‘I don’t consider myself a migrant worker’

Iwona-greyIWONA LISIECKA (28) came to the Netherlands for the first time in 2012, and has been visiting ever since in the hopes of finding a job as a product designer.

“My first job was one amidst the flower bulbs in the greenhouses of Pijnacker. It was hard work: six days a week, eleven hours a day. But I enjoyed the Dutch landscape and whenever I had some time off I was pitching product ideas at design agencies. I don’t consider myself a migrant worker, although I know I am. Europe is one big country to me. I’ve lived in Spain, Switzerland, and Slovenia as well. The Netherlands is just a new place to discover.

The only item I always take with me when I move is this tiny painting. I found it in a chest at my grandmother’s when I was a child and took it with me when she passed away. Did she make it? Her father, maybe? I don’t know, but that’s exactly why it’s symbolic to me: looking at the painting makes me think of my background of which I know so little. I always took everything for granted, and because of that I never asked my ancestors what life was like in communist times.

The Iron Curtain is still ingrained in Polish life, something I noticed only when I left the country for the first time. Everyone in Western Europe is uncomplicated and upbeat, while the atmosphere in Poland is often a little dark. In communist times we acted as one, but after the Wall fell people became more jealous of those whose grass seemed greener. Another thing I’ve noticed: everything outside of Poland is still considered exotic; working abroad for a while is more prestigious than any type of work experience at home.”