“There is an atmosphere between Polish and British people following Brexit, but it can be fixed”

25 November 2016

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Race-related attacks in Armley and Bramley against the Polish community following the referendum to leave the Europen Union have hit the headlines in recent months.

They even prompted Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves to describe parts of her constituency as a ‘tinderbox’ in terms of race relations, a comment many residents disagreed with.

There have been no further reports of racial attacks, but do Polish residents feel safe in their communities? What’s life like for our Polish communities following the Brexit vote? ANNA RILEY reports.

Armley electirian Chris Ssiejka

Polish electrician Chris Siejka

Chris Siejka, a Polish electrician aged 41 who lives near Armley, said:

“I used to live in Morley and I definitely felt more confident living there. The people here look differently at me. It is hard to explain why, but I feel it.”

He moved to the Leeds area over a year and a half ago to find work, as there were more job opportunities than compared to Poland. Chris aims to start a business in electronic design, in particular creating micro controller devices for temperature regulation.

To improve the relationship between British and Polish people in Armley, Chris thinks that Polish people should try to integrate more in to British society. He said:

“Some immigrants come from Poland and live with Polish people, work with Polish people, watch Polish TV, read Polish news and go to Polish shops.

“For me that is very weird. They need to start talking to other people.

“I know a Polish woman who has lived here for three years and doesn’t really speak much English. How this is possible, I don’t know.”

Linda Vishkovska, a Polish immigrant aged 30, works as a translator and lives in Bramley. She said:

“I think that there is an atmosphere between Polish and British people following Brexit, but it can be fixed. We just need to talk to each other more.”

She explained her views on the feeling in the community following Brexit and the incidents that have occurred in Bramley and Armley.

Linda has lived in Yorkshire for three years, likes Bramley and gets on with her neighbours. Despite having a Journalism and Communications degree, Linda could only find a low-paid job in Poland, which would not cover her rent and food bills and she moved to Yorkshire for a better life.

As the video shows, Linda thinks that Polish and British people simply need to talk more to improve the situation between Leeds residents of each nationality and that more community events could be planned to promote the time to interact.

All Together Armley is an organisation that could create the platform for bonding in the community. They aim to improve cultural relationships in Armley and have also created a plan to improve the environment on Town Street, promote the use of local business and call for a safer environment in the town.

As The Dispatch has previously reported, All Together Armley have run events such as a festival in August 2016.




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Techno says:

I know from the years I did Customer Services for the Halifax that there are people who have been here for decades who still don’t know enough English to carry out a phone call on their bank account without assistance from their children or grandchildren.

geezer says:

I would like to know more about the racist attack in Armley back in Sept. If it was racist then obviously the attackers must not have been the same race as the Polish victim ie not white. Is there something we’re not being told about the supposed tensions between the Polish and ‘British’ communities?

westleedslife says:

The ‘race-hate’ attack in Armley is subject to an active court case and the Dispatch can’t prejudice that case, which is why we’ve steered clear of printing any details. We can’t be in ‘contempt of court’.

Your observation about skin colour and race-related attacks is, I think, wide of the mark in this instance.