“I lost my job because of Brexit, so it was time to leave.” With this one sentence, begun in fluent English and ended in slightly rusty German, Bartek Truch sums up what is a long story. He has just had his furniture brought to Görlitz from Great Britain, where he and his wife Anna lived contentedly for many years and where they raised their two daughters.
Bartek and Anna both come from the small Polish town of Lubań, where they went to school together for many years before bumping into each other. It was only in the early 2000s, when Anna was already in the middle of studying German and Bartek was working in the Czech Skoda factory, when they got to know each other and fell deeply in love. “We were used to the long distance.” Anna soon took a job in Zgorzelec, Görlitz’s twin town in Poland. The Polish and German municipalities, only separated by the river Neisse which forms the national border, jointly declared themselves a European city in 1998.
“I worked in a call center for German customers, which was naturally good for my language skills,” says Anna. Later she had office and restaurant jobs across the river on the German side. At some point, the heavy driving became too exhausting for the two of them and they decided to choose a place to live together. Their choice was narrowed down to Wroclaw/Breslau and the job search was successful: Anna found a job in the back office of a bank and Bartek became a sales representative country-wide.
What didn’t quite fit was their desire to own their own apartment – there just wasn’t enough money left over at the end of the month. “The housing market is very competitive, we couldn’t find anything we could afford. Then we got the idea to go and work in Great Britain for a few years.” Some Polish friends in Sheffield had told them about the good earning potential and so the English city of 600,000 with an industrial history became their next destination.
“It wasn’t that easy to find a well-paid job”, Anna recalls, “in the end I had to work as a cleaner. My husband started out as a construction worker.” The ambition not to fail kept them afloat. “Working in a nursing home helped me learn English very quickly, otherwise I wouldn’t have made it.” After a year the two decided to get married. “The wedding had to be in Poland, of course, with all of our family and friends. After that they were reluctant to go back to the island.”
In the end, the salaries lured them back to Great Britain. “And at some point we just started our lives there.” Two daughters were born and their acquaintances became mixed, British and Polish. “It became really comfortable.” As the Brexit storm clouds overhead grew more threatening, the small family felt the change, to the extent that Bartek even lost his job as a result of the increasingly difficult economic situation. “We thought about what to do and finally we responded to what seemed like millions of calls from my sister Monika,” Anna laughs. Her sister lives in Görlitz and runs a hotel with her German husband. “And she always said, when you come, you can get started with us immediately.”
They spent most of their summer holidays in 2020 in Görlitz and it made a difference. “Having relatives close is a blessing for our girls. They are loved and pampered by everyone.” Now it’s time for Bartek and Anna to hit the books. “I’ve forgotten everything I learned during my German studies,” says Anna. “And I have to learn everything from scratch anyway,” adds Bartek. “But I can make it through. The most important thing is to find work quickly, that’s the first step.”
Text: Axel Krüger
Photos/Video: Paul Glaser