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‘Brexit’ brings uncertainty to Polish community

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By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale
'Brexit' brings uncertainty to Polish community

THERE are concerns for the future amongst newer members of a long-established Polish community in the east of Dumfries and Galloway.

REFERENDUM CONCERNS . . . Gosia Wasilewska says the EU referendum result has caused uncertainty amongst newer members of the long-established Polish community in Annan and the border country

 

It follows the Leave victory in last Thursday’s UK referendum on European Union (EU) membership.
 
Poles in the town of Annan and over the border in neighbouring Longtown have been closely studying the implications of the result, which has triggered international political turmoil.
 
The uncertainty lies partly amongst newer members of the Polish community, some of whom are working in the local food and other industries, and have been in the UK for less than five years.
 
They are watching closely to see how events unfold in the coming months to see if their permanent residency will be secured in the post-‘Brexit’ era.
 
For those who send part of their wages back to family in Poland — where there are fewer jobs and a much lower wage economy — the falling value of the pound is also having a negative impact.
 
Working mum Gosia Wasilewska, who is employed at the SklepStokrotku Polish Delicatessen in Butts Street, Annan, and her family should have a secure future in their adopted town.
 
However, she this weekend expressed sadness that EU immigration had proved such a major issue in the referendum campaign.
 
Gosia said: “Like many local Polish people I feel sorry the UK is leaving the EU. The stronger links it provides with home are good from our point of view. I and my family are very happy living here.
 
“What has happened in the EU referendum does make many Polish people across the country feel ‘unwanted’ though and I can understand why some feel hurt.
 
“It is important people realise Polish people work hard, pay UK taxes and make a positive contribution.”
 
Gosia and her partner Piotr Cylinski, daughter Nicola and Gosia’s mother Bogumila Wasilewska, share a house in Annan where they have lived for eight years.
 
Like other Poles in the area, who are in work or run small businesses, they are watching events closely.
 
“I just hope there is a rethink, if not across the UK, then in Scotland,” added Gosia.
 
Border author and historian Gordon Routledge has taken a keen interest in the Polish links with Lower Annandale and North Cumbria.
 
He said: “There was an influx of Polish refugees who fled the Germans in World War Two and were given accommodation at the former Hallburn RAF airfield near Longtown.
 
“I understand some were also trained as fighter pilots at RAF Chapelcross at Annan.
 
“Some later married local girls and settled in the area as they could not go home in the Cold War period.
 
“They were active in the local Catholic Church and played a part in the opening of the current church building at Longtown.”
 
Gordon explained that the original Polish families, many now third or fourth generation, were followed to the area by new arrivals after Poland joined the EU in 2004 and helped satisfy a demand for labour in local factories.
 
He said: “I had some good friends among the original Polish refugees and now new families have made the area their home.
 
“The Polish culture has been part of local life on both sides of the border during most of my lifetime. I’m sure that will continue whatever happens during the EU negotiations.”

 

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