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In pictures: The Pole who works in a UK hospital-NewsCO

January 29, 2017

Anna Maria puts a leg in a castImage copyright
Ed Gold

Anna Maria Bak, 27, is Polish and works in A&E at Colchester General Hospital. Here, photographer Ed Gold takes a snapshot of her life in Britain.

“I came to the UK for the first time in 2010. I had studied English philology at university in the Polish town of Krosno. Philology is the study of language in historical literature and I learnt a lot about Great Britain. I wanted a new challenge in my life and decided to try my luck abroad.

“My friend and I rented a room for two weeks in Stratford in London. We were supposed to earn money but we lost it instead by paying for too many travel tickets.

Anna Maria puts makeup onImage copyright
Ed Gold

Anna Maria sits on her sofaImage copyright
Ed Gold

“I moved back to Poland for another year but I’m tough. My surname Bak means bumblebee in Polish. We are fighters because we’ve been through hard times.

“I was lucky when I returned to England as I got a job at the Italian restaurant Carluccio’s. I had a friend working there as a waiter. I learnt a lot about customer service. People are more polite in the UK than in Poland.

“I left that job as it was only part-time and I couldn’t afford my Oyster card and rent. I was in debt. I then found a Polish woman on the internet who was finding jobs for people in nursing homes, but she ripped me off and took £70 from me for certificates I never needed.

Anna Maria waits for a coffeeImage copyright
Ed Gold

Anna Maria talks with colleaguesImage copyright
Ed Gold

“Still we have a saying in Poland, ‘If you have enough oil in your head’ – it means if you have enough intelligence, you will make it work.

“I found myself a job at a nursing home. I did that for two years in north London. I remember a patient asking me ‘Where they could spend a penny?’ and I asked them what did they want to buy?

“I wanted a more challenging job so I moved to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, working as an admin assistant in the radiology department. Now I’m working in the A&E at Colchester General Hospital. I’m really happy to work in health as I make a difference. I go the extra mile.

“The Polish NHS is not too bad but I think the quality of care provided in the English hospitals is much higher. The staff are always friendly and helpful and patients get treated with respect and dignity. Unfortunately I can’t say the same about Polish hospitals. I’ve been a patient in Poland and found communication between staff and patient to be very poor.

Anna Maria cleans the bedImage copyright
Ed Gold

Anna Maria takes bloodImage copyright
Ed Gold

“Renting is much cheaper outside London and my quality of life is higher in Colchester. I am careful with my money and saving up so that I can buy a house one day.

“Everything costs less in the UK, even the food. I really like The Body Shop – it is mission impossible to get those cosmetics in Poland. Plus in Poland you earn a third of what you can here.

“I also love the full English breakfast – it’s the best breakfast ever. Usually for Polish breakfast you’d have cottage cheese, fresh bread and butter but you wouldn’t get that protein boost in the morning – a full English keeps you going for hours. I do miss the Polish food though and the snow we get in winter.

Anna Maria tries a beauty productImage copyright
Ed Gold

“It’s hard though being miles away from my mum. I send her parcels full of goodies like food and cosmetics twice a year. Recently I’ve been sending hats to her because she is ill. I know how to deal with stress at work but I cry at home when I hear bad news about mum.

“I live with my flat mate Zelda, who is from Latvia. I have friends from all over the world – it’s one thing I really like about living in the UK. I met Zelda at work. We like to watch movies and eat Chinese takeaways. We don’t have much time to go out but we’re planning to. We’d normally go out to a local pub and then find somewhere to dance. I like my flat and feel very comfortable here.

Anna Maria stands in the post officeImage copyright
Ed Gold

“I haven’t seen things change because of Brexit and I’ve never suffered racism.

“No-one has the right to say to me ‘You’re out of the UK’, because I pay my taxes, I’m not here just to make money. It really bugs me if people come here from abroad who claim benefits after three months and have access to the free health service. I think to be here from abroad you should pay taxes.

Anna Maria shops in the supermarketImage copyright
Ed Gold

Anna Maria and her flatmate Zelda eat dinnerImage copyright
Ed Gold

“I get on better with English people now than Polish people and I think in English. Although I was born in Poland and have a Polish passport, I’ve found it easier to live here than other Poles as I’ve adapted to British society so well.

“I will apply for citizenship in Britain but only when I get enough money. It’s expensive and costs about £2,000.”

All photographs © Ed Gold

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