Sunday, 26 July 2015

Worlds apart

The girl

When I joined the New Factory she was already there. I passed her by each day several times while walking past the reception desk on our floor. She looked twenty and I thought she was a weekend-mode student working as an assistant to earn money for her university tuition fee.

Normally the occupation of a receptionist is treated as temporary. Usually students take up such mundane jobs to earn a livelihood, sometimes to fill their CVs and then they move on to more ambitious positions. This is not the case here.

She is quite sociable. Easily hits it off with everyone, yet her come-and-go attitude does not help her build true friendships. With time it turns out she is 45 days younger than me, yet since I was born in December and she in January the next year, she finished her studies a year later (in 2012). As a child she was an actress, in her career she had some impressive roles in films and TV series. If you tap her name into google, you will find her more-or-less up-to-date photos and learn in 2012 she graduated from the Faculty of Law and Administration of the Warsaw University (full-time studies). Tens of fans are wonder what she’s doing.

The job with a New Factory is the first one she has held on to for more than one year and the first one in which she has a regular job contract, involving all rights, privileges and pension contributions, rather than a junk contract. Actually she only cares about the type of contract for only one reason: with a regular labour-code-governed contract she is entitled to 20 days of paid holidays a year. Until now when she felt like going somewhere, she’d quit her job and upon return looked out for a new one. None of her jobs was anyhow related to what she had studied, comparing to what her studies should have prepared her for, all her previous jobs (and the current one) seemed actually well below her competencies.

She likes the job with the New Factory. It involves meeting lots of people and chatting to them, keeping them company during lunches, making a morning coffee to a management board member. She appreciates the fact her job involves no strain and no stress. Office workers around her have hectic days, face pressures, get irate easily. She doesn’t understand their quandaries and is glad her job is so carefree, despite the fact she earns just a fraction of what her stressed-out workmates get paid. Her salary is just enough to meet her basic needs: cosmetics, clothes, weekend clubbing, holidays; a very decent pocket money. Her parents with who she lives seem to put up with her lifestyle and her grandpa whose car she uses (and once a month she leaves the vehicle, grandpa fills it up and then she picks it up with full tank of petrol) also seems to be quite tolerant.

While we lunched last week, she told me to look at her and asked what I thought she should be doing in life. After turning down several ideas she had come up with, I suggested she should search for a job in which she could make use of the knowledge accumulated during five years of law studies. She nodded her head, pulled a face, nearly burst into tears and said it would need to involve some strain.

She backs PO. She believes PiS is backward and would bring nothing good for Poland. She tells Mrs Szydło should return to the sack (Szydło wróć do worka, a pun stemming from a Polish idiom, when reversed meaning bad things should come out of light).

The neighbours

They have lived in NI since ever, their parents as well. They were on this land years before building houses on this suburb became all-the-rage in the 1990s. They sold little of the land they had had, since the family was big and a sizeable plot was needed to put up houses for all the children.

The neighbour is the local, his wife comes from eastern Poland. They met the time he was breeding foxes in late 1970s. They got married and prospered well until 1989 when exports of fox furs to the former Soviet Union came to a halt and consequently their business went bust. In the new reality they engaged in some trade with the former Soviet Republics, yet as they were shuttling between NI and the borders, four children they had at the time began to be brought up on the street. Then they switched to local trade and opened a stall on the former biggest bazaar of the CEE, where today the National Stadium is. Golden times have gone by and for more than a decade the neighbour and his wife have been jobless. They do not need to. Their properties are large enough to sublet rooms for construction workers (20 PLN per person a day, yet in black economy) and officially let a larger hall for a company (here already a registered business, generating a recurring stream of income of a few thousand per month).

Their older son (32) is a successful graduate of a technical university. While he was approaching graduation, his professors had a high opinion of him and recommended him for a few positions which could give him prospects of brilliant career. Eventually he has not taken up any of those jobs. I have no idea, whether potential employers have rejected his candidacy or whether he turned down all those jobs, because they would have interfered with his academic career, namely the doctoral studies he began eight years ago and in the meantime suspended for a year; his PhD is still pending.

Their younger son (29) according his parents’ ambition was meant to firstly finish studies and then to find a job with a town hall. Unfortunately, so far there was no job offered to him there, while the family’s ambitions are put on hold, the son takes up temporary jobs on construction sites (he indeed is a dab hand).

Two daughters (27 and 25) have finished studies and work as shop assistants in one of clothing retail chains’ shops, most probably also on junk contracts. The youngest daughter (14) keeps learning and watches her parents and older siblings staying at home or dabbing in dead-end job. What are the chances she pursues a career ambitious people want to make?

Despite the fact the family consists of seven people they easily make ends meet. They have a variety of sources of income: rent from their corporate tenant, some cash from construction crews renting rooms, the neighbour’s sickness benefits, the older son’s assistant salary, the younger son’s wages from construction sites, the daughters’ salaries from the retailer. Except for the office rent proceeds, these are most probably peanuts, yet add up to a sum which allows the family to meet their basic meets. Fair enough.

The neighbour and his family hankers after PRL, yet votes for PiS, despite not being totally fond of all points of the party’s agenda. Yet PiS passes muster, it will restore law and order in Poland, take away the wealth from the elites to give it to ordinary people and put behind bars all thieves and cons who currently run the country.

In the descriptions above I did my utmost to include only facts and avoid expressing any opinions on how other people choose to live. Yet there must be a reason why I have decided to post the two stories. Every time I read in a newspaper or in the Internet about my peers as a “lost generation” (stracone pokolenie) I wonder whether it is the system or the people (the ever-lasting question) that should be blamed for the failures of many of the youngsters…

Next weekend I’m off, next post in two weeks.

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