The Poles leave for England; the Ukrainians leave for Poland… with Semen M for Elska Magazine

Poland is a great country. So lovely that after every time I visited I wondered why all the Poles seemed to be abandoning it for England. According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, Poles make up the second largest foreign-born group living in the UK, after Indians.

Now I know it’s naive to say “I went to Poland once and it was nice”, but I have lived in Poland. And I don’t mean that it was a sort of extended holiday – I had a job, a flat, a bank account, friends, etc. And I loved it. There were things I missed about London and there are things now, based in London, that I miss about Poland. Am I crazy?

So here’s the issue…

I had an OK job, nothing fancy, but it earned me enough money for a good quality of life, without a doubt a better quality of life than most Londoners have. I had a my own flat in walking distance to Warsaw city centre, I could eat out pretty much whenever I wanted, go to the cinema, whatever…  The problem came when I went back to London for a weekend visit.  Suddenly, after converting my złoty to pounds, I was poor, depressingly poor. So I get it. People want money. They want to buy stuff, travel, etc.

And also, who doesn’t like an adventure? Who wouldn’t like to go live in another city for a couple of years, especially one where you can earn some extra cash to take home with you? If salaries in Poland were even half what they are in England, I’d probably still be there. And you know, it’s not that I’m so money-hungry, but I’ve got to feed my travel addiction somehow and I don’t want all my holidays to be in the former Eastern Bloc.

elskamagazine_01_semenm-1So, this guy Semen M., who we shot for Elska Issue (01) Lviv, was in town for just a week before he was leaving Ukraine for Poland. Although not on the same scale, it seems a lot of people were leaving for the country next door. Is it nicer than Ukraine? Not really. I can only speak for Lviv and Kyiv, which both stand up pretty well against Krakow and Warsaw, respectively. So it must be money. Can you blame Semen? A boy’s got to eat, and who doesn’t want something shiny now and again?

To see more of Semen M., pick up Elska Magazine, available in select shops or online at There’s also an edition of Elska Ekstra (our behind the scenes e-zine) dedicated to him, for download here:

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