“Let’s make the conversation about migrants clearer and more personal by talking to each other and removing the debate from agenda-driven politics,” suggests Polish-born Maciek Poplawki. Maciek originally came to the United Kingdom to study English after studying history and tourism in Poland, his native country. Around the time that he decided on his area of study, European borders were opening and as such there was an influx in tourism and also ‘study abroad’ opportunities. Maciek took advantage of this situation to come study in London. However he ran out of money after some time studying and began working in construction, an occupation he has excelled at since.
During the early period of his time in London, he met Simone, a Brazilian migrant who was taking English classes with Maciek’s sister-in-law. The two married and have been living in London together ever since. During this time, he explains, London has grown to be a part of him, as he’s learned a great deal about himself and the city over the years. Maciek and his wife have been dreaming of moving to Brazil for a long time, and they hope that the political situation in Brazil will calm down in the near future, enabling them to fulfil their dream.
Although construction is hard work, Maciek has deeply enjoyed being a part of London’s change over time. He greatly appreciates the opportunity to look at London with the perspective that construction has given him, and feels that many people travel through London day in and day out but never notice the details and all of the changes. His experience of the changing London sky line expands to a much deeper connection to the city, which he summarises when he talks about his extensive work in construction saying, “Purely through experience of that you learn more about the city and the people who are behind this process because we’re blind to a lot of things going on.”
As cameras became incorporated in phones, Maciek was inspired to take pictures of the projects that he worked on. Throughout the years these photos amassed into a collection that shows London from his unique perspective at the top of London’s new buildings. Maciek hopes to share the photos with a wider public soon, and summarises what he wants the viewers to see when he says, “London is a global city a lot of people have seen Big Ben or Wembley Stadium or these other buildings millions of times in pictures, but very few people have looked at them through a partially demolished floor.” Maciek’s favourite projects are those that are well connected with society and culture, including hospitals and the English National Opera.
The migration debate, which has garnered so much attention recently, is something Maicek feels strongly about. He thinks that much of the discussion is valid and worthwhile, but finds that some of the concerns are addressed in a way which is,“…misguided and really deconstruct us and is very negative so instead of taking this debate and dialogue to a place where everyone can somehow make sense of it and draw conclusions and grow, it becomes something of a fight.” This makes him feel concerned about the negative repercussions of the tone of the debate.
Maciek strongly feels that those without a community in London should try to engage with one. He himself is involved with the Three Avenues Resident Association (TARA) that meets monthly for gardening work and litter clearing. He greatly enjoys this work, as he feels that it is a way to be involved with aspects of London life that are often overlooked. Through the work he has attained a greater appreciation of the effort taken to shape London. He finds involvement in this work important, as it will inevitably affect all of us.
In the future, Maciek sees himself leaving construction in order to start working in tourism, which was what he initially studied in Poland. He hopes to be a part of a more niche sector of tourism such as ecotourism and if possible, he hopes to pursue these dreams in his wife’s home country of Brazil.
You can see some of Maciek’s photos here: https://constructionsight.org/