Why Görlitz is better than London

Grzegorz Owsian is cutting mushroom, really quick, one after another. One could think, by the routine way he performs it, that he has done this for years, but he just recently started working as a cook in the Restaurant “Jakobs Söhne” in Jakobstraße. “I just came here in November”, says the 40-year old, “before that I lived in London for 13 years.” Moving from London to Görlitz? No, at first, he moved to Zgorzelec, his place of birth. He grew up there, and “when I was 12 or 13, I learned German in school for the first time.” When he was 24, he moved to London for 18 months, then came back for another 18 months at the Neiße river, but from 2006 on, he stayed in London for 13 years. He worked at all kinds of jobs, Oswian says, as a cook, forklift driver, barman in a traditional English Pub – and a lot of other stuff he rather does not want to specify.  

London is too big, too fast, too much

Yet, he did not really warm to London. “To me, it was too big, too fast, too much.” He kept going because of the work and for love; but after 13 years he really had enough. “You know, actually I wanted to come back like after five or six years, but there was always other stuff I found I could do.” He knows people who raised their families there and whose kids attend school there. That was not the case with him, so he had no hard feelings when leaving. However, he never considered living in a smaller town in England. “London is huge, there is always something happening.” He says, that one would only go to a smaller English town for a special job or studies. He could rather imagine going to Berlin. “The city is not that big, and you can find everything that you also find in London”, he tells us, and refers to art and music. Just by accident, he learned from an old friend that the Café Kugel in Görlitz was looking for a cook. So, he met Enrico Merker from Café Kugel, and they both made an agreement in a short time. Yet, at first, Grzegorz started to work not in the Kugel, but in Merker’s other restaurant: Jakob’s Söhne. But, moving to Görlitz, however, was out of the question. “I come from Zgorzelec, I had a flat there, so I did not have so search.” Plus, the old flat was cheap, and he still can be in Görlitz very quickly. Görlitz/Zgorzelec is a perfect point, Owsian says. “From here, you are really quickly in Berlin, Dresden, Prague and Wroclaw.” In addition to that, he needed some rest after all the years in London, a calm pace. “This is here.” His friends and family are also living nearby, so he did not have to make up his mind about it for a long time. To him, the Brexit referendum was not the decisive moment to move, and he learned about the ad campaign from the Europastadt GmbH, which addresses Brexit-Poles, when he was already here. Since November, Görlitz and Zgorzelec try to win over Polish citizens who moved to Great Britain via social networks such as Facebook and Instagram and via a special webpage.
The message: In Görlitz and Zgorzelec you are close to your home and still have all advantages of the EU, different to the UK. To Grzegorz Owsian, money was a big issue when considering to come back. “The pound has a tough stand right now.” Plus, housing is really expensive in London. One room in a shared flat cost him 500 to 600 Pounds, so roughly 600-700 €. He could have gotten a room for 800 or more than 1,000 Pounds or even up to 1,200 per month. “I thought, I can make the same amount of money in Germany, but pay way less on housing”, says Owsian.   

25 hours of work are completely enough

Owsian took a position of 25 hours work at Jakobs Söhne. To him, this is enough, he does not want to work more. Plus, there are other things to do, like seeing old friends or getting to know new ones. He likes concerts, movies, and apparently martial arts. “I learned Karate back in Görlitz, years ago, I want to do that again, there is a very good Karate school here.” He also makes trips to the big cities like Berlin and Wroclaw, just last weekend he drove to Poznan to see some Wroclaw-based bands perform. Görlitz is a good place in the middle to him. “I don’t miss living in a big city.” He did not find real disadvantages so far, “and I don’t think I will find any.” Thus, he plans on staying. But usually he does not plan way ahead. “I don’t know what I want to be doing in 20, 30 years.” For now, it feels right to be here. He has not paid London a visit, since he left.
Source: Sächsische Zeitung
Text: Ingo Kramer
Photo: Nikolai Schmidt

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