Migration trap among the Great Masurian Lakes










by Piotr Szenajch | Pictures: Monika Kmita

‘Circular migration’ means moving constantly to find work but never settling in the new place to stay. Many inhabitants of North-Eastern Poland leave for 3-8 months for Germany, Spain, Italy or the UK. When they are abroad, they yield to harsh living conditions in jobs below their qualifications. They face a constant risk of fraud and abuse prevalent for those working in a grey legal area. After coming back, they spend the money they have earned on their everyday life rather than investing it. Some gradually resign from building a steady career at home. Their choice is not irrational or careless – it is the only means of surviving and supporting their families. At home, the labour market does not offer them any better conditions. All this occurs in the heart of Mazury – a stunning tourist hotspot with wild forests and a thousand crystal-clear lakes.


 

 

"When this little stash shrinks you’d better go again and heal this budget of yours… It melts down. It’s good while it’s here. When it liquefies you start to think of the next road trip. Not to allow such collapse again. So you don’t have to lift up from your knees again."
Iwona


Joanna’s odyssey
 

Her story of migrating for work is a true epic. Joanna tells it over strong Turkish coffee and some cherry liqueur at a kitchen table till 2 a.m. She’s 36, a lively delicate brunette. She lives with her husband and two daughters (a twelve and a one year old) on a family farm where her parents used to live and work. Her husband milks and feeds cows every morning but they don’t have enough animals or land to make a living from it. The village is called Biedaszki. The name has the root ‘bieda’ in it, which means ‘poverty’. There are only six houses here, made in characteristic red brick and meadow stones at the time when this was still Eastern Prussia. The aged taxi driver who took us here from the nearby Węgorzewo stayed for coffee and a chat too – everyone knows each other here. For most Poles this is no man’s land, the end of the world, only 15 km from the border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
 
 

The first time ever was Greece, already in 1996, just after their marriage. “The living conditions are perfect”, a work agent from nearby Ełk said. “Three months of beautiful weather, nice camping lodges, everything you need”. He then collected an equivalent of a month’s salary for his services.
 

Joanna remembers the anxiety on the borders. Poland was still far from the EU back then. They selected her for extra control. The customs officer asked her about the purpose of the voyage:


“Tourism, I said, thinking of my suitcase full of tinned food. Siguro? he asked. For sure? Cross your heart it’s true! And I did”, she says, looking in my eyes.

 

They rode for two days and slept in the coach. The driver left them on a beach, in the middle of nowhere. A man came for them in an open truck. But it was the accommodation that really disturbed them.


“A breezeblock shed with no plaster on the walls and multi-storey welded bunks. Showers without curtains. It was cold. Worse than a prison cell. My legs felt soft.”
 

“Look”, Joanna’s husband suddenly draws a photo album in front of my nose. “A four star hotel in Greece!”
 

It does look terrible. Joanna looks like a lost teenager in that picture.
 

The group called the agent, told him the deal had been different. They chipped in for a taxi and sent one of them to negotiate in the agent’s company’s office in Athens. They threatened with court action if he wouldn’t find a new workplace with better conditions. Finally they found work collecting oranges and peach in Anifi, not far away. The sleeping quarters were in an old cinema. One of them went there and made sure that the conditions were bearable.
 

The next morning at 6 a.m. they set off for the fields, again in open trucks. The intermediary talked about heat, but there, there was frost on the leaves. “The peaches were like lumps of ice.” They all were in T-shirts. The orange trees had small sharp spikes – they didn’t get any work clothes, not even gloves. Soon the locals put up stands with rubber boots, raincoats. But the workers had to pay out of their own pocket. The food was good but scant. They had to buy some more – at prices of the tourist region they lived in.
 

“I don’t remember how much we got paid,” Joanna says. “It was still in drachmas. But I brought nothing home. Maybe some 800 złoty (now 200 euro). And a box of oranges.”
 

The second time was Italy, much later, in 2005. She worked on a tomato farm: collecting, cutting, drying. Again, the trip didn’t go well.
 

The agreement with the intermediary had been for three months, but because of crop failure there was work only for 40 days, paid in daily wage. The employer said “Thank you – this is all”. And then they had to pay for accommodation and gas, not to mention the bus ticket, food for three months brought from Poland, and some 150 euro paid to the agent in advance. Later they learned that the farm owner had already paid that lady for recruitment.
 

Joanna tells me some more vivid details of this trip: about a young Pole beaten up heavily by some other Polish men on some trivial pretext. Joanna remembers him returning to Poland, battered, with no money, just a teddy bear for his child. She remembers about a man threatened with a gun by associates of their employer (the rumour was, he belonged to the Calabrian mafia). About having to hide the fact of visiting a doctor and getting prescriptions using names of trusted Italians. Their work was illegal – it was before the Italian market had opened up to new EU countries.
 

Then there was the grand retreat. They rode from Calabria to Rome, not speaking Italian, with luggage and practically no money, stowing away in trains. Joanna, as the most outgoing and communicative, guided the whole group.
 

“When we saw the right bus station we burst in tears. We’re going home! We had to wait for a coach to Warsaw. We slept on benches at the station. A guard came and asked us to leave, because they were closing. They forced us outside a gate. The temperature was below zero, no money for a hotel. We looked at each other – we were like homeless people, under the bridge.”
 

“What were you thinking then?” I ask her.

“I was coming back with nothing. I couldn’t call my husband. The connection was breaking off. He thought I was hanging up on purpose. I was crying.” She’s crying now too. “One big chaos. I didn’t know what I would find back home. I was afraid they would take away my child. It was the first time I left her for so long. She started to wet the bed. It was terrible.”
 

When they got on the bus there was great joy. Some men from the group she guided came to her and said: “You see Joanna, it was you who brought us home. From the end of the world. We would have gotten lost and stayed there. We’ll never leave home again”.

 

Then Joanna tells me about the trip to Urbino, Italy in 2005 – the first one that paid off. 

“In 2005?”, I notice. “So the same year as the tomato farm? Why did you go just after such a catastrophe? Was it a tough decision?” 

“No.” She is silent for a second. “We were in a tough situation. I had to put all eggs in one basket. When I heard there was a chance to go I said I’m going without thinking.”
 
She worked as an all day carer for an 85 year old man. She made friends with his daughter Marliza – an Italian teacher of German, about her age.

Christmas came soon after she had started. “I got a present from Marliza. I was shocked. I had tears in my eyes. In return I baked them potato pancakes and faworki pastry. I wanted to bring some Polish atmosphere to them. They were very warm-hearted.”

  

Joanna worked there as a replacement for her Polish friend, who lived in Urbino permanently, during the time she was visiting her family in Poland. She went two more times, for three and four months. The last time she had planned to bring her daughter with her. Unfortunately the father of Marliza died. Joanna went anyhow and took up cleaning houses. After returning she got pregnant and that was her last voyage until now.
 

The Great Lakes
 

“Those who want to work will find work” – everyone repeats that here. But what if there is no work around?
 

Giżycko and Węgorzewo lie on the stunning Great Masurian Lakes sailing route – a tourist hot spot in North-Eastern Poland. There are thousands of large and smaller lakes, with old forests around them, connected with a network of canals that allow for cruises along tens of kilometres. White elegant sails and the mirror surface of the lakes – that would be a typical postcard view of Masuria.
 

One can imagine that the chief source of business and employment here is tourism. Yet this lucrative opportunity is also a curse. The tourist season so far up North lasts a short time – from June to September, rarely longer. During the season one can find short-term, low-paid jobs, usually illegal or within ‘elastic’ forms of employment, mostly forced upon workers by their bosses. Bars, hotels and marinas hire, also the building industry, but only until September. Then the region turns numb, falls asleep. What’s the worst problem here? The lack of big industrial employers – everyone will tell you. Then they will add: salaries too low to support a family, unfair employers, scarce buses and trains. A sociologist would add some big words: the ‘working poor’ phenomenon, employment beneath qualifications, abusing work regulations, inadequate help from public institutions, wasting human capital, exploitation.
 

“Life is hard in these parts” – that’s another frequent phrase appearing in my conversations.
 

Going around in circles
 

If you trust statistics, the migration in the region is relatively low in comparison to other parts of today’s Poland. But whoever you ask in Giżycko or Węgorzewo has worked abroad or at least knows friends who have; usually both. Some even talk about the ‘desolation’ of the towns in the area.
 

The answer is quite simple: migration statistics are based on registration of permanent residence. Here migrants rarely leave for good. Like Joanna, they leave and return again, for 3-8 months, not liquidating their apartments, with a rather clear intention of coming back. They spend money on everyday living rather than invest. Some gradually resign from building a steady career at home. Then they are forced to go again.
 

Reports call this ‘circular migration’. Or, in a more sinister way, ‘the migration trap’.
 

Iwona’s self-respect
 

“Those who want to work will find work” – the one who repeats that most often is Iwona from Giżycko. She’s 42 but looks older. Strong, sturdy arms and a stocky figure hint at an acquaintance with physical effort. She is tanned and smiles a lot. She speaks fast, fidgets, can’t sit in one place for long. For the last year she has rented a room in the fabulously colourful house of Mrs. Kasia (70) to whom she is now a best friend. Iwona boasts about her children scoring best grades in their schools in Ireland. She is very open about her recent divorce, after her husband decided to stay in Ireland for good. But it is her hard work that she talks about with the most pride:
 

“Respect for work, for another man and for oneself”, that’s what matters to her. “I’m not ashamed of any work; I can sweep streets, clean toilets. Work is work. And it should be respected.”
 

From her these words are like a waving banner.
 

In the summer Iwona works in the kitchen of a big tourist resort. She cooks, cleans, washes dishes. She works in 16-hour shifts, every second day. She has no employment agreement. Her boss doesn’t cover her social security. She’s registered as unemployed to have insurance. But she still considers this a ‘good deal’. “At least he’s solvent”, she says. “He pays what he promises. That’s not so common here.” 

Part of the deal is that when summer ends Iwona leaves for warm countries to earn real money.

She learned about a job on a big farm in Spain in a public labour office. She’s been there twice already and is preparing for the next trip soon. She also went to Germany to collect apples but she much prefers to talk about sunny Andalusia.
 

“After work, you know, the ocean! We were seven kilometres away from the beach; we went on foot every day. The beach was beautiful, like a fairy tale. Swimming, sunbathing… I liked massages best – you stand with your back to the waves and it’s like having a massage. Like holiday in Spain, I tell you.

But this was after hours. Working on a farm is no easy money.


“Not everyone can last. Here at home it was minus 30, there it was plus 30- 40. You switch your sheepskin to a T-shirt. The worst is the heat. Frankly speaking I thought of resigning the first day; I wasn’t sure I will make it.” 
 

You get up at 6 a.m. to avoid the sun. 6.5 hours of work, then  you are free. It’s impossible to work any more. For collecting strawberries you walk with your back bent along the hedges. You can’t kneel or crouch. The foreman shouts at you for any reason. You work in teams: more experienced workers have to help the less experienced not to slow down. It’s usually the older women who get along best and help others. Like most of what Iwona has done in her life, it’s hard physical work.
 

“It’s good while the tents are removed, but try working in the tent, under the foil, that’s the worst part. It’s 50 degrees centigrade, there are chemicals, you can’t breathe.” She tells this to her friends in Giżycko, when they mock her saying she’s a suntanned millionaire from Spain now.

Iwona thinks that whether your migration is successful or not depends mainly on your own determination:

“To survive you have to show that you want to work, that you make an effort. Your boss has to see that you want this job.

”Than she adds: “The young think it’s too hard to wash dishes for 16 hours. Maybe this comes from their families: do little, earn a lot. They didn’t have such a tough childhood as mine.”

 

Sisyphus

A study made in the region for local labour services in 2009 concluded with a list of migration types. The researchers, in a surge of poetic inspiration called the types with names of mythical heroes:
 

Odysseus: mature, heads of families, mainly with secondary education, often have a permanent job. Migration not exceeding half a year, usually aimed at earning extra money for a particular purpose. They deal with the risk of losing their permanent job. Vulnerable to the migration trap.
 

Sisyphus: older, basic education, desperate. Their goal: earn to survive. Cheep labour force. Victims of physical and psychological exploitation. They don’t know their rights. Unsuccessful voyages.
 

Prometheus: their main goals are personal development, gaining professional experience, collecting money for investment. Also meeting new people. Rather young. They consciously employ their new assets after coming back.
 

Icarus: migrants who faced failure. The motivation was development, but it went wrong at some point. The experience they gained has no value back home. The migration seems to be just a big hole in their lives.
 

Most of the ones I talked to in Masuria would account as Odysseus-type. But I can’t help thinking that they all have much in common with Sisyphus.
 

Mariola’s love
 

When Mariola was leaving for Germany, at the age of 24, indeed she was ‘head of the family’. The sole responsibility for her children was on her after her divorce.

He beat her and her oldest daughter; her high school sweetheart from Dresdenko, a small town running on car imports, near the border with Germany. She ended up in hospital several times before she decided to end it.


The employment agent was her friend. At least he took no money for his service. He recruited her for work in a Turkish Kebab. She worked long hours in the kitchen, practically non-stop, with just a couple of hours for sleep. She was sending the money to her parents and children.

She lived with four Turkish men in a small apartment, with only thin plaster walls and curtains separating the rooms. She says she was afraid all the time.


There were more reasons for this anxiety than just being from a small town, where there never were people with a different skin colour, more than the bad experiences with her husband. At some point her boss started to make unambiguous suggestions.

“I saw girls changing behind the bar from time to time. I suspected what was happening. You go to bed with me, you’ll have work, if not, you get the sack. I preferred to escape from there as fast as possible.”
 

So she escaped again. The critical point was when she saw some guns in a closet in her apartment. She asked for an earlier payment and left without a word. Nevertheless, altogether it lasted four years.
 

It’s hard to listen to all this looking at her fragile face surrounded with straight blonde hair. She seems to stare into the distance when she refers to the difficult parts. She’s 33 now and lives in Giżycko, a long way from her hometown. All the time she has children hanging around her neck, laughing, doing pranks, trying to join the conversation: her daughter of 14, her son of ten, and of course, especially the youngest daughters aged four and one and a half. When they interrupt, a smile lights up her glum face instantly.
 

Mariola’s move to Masuria has a good story behind it itself.

The second and third trips to Germany were short, up to two months: babysitting children, then working as a hotel maid. Yet the second stay was long enough for her to meet Andrzej – and there we have a migrant love story.
 
 

“We started chatting each other up the moment we met,” Mariola says, smiling. “Colleagues laughed at this. He was my age, a bachelor. Worked on construction sites, wandered the world.” She met him at a party crowded with Polish migrant workers. She mentioned her divorce and children as soon as they started talking. He told her that he had been single all his life, which she didn’t believe. Much later, when he invited her to his home in Masuria for the first time, she insisted on taking her children with her. He agreed without hesitation, and that meant he passed the test. After she moved to Giżycko he would often joke: “You had to spend every summer at the Baltic. Why haven’t you come to the lakes before?”
 

Now they are married. In the photos taken at the modest civil ceremony Andrzej looks two metres tall (he is), with an angular, serious face and his hair being of the same fair blond colour as his new wife’s. Mariola praises Andrzej for knowing just how to get the children interested, for coming up with crazy games, helping them with physics or chemistry. They have two more now. But their life together is still arranged according to the rhythm of foreign journeys in search for work. They met in 2005, but between 2006 and 2008 Mariola worked in Adenau, Germany, in a restaurant, cleaning toilets, cutting salads, boiling pasta and washing dishes, returning home to see her children only on holidays. She met Andrzej occasionally, a few times at home; usually in Germany, after hours, when he was working somewhere within short driving distance.
 

The last two years she spent at home, in Giżycko, looking after the children, her own at last. But Andrzej is abroad practically all the time, usually two or three months in a row. The last time he got back was for the First Holy Communion of Dominik, their only son, just for three days. Recently, Andrzej was rebuilding a medieval castle from cut stone in France. Now he builds a hotel on the outskirts of Berlin. They communicate through Skype.
 

“When he comes back”, Mariola says, “he always has tears in his eyes. It’s a pain for him that Julka has made her first steps, and daddy is away. Every time I have to explain to him their new gestures and sayings.” 

“Practically, we have separate lives. Supposedly we are together, but we’re always apart. It’s a torment.”


Basia, the teacher
 

Those with basic and vocational education ‘win’ – say the reports on Polish migration. In their hometowns they usually can’t expect better jobs than the ones they carry out abroad. This is somewhat true for Mariola and Andrzej or Iwona; though ‘victory’ is not the word that comes to one’s mind. Those with higher education and aspirations ‘lose’ – they get frustrated with working beneath qualifications, assuming the unrewarding lifestyle of the working class.
 

Basia, 34, graduated in maths, then finished an academic course qualifying to teach English. She’s a maths teacher in a small village near Węgorzewo. She moves quickly around the kitchen, cooking dinner while talking with me. Worried and focused at first glance, Basia’s eyes reveal more and more self-confidence as we talk.
 

“I’ve graduated from two faculties, and decent ones, not anyone can complete them. The fact that there’s no decent job for me in this country that I have to leave – for me this was horror.”
 

Basia is a single mom. Her son, then eight years old, got serious asthma and needed therapy in a private clinic. She took a bank loan. But then the school she taught at decided to cut down her job from full-time to a fraction of 13/18. Why this uncommon number? I failed to ask. This was enough for the bank to quickly withdraw her credit. She had to collect money fast. Her friend was coming home from England for holiday and needed a replacement. Basia had to decide within a month. It wasn’t easy, as she had to leave her little son in her friend’s care in Węgorzewo. She packed and took a bus.


Cleaning corridors, changing bed linen, and washing dishes – this is all not so uncommon to a teacher running her own house. She only had a problem with waiting. It was hard for her to carry full platters.
 

“You had to do it all, no talking, because there’s a multitude willing to take your place.” She worked ten hour shifts, sometimes took overtime, which paid better.

“When they learned that I knew the language they would often ask me to show new guests around.” Unfortunately, she also had to do some more waiting. Nowadays, there’s a shortage of employees who can engage clients in a witty conversation.


She remembers that she didn’t talk much about her education. “When I went there I left Mrs. Mathematician at home. I went there to make money. You had to shut your mouth and do your work”.

She recalls one young girl nagging about being a Major and having to wash dishes all day. Everyone laughed at her quietly and with resignation. Almost everyone from the staff had some academic education.

“When the management finally learnt that I finished studies they clutched their heads with disbelief – that there is no work here for mathematicians”.


In the end, she says, the trip gave her a lot of self-confidence. “Knowing your way around, open-mindedness – you learn a lot while travelling. I've always tried to teach children that you get something out of every contact with another person.”
 

Basia was supposed to stay in England for two months, during summer holidays. Finally she ended up staying seven. She managed to negotiate a sick leave in her school due to her son’s illness. She was a school teacher playing truant. If they knew where she was she would get in trouble.
 

Paweł, a success story
 

For Paweł, travelling for work was above all an adventure. He’s one of those who would classify as Prometheus-type.
 

He was born in Przemyśl, a town of 66 thousand in South-Eastern Poland, near the border with Ukraine. The first time he decided to go to work abroad was during a summer break from his economic studies in Cracow.
 

His wife is an economist too. She’s from Giżycko but studied and worked for a few years in Warsaw. Together they escaped big city life and now live in Masuria.
 

Although only 29 years old, Paweł is already an owner of a prosperous 70-room tourist resort, which he bought for credit after two years of preparing and four business plans.
 

In two consecutive summers he went to Scotland to work on a farm. He collected cranberries, potatoes, and broccolis. His experiences did not differ much from the ones of Joanna or Iwona. It is the language he uses to talk about them that differs. For him it was a ‘journey to the unknown’, a ‘student adventure’, aimed at ‘getting to know the world’, practicing English, and above all ‘taking advantage of being young’. Earning money was ‘only by the way’.
 

In 2004 Paweł decided to take a one-year dean’s leave, just before finishing studies. He went to London with a group of friends. His first post was a warehouseman’s assistant. Soon he was promoted to a deliveryman. Driving a truck, he had an opportunity to learn the streets of London. He became friends with a Pakistani worker, who suggested to Paweł making a cab licence. “Not the black cabs, the mini-cabs. Pakistanis run this whole business.” So Paweł bought a car for the money he already saved and transformed it into a minicab. He made a cab licence, registered a one-man business and ‘started a new adventure’.
 

He worked nights, 15-16 hours in a row, sleeping the rest of the time. But his profits rewarded his effort. The investment in the cab returned in two weeks. 

His thirst for new experiences was also satisfied:


“London is a big melting pot as they say. Everything good and evil in the world is there. Not many things can surprise me now, especially after working in a cab. From the black market of weaponry, narcotics and prostitution to the club nightlife, stars and celebrities. You can see everything in the back of a cab.”
 

He might slightly exaggerate, but he has certainly developed the bored look of a man who’s seen a lot.

“The West strengthens your backbone”, Paweł claims. “You get resilient to most inconveniences of life. You are left all alone, it’s the best school you can get. One sees less problems, expects less from others, and approaches life more realistically.”


Then Paweł says some bitter words about living in England as an immigrant:

“I lived there long enough to learn that emigration for good has completely no sense. Seeking one’s fortune abroad is ok when you treat it as adventure for a short time, gaining experience, manners, money”.


“Why doesn’t it have sense? I ask him.
 
“When living abroad, you’re always a second-rate citizen. Although London is such a multicultural phenomenon, a Pole will always be a Pole. He will never have the same respect as back home.”


“Have you ever felt like a second-rate citizen?”

“Everyone over there pats you on the back and says Polish worker… good worker… you are the best. But on the condition that you do junk-work; do what they don’t want to do. It’s all fine, as long as you don’t walk in their way or take their position. The precondition is that your work tool is the shovel...”

“If you have a head on your shoulders, some education and the will to work, your perspectives in Poland are three times better than in the West”.


Crisis
 

When I ask them about ‘the crisis’, only Paweł – the businessman – knows which one I’m talking about. For the rest, ‘crisis’ is a permanent state, a metaphor of life.
 

Background
 

These are interesting questions: What makes someone successful or not during such trips? What helps you profit from your efforts and control the risk you take? Finally, what makes you feel battered and cheated or enriched and strengthened?


I ask all of them about their family background. Joanna’s parents were small-time farmers from rural villages. So are the parents of Andrzej and Basia. Mariola’s father works as a janitor at a car dealer’s in Dresdenko. Her mother is a cashier in a supermarket. Iwona’s mother worked as a forester in the state-owned woods. Her father was a drunkard – that’s all she tells me.
 

Paweł’s parents on the other hand have higher education. His mother is a construction-engineer, his father studied agricultural science. In the 1990s they quickly started their own business in trade.
 

You can surely see a certain pattern here, though nothing is completely simple.
 

Plans for the future
 

Iwona can’t wait till the next trip to Andalusia, to get back to the ocean and to her tough work at the strawberry patches. She says the life is different there, easier.
 

Basia is waiting for the next occasion to leave too, probably during the next school holidays. She wants to take his son with her this time.
 

Paweł is his own man now, as he always wanted, with his future carefully planned according to the rhythm of his loan instalments.
 

Joanna found a job close to her home village. She works on a turkey farm. Within a few months she got promoted from a regular wage earner to the head of the whole farm. She tells with pride about her fast way up, about negotiating her salary, about her business trip abroad tomorrow morning – this time somewhat different. After a long conversation she takes us for a night walk around her farm. She drives at nerve-wrecking speed along dark narrow roads. I’m thinking whether I should remind her that she had a drink. The farm is immense. We see her telling off an employee on a night shift – a muscular giant with a Hells Angels look and a ponytail. She’s definite and assertive. She confidently operates high-tech instruments on the farm.
 

Mariola and Andrzej consider three options:
 

Firstly, emigrating permanently to Germany, at least for a couple of years.
 

Secondly, staying in Giżycko. This would be possible only if one of them found a permanent job. That is what they want the most.
 

The third option is the most radical, but at the same time very probable: moving closer to the German border, just to have a shorter drive, and live like this, between countries, always circulating.
 

Why do they go?
 

Iwona:

“You know what? If they actually hired me for this job in the kitchen that I have” – the one with 16 hour shifts – “I would completely quit travelling and work here until retirement. But the way it is now, I just don’t have a choice. I have to go.”


Joanna:

“I remember the first money I earned in Italy I sent to my husband to buy coal to heat the house.”

“The times are turbulent. One has to fight for one’s wellbeing; a better tomorrow for oneself and one’s family. You have to be responsible.”


Although safe from such choice for now, Joanna knows the moment she loses her job she might have to face it again.

Mariola and Andrzej live in a hundred year old tenement house, in a flat with a creaky wooden floor, heated with a tile stove. Yet you can find in it a freshly painted guest room with a plasma TV and tons of cool, colourful toys for the kids. The flat belongs to Andrzej’s aunt and they live there thanks to her generosity. Andrzej earns outstandingly for local conditions. It’s still not a fortune though for a family with four kids, especially when you’re saving money for your own flat. One way or another, as soon as Andrzej quits his European routine they will be flat broke again.
 

During the summer season he works for a small local construction company, for Mr. Staś. He has 10 employees, but only one is ‘registered’. Andrzej works when Mr. Staś calls him on the phone. Sometimes he is needed for one, sometimes for 2-3 days. No obligations on the part of Mr. Staś.
 

“Having so many children we just can’t afford working only once in a while. You can’t make any plans. You can’t make ends meet. You’re not getting any younger and still you don’t have anything from your work.”
 

“We just have to’, Mariola says. ‘There’s no other option. You have to bear it. Maybe it will pass.”

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