More than two per cent of Nottingham’s population is Polish – and they make up the city’s second-biggest national contingent after the English according to the last census in 2011.
But according to one businesswoman we could be seeing the start of an exodus following the June 23 2016 Brexit vote.
One year on Joanna Oleskow spoke to several Polish people who have set up homes and businesses here – and found a surprising mixture of hope and fear.
“If you are strong and resilient you will make it – The ones who don’t contribute or live on benefits should be worried, which is fair.”
Renata Czarnecka runs Polish shop and butcher U Bigosa with husband Piotr Czarnecki on Radford Road, Hyson Green. They took over from the previous owner in December last year and are very proud of running a Polish business with almost 40 years of tradition.
They do not fear the inevitable new era brought about by leaving the European Union – even if a new scheme requiring EU citizens and their families to apply to stay in the UK via a new registration scheme stops short of any guarantees over their future in the UK.
“Why would you be afraid of Brexit?,” says Piotr.
“If you put all the efforts in your work and if you provide a good quality of your service, there is nothing to be worried about.
“Work in this country has a completely different value. If you contribute, you get everything you need from the state back.”
“I have been living here for five years, and the state gives you much more security. As long as you are honest, and work hard you feel really secure.”
“Why should the state invest in people who don’t want to work?,” asks Piotr.
So are they planning to ever go back to Poland?
“Definitely not in the nearest future. We just feel very good here and we simply like the country,” says Piotr.
Another Polish woman, who asked to remain anonymous, is the owner of a beauty salon on the outskirts of Nottingham.
She came to the UK 11 years ago with her husband and children – and says they are now ‘settled’ here.
“You always feel like you would like to come back. You miss the family, friends, but Brexit in my case doesn’t change anything,” she said.
“I am running my own business, my kids are finishing schools here, so at the moment there is no way we can go back to Poland,” she adds.
“Maybe people who are here for less than four years feel insecure, because they haven’t settled yet, but for me Brexit is not a reason to worry.
“Time will tell. My child has still a few years to graduate from high school and then we will see what the real Brexit will look like.
“At the beginning when we just moved here, I wanted to go back, but my husband didn’t, now the roles have changed. He seems to be convinced that we should go back, but I think I prefer to stay”.
Dawid Pękalski runs Liquid Ink Studio on Radford Road. He has been living in the UK for more than 11 years but says the referendum did make him concerned about his future.
He first lived in London, working as a truck driver. He moved to Nottingham four years ago and set up the studio.
“People start to save money. Whereas two years ago everyone was having tattoos done, now a tattoo is a symbol of luxury,” he said.
“It is something additional so people prefer to spend money on things they need.
“For the last six months I have been putting more money to maintain the business than I earned, so if this tendency continues I will be forced to close it down.”
The vision of moving back to Poland seems to be more real for Pękalski.
“When I compare the economic situation in the UK when I just moved in with now, things are getting worse. The costs of living are rising, whereas the wages are the same or even lower,” he adds.
“But if I want to go back to being a driver the rate per hour I am offered is much lower than it used to be, regardless of the qualifications and years of experience I acquired here.”
Żaneta Szawan is the owner of Butik Wiki, a continental fashion shop in Nottingham also on Radford Road. She came to Nottingham in 2011 to visit her parents, who moved here earlier. She liked the city and the way of life and decided to settle down here.
“I can’t imagine moving back to Poland after such a long period of time,” she says.
“I have family and friends here and I feel really good here.”
The only impact of Brexit Żaneta has experienced so far is the falling rate of the pound in the currency exchange market – she imports clothes and buys in Sterling.
“I am earning much less now, but it is still ok,” she says.
“If you are strong and resilient you will make it. Of course there might be some issues with imports of the goods. I don’t know whether it will be still profitable for me, but at the moment I am not worried.
“I really like the society here, people are always polite and it is just nice to live here.”
There are however many Poles who have already decided to leave.
According to Aneta Bryłka, chief accountant at Primus Accounting, Sherwood, ten per cent the firm’s Polish clients have closed their businesses and moved back to Poland since June 23 2016.
“We expect between 10 to 20 per cent closures within next two or three years,” she says.
“The main reason is economic insecurity, falling rates of Sterling and the low profit margin.”