First of all, if Poland were a bad country to live in, I wouldn’t live here. I am, after all, British. And there are a lot of British people living here, some in cities, some in more rural locations. As well as more and more other foreigners.
The reason you see a lot of Polish people is that this country has the same population as all the countries Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia combined. Percentagewise, more Lithuanians have emigrated than Poles, but that doesn’t mean that Lithuania is a bad country either. However, because there are thirty Poles in the world to every Lithuanian, you’re still not going to run into them as often.
Polish Exploration – the example of Mikołaj Przewalski
Poles are more adventurous than most peoples. They have had more than their share of explorers and discoverers. They were not by any means always looking for an easy life, but simply highly interested in the whole world and what is in it. One example I can easily give is a wild horse species, now endangered, which lives over in Mongolia. This was discovered by a Polish guy called Przewalski and is to this day called “Przewalski’s horse”. He also has a Przewalski’s gazelle, which is less known, and was the first to describe to science te wild Bactrian camel, although clearly that was well-known from time immemorial. What was not known, though, was that this wild Bactrian camel was a separate species to the domestic Bactrian camel. This by the way I very much doubt would stand up to genetic analysis, because people are saying that dogs are basically the same species as wolves, but apparently what domestic Bactrian camels evolved from was really a different thing entirely, so there you go.
Mikołaj Przewalski (or as he was known in Russian Николай Михайлович Пржевальский), was born in Smolensk, a perennial favorite haunt of Poles, in the Spring of 1839, and died in a place called Karakol (yes, I know, Turkish for “police station” but this is I think an actual town in Kirgizia which bore the name Pzhevask in his honour for a while before the Turkic police stations, the black arm gang, took over, and exploration and zoology put on the back-burner) in 1888, a good ten years after the birth of Stalin, not sayin’ anything, but you have to admit the moustache has a certain familiar look…
This chap was a Russian citizen, as at that time Poland was not even on the map, and Poles were either Prussian citizens, Russian citizens or Austro-Hungarian citizens. He used his “nash chelovek” status to explore all over Central Asia wherever the Russians went. He was so adventurous, that some people even reckon that he was Stalin’s real dad, but that’s probably just an urban legend.
These days some criticism is levelled at him for being quite high-handed towards the native peoples of the places he went to, which just goes to show that it was not just the British and other West Europeans that took an Imperialist stance it was everyone, and if we had been on the receiving end instead of the dishing-out end, it is highly unlikely to have been better.
Here you can penetrate anywhere, only not with the Gospels under your arm, but with money in your pocket, a carbine in one hand and a whip in the other. Europeans must use these to come and bear away in the name of civilisation all these dregs of the human race. A thousand of our soldiers would be enough to subdue all Asia from Lake Baykal to the Himalayas….Here the exploits of Cortez can still be repeated.
(N. M. Przewalski on Asia)
But above all for him it was exploration, science, nature, collecting specimens of unknown plants, insects and higher life which really got him his Vega medal.
This is the same spirit that sends people to the UK. They believe that it will improve their English, which in turn will enable them to communicate on a world-wide scale and they want a nice classy English (unfortunately on building sites they tend to pick up something less than classy, but of course they don’t know that, and proceed with their h-dropping and “effing and blinding” when they get back and are trying to use English for the purposes of international tax consulting, or something equally august). They want to experience something different to their own country and culture, but which is still relatively friendly. The pay of course doesn’t hurt either, but for many it is not the prime consideration.
Some will stay in the UK, appreciating the education system as the grass is always greener on the other side, and wanting good UK universities and qualifications for their kids. Some are merely saving money and will use it to buy back in Poland in lush countryside a bigger mansion than any of their work colleagues in the UK will ever have.
Read the rest of this entry