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ENG 208: British/Irish Immigration Literature: A Student-Curated Display: Group 2

Group 2

Group 2's project is... Polish migrants in Ireland

Group 2's members include...Rachael Carpus,Joe Allan, Lauren Warner, Julia McQuade, and Eileen Burner.


Overview by Rachael Carpus

Poles in the Emerald Isle: Acquainting Ourselves with Ireland’s Polish Population

A notable result of Poland’s entry into the EU in 2004 was a significant wave of Polish immigration to Ireland, with an estimated 220,000 Poles entering the country by the year 2007. Some of these immigrants ended up leaving by 2010, due to the Republic’s economic downswing -- the collapse of the Celtic Tiger -- (Boland) but since then, many Poles have arrived in Ireland with the full intent to stay put. Data from one of the most recent census reports conducted by Ireland’s Central Statistics Office, or the CSO, revealed the Top 10 Non-Irish Nationalities living in Ireland as of 2016. The Polish nationality landed the Number One spot on this list, with over 122,000 residents, 54 percent of which falling between the ages of 30 and 44  years old. In the year 2011, just a few years prior, the CSO census showed a nearly identical number of Polish residents. During this stretch from 2011 to 2016, the Polish population only fell by less than 0.1 percent, ranking it as the smallest percentage change of all the nationalities represented in the Top Ten list (“Census 2016 - Non-Irish Nationalities Living in Ireland”).
The Polish presence in Ireland is scattered about the country in a variety of colorful ways, sharing its culture and traditions especially within artistic and culinary realms, as witnessed in the annual Polska Eire Festival. This relatively new festival, currently in its 5th year run, comprises a series of nearly 100 different events that take place all across Ireland. While the festival shares the diversity of Polish heritage, this is not its main focus. Instead, it is designed to be a nationwide expression and celebration of Irish-Polish friendship, and to encourage stronger integration between both cultures (The Polska Eire Festival). Festival participants enjoy everything from art exhibits, puppet shows, and sport events to food tasting fairs, family picnics, and live music, all in the spirit of camaraderie and patriotism, which has been showcased beautifully in the Irish-Polish Gaelic football game event. Poland’s presence is also felt through the opening of small businesses, such as Polish grocery stores that cater to the growing Poles population throughout Ireland, and in local secondary schools, where the enrollment numbers of Polish residents have increased considerably over the last decade (O’Dea).
 These efforts and gestures of integration are perhaps what best distinguish Polish immigration to Ireland from other groups who have immigrated elsewhere, such as to the UK or France. Unlike a number of these other movements, which have triggered turbulent, anti-immigrant backlash among various political arenas, many Poles in Ireland have experienced a smoother, more successful integration. The reason for this smoother transition has been attributed to an array of factors, including the fact that both Ireland and Poland share a history of struggles with emigration, as well as similarities in religious affiliation. Close to 90 percent of Polish nationals indicated to the CSO that they are Roman Catholic (“Census 2016 - Non-Irish Nationalities Living in Ireland”). Although today more residents of both nationalities identify as secular, not Catholic, this traditionally common link has served as another piece of common ground over the years, in terms of “blending in”. Additionally, the Polish’s attitude and approach to labor adaptation has been cited as another important reason for a relatively smooth experience. Many Poles have had luck finding work in construction and service-related jobs, and other opportunities that are not as easily attainable for them in Poland (Boland).
Ireland’s cinema and literary world displays further evidence of the growth in the country’s Polish population. The Dublin International Film Festival began seeing an increase in their Polish audience years ago, which in turn inspired the development of various social activities for movie enthusiasts, such as film clubs for Polish-Irish residents who enjoy seeing Polish movie releases in Ireland, and for their Irish national friends, who wish to see films they may not have been introduced to otherwise. An added benefit to this development was the inspired exchange between communities -- Irish nationals likewise began to share their Irish cinema with the Polish (Wallace). 
Polish migrant authors have had a particularly difficult time establishing their voices in Ireland’s literary market (Kosmalska), but many Polish writers have gained popularity in Ireland, including Zygmunt Miłoszewski, a contemporary crime fiction novelist, Małgorzata Południak, an Ireland-based Polish poet and editor, and Piotr Czerwiński, another novelist based in Ireland (Blasiak). A recent, notable success among the Polish-Irish literary world is author Olga Tokarczuk, who won the coveted 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature for her novel, Flights, which explores a series of reflections on travel. This novel, published in Poland, along with many other of her literary successes, has sparked great interest in her writing throughout English-speaking countries, and Ireland has much to learn about her work yet (Irish Polish Society).

Works Cited

Book Review

Article Reviews

Review by Joe Allan

 “Attitudes towards Polish Immigrants to the Republic of Ireland: An Integrated Threat Analysis” is a study that took place in 2009 to discover the connection between Irish emigration patterns and their views on immigration into their own country as it relates to the Polish population. The authors of the study take an in-depth look at why there is such an anti-immigrant climate in Ireland currently. They discuss segments of history in which the Irish population had to leave in search of a better life, much like the period between 1800 to 1920 when over ten million people fled Ireland due to the poor standard of living conditions and unemployment rates being sky high. The Irish population then returned to their homeland in the late 1900’s as a result of the economic boom in the country known as the “Celtic Tiger”. Not only did a lot of Irish-born people return but a new wave of foreign immigrants followed suit in search of their own prosperity. This mass immigration of foreigners led to Irish politicians having to create new citizenship laws in 2004. This did not stop a predominantly Polish segment staying in the country due to rights given to them as being part of the European Union. An effect of this was a lot of anti-Polish rhetoric being produced by Irish nationals. This mass influx of negativity led many citizens to treat the immigrant minority with trepidation; as a whole different society within their nation, engendering the very existence of the nation, an integrated threat. The study is able to scientifically understand the thoughts of the public and their fears over the “threat” these Polish immigrants create. They represent these findings in calculations regarding such factors as “skill”, “anxiety created”, and “realistic threat”. These factors try to help explain the Irish prejudice towards this Polish group. The study does not finish on a scientific theory and mathematical equations; it transforms into a philosophical evaluation on how these factors lead the human mind to express feelings of discrimination and prejudice and the necessity to change such feelings towards the immigrant community. Ireland has always been “the land of one thousand welcomes” and this research shows there is a battle to retain this title they have rightfully deserved for generations.

Review by Lauren Warner

Kinga Olszewska, the author of “Transgressing the Nation: Cultural Practices of Polish Migrants in Ireland”, depicts the multitude of Polish cultural beliefs among emigrants. Utilizing the research from an article by Piotr Winczorek, novels by Magdalena Orzeł, Iwona Słabuszewska-Krauze, and Maria Janion, Polish migrants travel to Ireland for a variety of political and economic pursuits. Olszewska explains the term “Old Emigration” as the eighteenth-century reasons causing the people of Poland to emigrate. The majority of these migrants left Poland as an act of protecting their traditions, language, and homeland culture.  The “New Emigrants” are marked by the post-war period, beginning in 1989. The “New Emigrants” are socially different from the “Old Emigrants” because of their ability to become mobile with great ease and the transnational culture they participate in. 

In addition to the historical context, Olszewska offers valuable and interesting connections between Poland and Ireland, stating that “First, it never had an established migrant community prior to 2004, the year when Poland joined the EU; secondly, it attracted mostly young and often well-educated individuals; and finally, the large numbers of migrants possessed varying degrees of English proficiency” (Olszewska 28). It is noted that Polish migrants in Ireland lead individualist lives and are geared for success. For example. Olszewska references from the novel Dublin: My Polish Karma, written by a Polish studies scholar, all who reached great heights in Ireland. The novel is made up of vignettes from Polish migrants who moved to Ireland. The people all experience common migrant challenges like the difficulty of finding a job and the financial challenges forcing them out of their home country, however, each person transpires into a success due to their work ethic.  Given the name, the essay explores further details regarding Polish nationalism and patriotism, the differences between the “Old Emigrants” and “New Emigrants”, and the various ways the traits of the Polish have impacted Ireland. Kinga Olszewska has published additional essays regarding social and cultural patterns of the Irish and Polish people; for example an essay titled “Wanders Across Language: Exile in Irish and Polish Literature of the Twentieth Century. (Studies in Comparative Literature, 12)”. 

Review by Julia McQuade

In Klimczak’s Island of Hope: Polish Immigrants in Ireland, readers are given a closer look into what the Polish immigrant experience really is in Ireland. This article explores topics including Polish communities and bonds in Ireland, issues faced by immigrants in their new country, and the struggle over integration. As an immigrant herself, Klimczak is able to offer insight into what it truly means to be someone who is originally Polish and living in Ireland. The article navigates the struggles of building a home in a new country that is not always welcoming both politically and personally. 

From the beginning of the article it is clear that in order to truly understand Polish immigrants in Ireland, one must first understand their reasons for leaving Poland. There is not one uniform immigrant narrative for why people chose to leave Poland, but there were some consistent themes. The article notes economic, social, and political factors that may have pushed people out of Poland such as difficulty finding employment and earning a living wage. However, there is also care taken to ensure that people aren’t being essentialized as expressed in one of the interviews, “It is a complex of events which makes us come here. It is also a very individual issue. Each of us has a unique story. It is true, we want to make our lives better, we want to make our future happier” (Klimczak 38). It is clear that although people are part of a group of immigrants, there is emphasis on the need to still see people as individuals.   

However, Ireland is not a country that is problem free for the immigrants either. The article articulates that job insecurity and economic struggles are still a very prominent problem for immigrants when they first arrive in Ireland. On top of trying to combat these issues, they are also struggling to create a home for themselves in a new country. Many immigrants moving from Poland to Ireland also have the added struggle of a language barrier. The complexity of this issue is articulated in the following article excerpt, “Their limited knowledge of English disadvantages Polish people in the labour market and results in their very often being unable to defend their rights when facing exploitation, substandard working conditions and low wages” (Klimczak 40). Although immigrants may be able to escape some of the issues that they are fleeing from, it is still a difficult transition into their new country.  

In spite of, and in some cases due to, the issues faced, Klimczak shows the strong Polish communities that have been maintained in Ireland. People are not able to have meaningful existences in isolation, so they turn to each other to create a community inside of the larger community of the country that is not always welcoming to them. In many cases, immigrants have to try to find a way to fit in and be accepted into the society. Through doing this, they largely have to give up parts of their cultures. It is a very one-sided process. Although Ireland does not act as a paradise for the immigrants, it remains a beacon of hope. 

Review by Eileen Burner

This essay, “The Experience of Discrimination among Newly Arrived Poles in Ireland and the Netherlands,” by Frances McGinnity and Mérove Gijsberts looks at the experiences of Polish immigrants to Ireland and the Netherlands and the discrimination they faced upon arrival. This discrimination greatly affects their identity, integration, overall quality of life, and occupational chances. In order to accomplish this, it takes the form of an immigrant panel survey and compares the discrimination faced in each country, comparing the impact of the country context on discrimination against Polish immigrants. As Polish immigrants account for about half of the total increase in non-Irish groups residing in Ireland, this group is worth a study of this quantity. 

After the recession, attitudes towards Polish immigrants declined, as they were seen as a threat to both the economy and Irish culture. The essay then advances different theories about the immigrant experience after arrival. One of these include the effects of contact to the host country, as the longer one is in the host country, the more room there is for discrimination. However, spending more time in the culture and with the people of the host country can also work to decrease discrimination. Language capabilities and the media also play a large role in this. McGinnity and Gijsberts also look at the effects of gender differences on discrimination experiences, as men and women tend to work in different occupations and, therefore, experience different discrimination. One of the central findings of this essay is that there has been an upsurge in the judgement that Polish immigrants have experienced in the Netherlands, but the discrimination has remained the same in Ireland. Many factors have contributed to this, as found in the survey, including opposition between cultural factions, negative public debate, and Eastern European immigrant typecasts. 

Overall, this essay argues that the country context and one’s own status has a large effect on the discrimination that immigrants encounter in their host country, especially Polish immigrants in Ireland and the Netherlands. It is a useful resource when studying Polish-Irish immigrant discrimination and its multifaceted roots