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Why is there hatred towards Eastern Europeans in Britain?

As the famous advert goes, ‘Can hate be good? Can hate be great? Can hate be something we don’t hate?’ I’m not so sure anymore. These two stories happened to me in the last half of a year, in both cases while travelling on South West Trains.

On the first occasion, I took a late night train from Guildford to get home. The carriage was rather empty, but at the very end of it I could hear a group of local youngsters ‘messing about’. Their mobiles were blasting with music tunes, the boys were joking around, and the girls were laughing as loud as they could. The ticket collector approached the group and asked politely to remove their feet from the seats and to keep the noise levels to a minimum; otherwise, he would have to ask them to leave the train. Oh dear, the man had his best intentions, but not the best ones for me.

So, the whole group moved down the carriage where I sat. Even though there was plenty of space for as far as you could see, they specifically chose to land onto the seats next to mine.

One boy, not older than 13, asked me a question which I didn’t catch.

‘Pardon me?’ – I asked. I shouldn’t have, I know that now because they heard my accent.

The boy immediately replied (trying to impress all the laughing females and slightly showing off), ‘Oh, ‘pardon me’? Are you a traveller? Are you a traveller?’

There was no stopping to their laughter – the girls soon joined in, shouting ‘Don’t mess with the gypsies! Don’t mess with the travellers!’ and so on.

All I could do is keep quiet and not fuel their enjoyment even further. I got off at my stop, and if they got off at the same station, I would have stayed on the platform, where at least I was covered by CCTV cameras should something have gone wrong.

My second “adventure” happened just over a week ago, while on train from London Waterloo to Guildford. It was around 7 pm, so the train was packed. As I was getting back from the Knitting & Stitching Show in Alexandra Palace, London, I pulled out a magazine ‘Sew Today’ to help cut my journey shorter. An English lady (I’ll use the term loosely), who sat indirectly in front of me, was clearly not having a nice day because she seemed to be very irritated and restless.

At first, she was muttering to herself, which is okay, and then she tried to strike up a conversation with two men sitting opposite her. Having no luck there, she then stopped the ticket conductor to ask where she could recharge her mobile phone battery. The ticket collector said she could do it in the 1st Class carriage. She then quite loudly expressed her disgust at the fact she ‘needs to pay 1st Class fare for 5 minute phone charging service’. The ticket man shrugged the comment off and moved on.

What I couldn’t shrug off was the feeling that soon it will be my turn to take her vocal criticism. I was still minding my own business and reading ‘Sew Today’, when she loudly announced, sarcastically, ‘This is what a true woman should read, a sewing magazine!’

I was praying and begging myself in all the languages that I know ‘Please, keep quiet and do not reply. Just keep quiet!’ However, keeping quiet and observing all the passing by buildings and trees was not the best choice either, because she began to verbally abuse me.

Fellow passengers started turning their heads as she continued, ‘Why don’t you talk to me?! Answer me! I’m just trying to be friendly here – I’m trying to have a conversation with you! Are you deaf?! Do you speak English? Do you?! I bet you don’t! You are Polish, aren’t you! You just sit there and do nothing, and you can’t even speak English!’

Mind you, ‘Sew Today’ is published in the UK, in English. Not too bright, this lady.

In between her comments you could cut the silence with an axe. A lot of people had a look at me to ‘evaluate’ if I really looked like a ‘Polish who doesn’t speak the language’.

She dumped so much verbal hatred and intimidation on me in public during those few minutes that I could hardly speak when I rang my fiancé from Guildford station.

I am sharing these two stories following the article in The Independent, covering the “racially-motivated” attack on local internet café in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, owned by a half-Portugese and half-Pakistani man and used by large numbers of Eastern Europeans to send emails home:

What was clear yesterday, however, was the anxiety felt by the young men and women from Warsaw to Kiev who were sending emails home from behind the cracked-glass window of Mr Rafique’s café.

Sasha Poborscwa, 27, a Polish teacher who has been working in a vegetable processing plant for the last two years, said: “My girlfriend says we must not go out on a Friday or weekend night. In my country it is important to welcome visitors but here some stupid people think there is a sport of attacking them.”

In the cubicle next to him, Robert, a Lithuanian crop picker in his 40s, was philosophical. He said: “It is an ancient story isn’t it? Outsiders come and they are resented or detested by those they live amongst.”

I am not sure if calling each other ‘stupid people’ will help the matters. Neither can I be sure I won’t get intimidated again. What can I do to not attract such hatred?

10 Responses

22 October, 2007, 1:27 am, Lina said:

Never mind people like that! Some of them will never change, like Nan, for instance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHjfmGX2wVw

22 October, 2007, 10:28 am, Dominykas said:

To tell you the truth… I am more racist against other Lithuanians (and Polish), than the Irish themselves. I believe I would feel the same in UK – and be more racist towards EE than the brits.

As for the kids… That’s a totally different thing and it relates to the fact that nobody can touch these kids – and their parents obviously aren’t doing a very good job in educating them. These kids know that they are in no danger from adults and act accordingly.

23 October, 2007, 7:31 pm, Tomas said:

“Not too bright, this lady.” – this line made my day! :-)

28 October, 2007, 7:16 pm, eirimas said:

this story of yours convinced me again: the two things that cause the most wars, fights, and hate, are (1) religion and (2) nationality. foes of human rights & friends of the wrong.

i hope you didn’t take it too serious – people who act like that are just not worth it!

17 November, 2007, 3:21 pm, Marina said:

Labas! The crop-picker describes the situation very well… outsiders will always be resented because the natives fear losses– jobs, benefits, resources. What I don’t understand is the frightful hatred of gays in the Baltic states, though I’m sure it’s all based on fear– the attitude will only change when those who fear you, finally see who you are and what your contribution is. Thanks for the updates on UK living… keep yourself safe and be the light in the darkness everywhere you go.

20 November, 2007, 1:36 pm, admin said:

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Marina >> there are so many things in Lithuania that I can’t be proud of, including all the insecurities that gay people have to go through. Not only that – imagine, you are not a very pretty woman, living in Lithuania. On average, you should expect some anger, bullying and abuse directed at you, just because you don’t fit in with the average model-looking type. Being a white crow is not easy anywhere you go.

28 January, 2008, 6:46 am, Rita said:

Oh come on guys, forget all those things!!! We are all people and you should remember that, so don’t pay attention to the mad teenagers :) or any other “unhappy” people ;) I’m lithuanian myself, but brought up in UK, so I read cross stich magazines as well but I never pay attention to other mad young people on the train, so everything depends on a person ;) Keep that in mind and don’t pay attention to what troubled people say, that’s it!!! Peace!

17 February, 2008, 9:48 am, Willie said:

Unfortunitely there are problems like this throughout the country. I have a feeling this is quite a problem in English speaking Europe and in Australia also. My wife is Lithuanian from Vilnius and appeared to be looked down upon at times by these so superior uneducated people. I on the other hand found it very easy to integrate when we lived in Lithuania and always felt very welcome.
Currently we live in Perth, Western Australia where again there is a lot of discrimination against people from the non-English speaking world but we have decided to move back to Lithuania, I cant wait.

15 January, 2009, 6:35 pm, garbane said:

I have been living in UK for almost 2 years now and I can say I have never been abused because of my origin (tfu tfu tfu per kairi peti :) On the opposite, I used to travel by trains a lot and would often find really nice companions that would be very interested in where i was from, my country, etc.

31 March, 2010, 10:19 pm, vitas nagys said:

Sorry i,m angered at these previous comments.,Cut your hand,what colour is it ?We are all the same in blood.Asfor the youth of today we have to look elsewhere for answer,s.I would never have got away with the things kids get up to nowadays.You can look at governments,policing and the main religeon.Lithuanians work and work hard.My parents came here with £18 over 70 years ago. They set up thriving businesses which are still operational.Iwas born here with full lithuanian blood and i,m proud of it.As i am now 43 and seeing these comments it is worrying.Can,t we just get on with life,we are only here once and it,s not a rehersall.

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