary but is more connected to what he wants to do, he would rather choose that job that best allows him to follow his passion.
The Polish community in London now numbers 555,000, larger than the Irish (353,000) and the Indian (327,000) communities.
“Five years ago, there was a point where I would hear Polish everywhere, though it’s become a lot more mixed now than it was before.”
“It’s not as if I lead a different life as a migrant –I enjoy rollerblading, reading books, going to the pub and having a fun time with my friends once in a while…honestly I like to things that any other Londoner would.”
However, Borys does not think that most Poles come to London to eventually settle down. He knows many of his countrymen who have bought or built houses in their hometown with their earnings in the UK, or have come here to get a better idea of what it is like to work in an international city.
“I came here to tap into the opportunities available here to work globally…you can’t really do that if you stay confined to your home country.”
Borys also plans on going to his home in Walbrzych in a month, saying he’ll miss London’s “multicultural character”.
He plans on staying in Poland for the next two or three years, though he might return if the economic situation in his country worsens.
“Life in London is easier in some ways…there’s a lot more that you can do with your disposable income, and what you can buy has a better connection to what you actually earn than in Poland where the tax rate on certain items is as high as 45 per cent.”
He does however have advice for migrants who do plan on coming to work in the UK, as he was made aware of some harsh truths while leading his life here.
“It’s not a fairy-tale life that you lead when you come here. There is a lot of work to be done, and you may not always get to do what you want, or even have the time to. Beyond a point, you need to hide your ambitions in your pockets until the next big opportuinity,” winks Borys.