There is a clear difference in living standards between Poland, or other post-socialist countries, and western Europe. Worker in Poland, hereinafter referred to as slave, has no chance to earn as much money as an ordinary worker in the West. The road to wealth in my homeland seems so long, and the goal itself completely unattainable. And I wanted to be a millionaire …
It’s realy hard to pierce through in here. I know people, who have completed prestigious faculties, did numerous internships abroad, and work today for the lowest national wage. In a job that does not contribute to their development. Capitalism is not fair. Rat race continues, the winners still lose compared to their friends abroad.
Slaves from post-socialist country, who finally realize how bad their position is, flee to Denmark, Sweden, Norway or the UK. it is not difficult to understand their decision. By doing the simplest jobs like mowing the lawn, or painting walls and fences they earn at least 100 NOK/h, which with the hard work gives monthly earnings equal to 30 000 NOK. In Poland, the profit is much smaller, the employer often pays NOK 10 – 16 NOK / h. Sometimes doesn’t even pay anything. When looking at it, Scandinavia is a coveted paradise for poor.
The owner and the slave
I didn’t want to live like a slave anymore. I’ve had enough. I wanted to finally make more than 3000 NOK monthly. Who has the money, has the power – I kept telling myself, even though I don’t find this sentence completely true. I never managed to find a job in Poland, that would ensure living on a decent level. I wanted to be a filmmaker, documentarian describing the world he explores. But I needed good equipment, and more specifically – a camera.
Typically life gives us the roles we have to play. You’re either born rich or poor. It rarely happens, that someone with already given role was able to get a level higher. Some keep on trying, other don’t even think about it, but let’s be honest – most people fail. The one who’s rich never understands the poor. The one that’s poor dreams to be more than that. Thinking about it, at one moment I decided to risk it all and flee. I didn’t have much to risk though, because I had virtually nothing. Maybe that’s why it was easier for me. I was quietly humming Bob Dylan’s “When you’ve got nothing you’ve got nothing to lose”.
I quickly calculated that by working hard in Norway for six years I could become a millionaire. Then I could go back to Poland, buy myself a small palace, take care of renting, hire Asians, they’re cheaper… and further… further on somehow it would be. I could take care of filmmaking. I have my goal, now I need a plan.
It was not a first time when I was traveling without the money. I spent a lot of time on variety of voluntary works in countries such as Norway, Sweden, and Italy. But this time it was not about exploring, gaining experience, or meeting new people. I’ve had a mission to accomplish. Get money and buy a camera!
I finished journalism and film studies in Poland, because since childhood I had dreams. I knew I wanted something more out of life than ordinary monotonous eight-hour operating mode. The money was about to make this possible.
Looking back, America was once average Polack’s dream, now it’s Norway. A Scandinavian country, in which in few days you can earn enough to live one month in Poland. It is true that most Poles here are emploeyed in worst jobs like picking strawberries, painting etc. for lowest possible wage in Norway, which is 100 NOK / h. By the way, I was once walking about in Denmark, broke, looking for the strawberry field to work on. When I finally found one, the owner pointed at a shed: – you see that shed? I already got 16 Poles in there and I don’t need more.
But back to the beginning of the journey. Before Polack can even flee to Scandinavia, he has to carefully plan everything. Why? To survive out there. It is known that the food in Norway is much more expensive than ours, so everyone from Poland who’s fleeing to Scandinavia is loaded with jars, canned food, cans, pates, sausages and dumplings, to save as much money as possible. Ofcourse, when they finally arrive to Norway, they begin to convert NOK to PLN (Polish Złoty), what they could buy in Poland for it, how much they could send to Poland. That’s life. And then they buy a beer for 80 NOK, or cigarettes, worth daily wage in Poland. Not everyone though, has enough of a self-discipline to eat only what he’s brought.
You’ve got a fast car, I’ve got a ticket to anywhere…
I’ve met Arek on the internet portal. Typical Pole, 22 years old, fan of techno music, disco-polo and songs about fucking. He dreamed of fleeing to Australia. Eventually he put me in a deep shit. But let’s start from the beginning.
Escapefrompoland.com is one of those portals, that allows you to get to know people from the country, who would want to go abroad. of course for profit. Because every hero needs a companion, I deceided to go with Arek by his Fiat Punto. The two always livelier – I thought. I was wrong, but I couldn’t know then.
Our first stop abroad was Odda. We stayed at Cinderellia, iconic tavern in the suburbs. The owner’s name was Hans, he was the first guy who offered us help.. Not only he gave us a job at his estate (painting), but also food and accommodation, completely for free. I was delighted, thanks to his generosity I have suffered no major costs. The road to wealth, my objective, now seemed much easier than I thought.
After one week of hard work I earned as much as I would in Poland in one month. Cool, isn’t? Although at Hans’ there was no electricity nor hot water supply, but I found that better than nothing. After the first payment, I decided to reward my toil of work so I went on a trip. This short trip changed everything, but whether for good, by the end of this I’m not sure…
It was raining. I was standing soaked and frozen on the road, praying for somebody to finally stop, damn it. I felt I was really in a bad position. I didn’t know how to get back to Cinderella, there were no buses going this way, I didn’t even have enough money for the hotel, no place to sleep…
And then somebody stopped. It was a woman. She asked – Need a ride? – Sure, yeah – I said. The young woman’s name was Eli. I was a little surprised by her openness, she didn’t even know me at all…
Eli was really nice. When we’ve been talking for some time, she suddenly asked, what am I doing in here actually. Then it began. I told her everything, about my plans of getting rich, about my dreams of becoming a filmmaker and buying a camera. Eli laughed – you wanna be a filmmaker and you’re painting houses? – I nodded. – You know, Paweł… I could help you, I’m a documentarian.
I thought it was a dream, but several dozens minutes later together with Eli we were on a party organized by the creators of a reality-show about two norwegian cowboys, who work hard and party hard. They were just making that second one. The whole team gathered there. How did I even get there? – Here’s a party – Elli smiled at me.
It’s hard to describe exactly what was happening, it was quite a razzle-dazzle. I met many people who to my suprise treated me normally. In their company I did not feel like a slave, I felt then, how it is to be someone. A creator, a player, someone I always wanted to be. Finally Eli brought the camera and gave it to me: – Here’s your camera Paweł, film us!
I was overwhelmed, and perhaps already tipsy? I was filming them all, having great fun and encesing on my feet. Several people took my number, they had orders for me to paint their houses. This all may seem unusual and even unlikely, but it really happened. But things got more interesting when I discovered at 1 AM that bar is for free.
Polack drunkard, thief and what else?
The yell has awakened me. I didn’t realize myself where I was and who’s screaming at me…
– Give me back my 400 euro, you thief! – It was Arek.
– What is… what do you want.. – I was still sleepy, still not sure where I was. Then suddenly I recalled last party with the filmmakers, I probably have drunk too much. I couldn’t even recall, how on Earth I came back to Cinderella, has somebody driven me back, or if I have returned on my own.
– You know exactly what I want, thief. Give me back my 400 euro!
Arek was convinced, that I stole his money, even though I didn’t even touch them. Most likely this bonehead either has lost them, or hid them, or perhaps has spent them, not even remembering where and what he’s been doing. He had no proof that I have taken them, he just thought so. If Polack, then must be a thief, isn’t? This sucks. Everyone can accuse you of stealing, without the slightest evidence.
– Arek, I didn’t take your money. Man, I didn’t even see them… – I said gently. It is difficult to speak calmly with the person who enjoys disco-polo songs about fucking. Arek has unequivocally accused me and it was difficult to reason with him.. Because the whole time I insisted that I did not take his damn money, he wanted to beat me up and force me to confess my guilt. What a primitive person.
The worst thing is, that this idiot has told everybody I’m a thief. I was feeling terrible, even though I was completely guiltless. The worst is, he told that Hans, who assumed he was telling the truth. Later, when he saw me, he asked if I have returned Arek his money, instead of asking, if I have even taken them in the first place.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa
Poland’s a country full of people full of complexes, country where most people are raised according to the pattern of the Catholic Church. Everyone feels guilty, for not earning as much as they should, for not having, what they should have, and eventually, for thinking different. They later classify us as drunks, thieves and God knows what else, and we’re afraid to stand up to it, because it’s our fucking very great fault.
The next day Arek was gone. He drove away by his Fiat Puntol. He left me. He took his revenge.
He took with him our whole eatables we collected together, he also took my phone. I had all the contacts there, to family, to my friends, to people I met at the party, to employers whose calls I was waiting for. Arek didn’t even pay me back for the fuel I’ve bought some time ago. Never mind. I was alone. I’ve been called a thief by the person who robbed me.
Are Poles thieves? When I was wondering, what to do now, I recalled my previous stay abroad. When I was once traveling alloy, Poles, who drove me, stole me a bag of clothes. There was nothing of value in there, but for me it was pretty unpleasant experience. I understand that people are different, some people are desperate, they have no money for food, they’re forced to steal, to survive. I’m not gonna judge anyone, but I honestly hate it. And most of all I dislke people, who contribute to the Polack = thief stereotype.
That’s why I didn’t want to tell anyone how Arek treated me. I didn’t tell Hans anything, he probably thought I was a thief. I thought that somehow I can handle it. Maybe. The most painful for me was however that I didn’t have a telephone…
I was still living at Hans’, even though everyone was looking at me with disdain. Unfortunately it was raining most of the time, so I wasn’t getting a lot of orders.
For all this time in Cinderella I was mainly cleaning, once or twice it happened that I painted something. When I was scrubbing the floor at Hans’ I felt like this title Cinderella I was secretly hoping that as in the fairy tale, my fate will change tooI earned very little then, most of the cash I had I spent then. On Cigarettes. On coca-cola. I’m dumb. Money disappear very quickly in here.
Finally Hans told me, that I can no longer stay at his. This isn’t a hotel, and he’s got no more jobs for me. I felt hopelessly. All of a suden I became homeless and completely broke.
My situation may seem hopeless, but there were people, who didn’t reject me and wanted to help me. Ellen for example, 70 years old warm-hearted woman, who I could say – adopted me for few days. She wanted me to teach her how to use facebook, show her how to add pictures, etc.. She also ordered painting her terrace and mowing the lawn. This way I earned some money. However, I couldn’t stay at hers forever…
The last money
I spent the night in a hotel for the last money I had. Maybe it’s silly, because as a matter of fact, I was completely broke, but I really needed it then.
I needed to break away from all of my problems, to not go completely insane. Artificially extend the time before the upcoming fall.
When taking the shower, I was intesively thinking about what I can do to survive.
Few hours later I was assembling the tent I bought from a Chinese for 150 NOK.
In Poland I could have waterproof and
windproof tent for that price. When I woke up in the morning, all wet, alone in the middle of Norway, without money, food and homeless, for a little while I was yelling to Jehovah, Mohammed and Krishna, because I was not entirely sure which of them was responsible for this.
Fortunately, I quickly calmed down myself and thought to myself that I’ll survive, I rather will, because I always have before. I smiled to myself and wondered how to get a fishing rod here?