Johnny

Johnny is only his latest alias. When I met him, he went by Abdul. For a while, our mutual friend insisted on calling him Albert. But Johnny is Janusz’s choice now.

My best friend in Poland, Johnny’s fate represents to me all that’s wrong with Poland today. Armed with a Master’s Degree in political science from Poland’s oldest and most respected university, he should have no problem getting a job in Poland’s EU-transitional reality.

He’s currently a concrete finisher in Liverpool. “The pay’s better than anything here,” he says with a smile, “And I sleep well at night.” With the opening of job market in Ireland and England (among a handful of other EU countries), Poles have been virtually stampeding out of the country. Ireland is an especially attrative country for Poles today, as an employment source and a model for how to integerate successfully into the EU. Literally whole families are picking up and moving to Ireland, running from 19+% unemployment and a political system so filled with corruption that it ranks first among EU countries in that regard.

Johnny’s returning toEngland in a few weeks. His plans are uncertain, other than squirreling a bit a way and working on his English.

It’s a shame, though, for Poland needs smart and honest young people now. During the small party after my and Kinga’s civil wedding, Kinga’s aunt was talking to Johnny and by the end of the evening was convinced that Johnny had to stay in Poland, get active in politics, and save the country.

Still, despite it all, Johnny’s optimistic about his country’s future. He recently bet a mutual friend a one-liter bottle of Jack Daniel’s that in four years, everything would have normalized noticably. “Normalized” was not really defined, but who cares — as I told Johnny, “If I happen to be in Poland then, I’ll be drinking with somebody!”

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