POLES FLEEING STRICKEN BRITAIN
As the coronavirus epidemic gathered pace, Jaroslaw Bacdorf agonized over whether to stay in London, where he has lived and worked for eight years, or head back to Poland to join his wife, children and mother. After a morning phone call on Wednesday, he packed his bags.
‘I spoke to my mum and my kids,’ said Mr Bacdorf standing in an eerily deserted terminal building at London City Airport, his baggage already checked, just a few hours after that conversation.
‘My mum said, ‘Come home, you don’t know what will happen in a week, two weeks, or three weeks,’ he said.
They say the government’s slow response and a creaking health service contrast poorly with Poland’s health system and aggressive actions. The epidemic also put many of them out of work.
In recent weeks, as countries across the world have closed their borders or set down stringent entrance requirements, many people have found themselves stranded abroad, forced to choose where, and with whom, they want to be at a time of crisis and anxiety.
In Britain, home to more than 800,000 Poles, thousands have taken repatriation flights, concerned with a relatively slow British response to the crisis and worried about the state of the country’s austerity-weakened health service.
Mr Bacdorf’s flight was almost the last to depart London City Airport before it closed to civil aircraft, to accommodate the military as it helps equip a 4,000-bed temporary hospital nearby, a symbol of the government’s last-minute scramble to cope with the challenge.
To many Poles, the British reaction to the threat has been too slow, complacent even, compared with things back home. ‘The Polish government seems to be much stricter in its response,’ said Mr Bacdorf, 44, a tall, bearded and good-humoured information technology expert. ‘Here in Britain, I would call it a joke.’
‘Even today, when I did some final shopping, people were gathering in their gardens, drinking wine,’ he added.
Nor does Britain’s overstretched National Health Service inspire confidence, even if Britons sometimes seem to fret that foreigners exploit it. ‘Let’s be honest, it’s not fantastic,’ said Mr Bacdorf. ‘I used the National Health Service once and it was a terrible experience.’ Like this story? Share it with others.
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