Ben left the UK in June 2019, he lives in Poland with his partner and baby son.
1) How did you feel on 24th June when you heard about the UK’s vote to leave the EU?
Disappointed, shocked, but not surprised. I work within a European funded Youth programme and I see the immense benefits of being in the EU and being able to benefit from European funded opportunities so when people decided to leave the EU it really disappointed me as I wouldn’t be who or where I am today without taking part in such programmes. I was actually in Bulgaria for a project the day after the vote and it was really strange and disheartening when I was asked ‘why are you here? You voted to leave’ .I do want to be here, I didn’t want to leave.
2) What were the key driving factors that made you decide to leave the UK?
The main reason was family. My girlfriend and I were going to have a baby and we had to decide where we wanted to live and raise the baby. Also with my work in the UK I regularly travelled from the North West down to London by train, and its actually cheaper to travel via plane from Poland to London.
3) How/why did you choose your current country of residence?
My girlfriend is Polish and for her to be close to family when we were having our first baby was important, but not our main reason for choosing to settle in Poland. I first visited Poland 20 years ago on a youth exchange and I fell in love with the country and the people. I visited many times over the years and friends became family – I always knew that one day I would settle here.
4) Do you have citizenship for your current country? Do you still have EU citizenship? If no, are you hoping to obtain it?
At the moment I am registered as an EU citizen in Poland (gives me the right to stay and work here) its something that we have as a result of being in the EU. Unfortunately with Brexit now after the end of the year we don’t know what the situation will be – even the Polish authorities are still unclear what will happen with us Brits! My plan is to be able to have long term residency here! Im just thankful that our son has both British and Polish nationality so keeps his EU citizenship.
5) Do you plan to return to the UK or hope to move to another country in the future?
The UK is where I am from, its my birthplace and I love it. Will I return? Thats a different story. Over the past 20 years I have travelled extensively, lived in several countries (all European) and I always went back to the UK for a while in between but now Im looking forward, for now our home is Poland – but never say never, who knows where life will take us next.
6) What was the most difficult aspect/greatest you challenge you faced in moving?
For me living in Poland is something I always wanted to do, and I alway felt at home here so it was an easy transition. I am used to moving around and settling in, but to have my girlfriend (and baby now) here it was even easier – I always tell her that wherever they are its my home. The two things that are my ‘challenges’ at the moment are the language; I understand a lot I just need to be more confident with my speech and the second is that sense of community. Where ever I live I want to be involved in the community and to really feel part of it – this is developing slowly but we have just moved to a new city so its only natural.
7) What do you miss most about the UK?
Family, friends, my local Chinese and Indian takeaways (they aren’t the same here in Poland – but I keep searching), going to the football on a Saturday to watch my local team and my dog Hugo! At the moment he is still back in the UK with my parents and we are waiting for the best time to bring him over.
8) What do you love most about your current country of residence?
The nature – we have such amazing nature in Poland and places of extreme beauty. Everyday we like to go walking in the forest or to a lake- we like to spend time outdoors. I love the cities and towns – the architecture, the history and the atmosphere. The people, culture and traditions of Poland is also one of things that has always pulled me here.
9) Do you consider yourself to have a “European identity” and what that does that mean to you?
For sure – I am European! I am who I am thanks to the experiences I have had over the years travelling and working throughout Europe. The experiences and the people have shaped my ideas, my passions and my goals – I have learned to be more open and understanding, to be accepting, to be more open to other cultures and its helped me to break down barriers and overcome problems.
10) Do you still consider yourself to have a “British identity” and how do you feel about it?
Yes – you can be both British and European at the same time. This idea was lost in the whole mess of the Brexit campaign – its not an either or concept – You can be both! I work in the European youth field and I know that the EU isn’t perfect, there are issues and things need to change, but I am of the belief that you need to be part of discussions to make change – instead of being on the outside looking in. I am proud to be British (maybe not proud of all our politicians buts that’s another story) and proud to be European too!
Additional Questions (relating to Corona Virus)
11) How has the Covid19 pandemic affected your life?
With my work comes a lot of travelling so with the Covid-19 situation most of my work was postponed and rescheduled but this also meant adapting to new ways of working so we had to come up with some creative online digital youth work activities – which we will still use and adapt to when the situation is over so its a positive. Also with my son being now only 8 months old it gave me more time to spend at home and watch him grow and develop every day! In normal circumstances we would have to work and would miss somethings but we have spent every day with him and it’s been amazing watching him grow into a very inquisitive (and now mobile) child.
12) How do you feel about your country’s response to the Covid19 pandemic compared to the UK government & media?
The government here in Poland were very decisive from the start. Borders were closed, lockdown was enforced, shops were closed and we had to wear masks if we left the house. People were wary, but people listened and for a country of our size we had relatively low deaths. Whereas the UK seem to be indecisive – sending out very confused messages and when they make a decision it’s far too late. We never felt like the situation here was bad. Now (and for a while) everything is back open, bars and restaurants are normal – Yes you have to wear a mask in shops sometimes still but nobody moans about it to the scale of things like we are hearing back in the UK.