maybe the influx of Poles, from a proud republic with no history of domination by the British Empire, will change Britain for the better. They may teach the British what it means to be free.
I hope so as well but history tells us it will take a very considerable amount of time to change some pretty entrenched and contemptuous attitudes in Britain. The reaction by the British at all levels of society towards arriving Poles has not been as hospital as some would prefer us to believe.
We all know by now that infamous moment when a pensioner and Labour supporter Gillian Duffy confronted former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown during a re-election campaign with the following tirade: "You can't say anything about the immigrants because you're saying that you're ... but all these eastern European what are coming in, where are they flocking from?"
A couple of things have always stood out for me. One was that the surname Duffy suggests an ethnic Irish origin. So whether this woman's own ancestors came from Ireland to Britain or she married into a family that did she really had no place to be criticizing others for doing the same. Another thing was her choice expression of asking where "these eastern Europeans" are "flocking from?" Flocking is a pattern of behavior exhibited by birds. There was nothing folksy about what she said. It is very evident that her words were intended to dehumanize those people with whom she cannot personally identify with on a cultural basis.
Of course Brown was later denounced when he was overheard confiding to an aide that he regarded Duffy's comments as bigoted. Her comments were indeed bigoted and Brown's tone of voice was understandably one of exasperation. Nevertheless he paid dearly for his honesty. The British electorate at that time were extremely disappointed with the Labour Party on a broad spectrum of issues of which immigration was only one. Labour didn't lose because Brown criticized a pensioner (n.b., except for their Queen the British do not have a reputation for showing respect or genuine decent care for the elderly in their society). The final straw was that Brown criticized her for being so strongly opposed to immigration which is what truly resonated with the rest of native Britain. Brown's support for immigration was what cost him the campaign.
Surprisingly even the Roman Catholic church in Britain has been critical of the presence of Poles: "The leader of the country's Roman Catholics has sparked a row by accusing immigrants of creating a separate church in Britain. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, urged the Polish community to do more to learn English and integrate into local parishes, claiming the Catholic Church in the UK was in danger of dividing along ethnic lines as the number of Polish-speaking churches rose."
It seems very odd that someone in an institutional position like a Roman Catholic cardinal would take such a eyebrow raising stance towards Christian worshipping Poles but not other immigrant groups who I am sure conduct services in their own native languages as well.
Of course there are more instances of resistance and resentment towards Poles in the UK which I could add but I'll digress because the high profile examples I provided should demonstrate that Britain still needs to make much more significant progress of adapting itself to the presence of Poles in Britain if it is to live up to its own boasts of being a multicultural society.