The Promise for Immigrants

© The Promised City, photo: Martin Wälde

Its rapid economic development makes Warsaw increasingly attractive to immigrants. After 1989, expats from Western countries began to congregate here. Initially, almost like the colonialists of old, they used to have their own venues and meeting places, mostly English-style pubs and bars with broadcasts of sports games, where mostly single thirty-somethings could feel like they were at home yet still enjoy the charms of Slavonic beauties. Today, the expat community is gradually being integrated into the fabric of the city.

Warsaw is also a natural foothold for newcomers from neighbouring countries to the east. The term “an Ukrainian lady” is a synonym for a domestic helper, in Warsaw. Ukrainian and Byelorussian are often heard at building sites and equally often in more exclusive shopping malls visited by wealthier guests from the East desirous of purchasing luxury goods at cheaper prices than at home. Warsaw’s largest minority, the Vietnamese, already constitutes one percent of its residents – a figure that may not sound shocking, yet is considerable considering the homogeneity of Polish society. The earliest immigrants from the Far East were students and intellectuals who came to the People’s Republic of Poland and stayed, whereas “the following wave of Vietnamese immigration to Poland was mainly economic in character… They are slow to assimilate, but well organised; they have their own political organisations, associations, newspapers, schools; in the vicinity of the Stadium they have built a one-legged pagoda, a copy of a Hanoi one”.

In this case “migration chains” are at work, again. Importantly, after the closure of the Decade Stadium market, the Vietnamese community is now in search of new spaces it might fill in Warsaw. Very soon we shall see whether it is going to be integrated into the fabric of the city or whether another Little Hanoi will emerge.