So my best barometer of what's happening to anyone who’s come to live, work and pay taxes here in the UK is my friend Magda, who also happens to be our hard-working and superbly well-organised cleaner.I ask her every Monday if she's had anything adverse happen to her or to anyone she knows.
The pressure is clearly mounting. At first she only recorded two official problems. Her niece, recently arrived from Poland, was turned down for working at Pret a Manger because they said they were uncertain about the situation post-Brexit. She actually got a job at Wetherspoons (ironically, since the owner was/is fiercely pro-Brexit. Yet the company has explicitly stated that it will carry on employing Eastern Europeans). To get her National Insurance number she went to the local Job Centre. The woman there was hostile and sarcastically incredulous – ‘you’ve only been here ten days yet you have somewhere to live and a job?’ – and didn’t put down on the form that she had a job but that she was applying for one.
Today's news was worse. The 8-year-old daughter of one of Magda’s friends has been traumatised by an incident on the 41 bus from Tottenham Hale to Archway. She was travelling to a Polish Saturday School with her parents, three friends of the same age and her three-year-old brother. She speaks English with her schoolfriends but her brother is too young to communicate other than in Polish. So they were speaking their own language as they went to get off the bus at Crouch End when a couple in their sixties said 'why are you still here? Go home! Fuck off back to Poland.' The rest of the people on the bus did/said nothing. Olivia wants to know ‘why do these people hate us?’ and is sufficiently upset not to want to go back to Saturday School.
Magda says that about 20 per cent of her friends have gone back to Poland, including a friend who ran a hairdresser's but has closed down business. They are afraid not so much for themselves but for the kind of hostility their children face at school.
I wanted to believe these incidents were isolated, but when they're directly reflected in the lives of the Poles I know, I fear it has to be commonplace. So I'm disgusted and feeling helpless. But I've reported the incident - three hours later the police arrived to take details, and the rest will be up to Magda's friend - and the more people do so, the more we stand a chance of stamping out the apparent licence to abuse which Brexit - with the help of the right-wing press, shame on them - has unequivocally encouraged. If people only do what they did before, think vile things but keep them to themselves and their circle, less people will be hurt or, worse, murdered. It's a minority, but it's enough to drive these admirable folk away.
An afterthought - I'd forgotten about this one: how about something from the Ukippers' misplaced idol Elgar? His Polonia of 1915, a perfectly fine occasional piece composed to support Polish refugees... And it will teach you the Polish national anthem into the bargain. Sad to report that beleaguered country as a good deal worse than us on its current record for taking in refugees. None of the leaderships of the so-called Visegrád Group within the EU is good, and Hungary's is marginally worse than Poland's, but that's not saying much.
Invitations to comment are usually met with a blank, but if you know of anyone - Polish or other - who's been affected like Magda's friend, do write about it below. It's important to have these things documented.