HERE’S the extracts from the controversial article about the Polish waitress:
“Poles in Ireland. I love you, unemployment.”
Written by Katarzyna Brejwo Published in Gazeta Wyborcza
The sound of the ocean
It’s six o’clock in the morning and we’re walking in complete darkness through a golf course.
I travelled to Ireland to see what life is like for Polish people who’ve lost their jobs. I thought that when you’re unemployed at least you don’t have to jump out of bed so early in the morning, but no such luck.
Magda (36 years old, almost 2 years on unemployment benefits in Ireland): “I always start my days in the same way: I go down to the beach to see the sunrise. It sets me up for the rest of the day. I used to sleep until noon, but now I don’t want to waste my life.”
It’s a five minute walk to the nearest beach. She had only one wish when she was looking for a house: she wanted to be able to hear the ocean. Then she thought that there had to be light and space, so she wouldn’t feel suffocated; fireplace for those cold evenings and a maximum rent of 85 euro weekly – otherwise she’s not going to get the rent allowance, the benefit from the social welfare office.
“What’s my life like? It’s great. I’m developing as a person, I can live. I get an unemployment benefit – 188 euro weekly and 59 euro for my rent. During the winter I get 20 euro fuel allowance. It’s 267 euro weekly. It’s enough for a quiet life if you don’t live extravagantly.”
Donegal, a county on the Northern tip of Ireland, for some it’s the most beautiful place in the world, for others – biggest nowhersville. Wherever you look, green hills and beaches stretching towards the horizon, just like on a postcard.
On the other hand you can be walking on a beach for an hour and you’ll only meet one elderly man wearing a rain jacket.
“ There’s everything here, but jobs”, laughs Magda. “Half of Donegal has gone away, the other half is on benefits.”
It takes 4 hours to get from the village D. (tourist folders describe it as ‘The Pearl of Donegal’) to Dublin. At weekends, representatives of the middle class come here to play golf, in the summer it’s the tourists. You can walk around the centre in 10 minutes: there’s the church, café, two tourist shops and a pub. In front of the pub, there’s a bench with a view of the bay and the famous Donegal sheep munching on the grass across the water.
A surfing school has been opened on the square where young people, who haven’t left to look for jobs in Australia or the US, meet. Just around the corner there’s an office which is supposed to help the local community. This month they’re advertising sign language courses. Their job-related advice? Ask in the hotel or in the café.
“It doesn’t make sense to work earning the lowest rate. In the hostel I earned 200 euro weekly and I was busy morning till night. First it was breakfast for the guests, then reception, between 2 and 3 cleaning the rooms and then phone duties. On one hand it was fun, you get to meet people from all around the world, but when they knock on your door at 11pm, you want to murder them.”
“You can earn more waitressing, but how long can you be running with a tray? There were times that I was the only person working at a wedding looking after 2 tables of 36 people. I didn’t even have the time to go to the toilet. When I finally managed to convince them to give me some help, they gave me a cleaner – plates kept falling from her hands and she didn’t have a word of English.”
The nerves were getting to her, she had no regrets leaving her job.