Against the backdrop of the Dutch EU Council presidency, OneWorld.nl has sent Reinier Vriend on a mission to identify the everyday European values and concerns. In the interview series #ThisIsMyEurope he speaks with colourful individuals in and of the continent, trying to find out what ‘Europe’ means to us. This edition he speaks with Kasia Cetera from Poland.
“To me Europe doesn’t mean much more than a geographical place. But that’s maybe because after being in Europe for such a long time, I’ve stopped seeing the benefits.”
Kasia Cetera (35) is originally from Poland. She works as a manager of a major retail store in Dublin. She has lived there for eight years now. “I first came on a business trip, and I met a man and fell in love. I decided to come over to live here. It was at the time of the financial crisis, many Polish and other immigrants were actually returning at that time. My family and friends in Poland were advising me against it. However, I personally didn’t feel the crisis. I found a job within two weeks, and all the jobs after I got headhunted for.” The relationship she decided to move for didn’t last, but Kasia decided to stay. “After that challenging relationship ended, I looked around and decided to give Dublin another chance. That’s when I decided to buy a house, which I’m currently still renovating.”
You know, Ireland is really much of an island. The Irish sometimes feel like they’re the only one in the world
Kasia has noticed in her new city that over the years, many Irish are experiencing a loss of community. “There’s a great influx of people now. People used to live in very close communities in their neighbourhoods. With people from many countries coming, those communities are gone. This is not a nice thing to see, because it’s especially Polish immigrants that are contributing to these feelings.” Kasia recognises that Ireland has its own feel. “You know, Ireland is really much of an island. The Irish sometimes feel like they’re the only one in the world. It’s not strange either. Yes, you can cheaply fly with Ryanair. But if you want to be spontaneous, you realize how stuck you are here.”
Kasia doesn’t identify much with other Polish immigrants. “There’s a big group here who shop in Polish shops, watch Polish TV and only have Polish friends.” Kasia herself has a diverse group of friends, half of which are Irish. “The only Polish person I have contact with here is my builder.” However, Kasia visits Poland every few months. “I go there to see friends and family, but also to travel, or to visit the dentist. I can go back often because the flights are cheap. You may think that this is a lot, but my Irish friends go see their parents every week for Sunday dinner. I visit my family a lot less often.”
I think history goes in circles. You get stability, and then movement again
Has living in another EU country for such a long time influenced her sense of identity? “I do feel European, which means that I feel a strong connection with the continent. I think continentals are much more aware of versatility. But at the same time I think I’m neither here nor there. This shows for instance in political problems, I don’t feel like either the Irish or the Polish issues are relevant to me.” This in-betweenness shows itself in her speech. “I could use the phrase ‘I’m going home’ in both Poland and Ireland and mean two different places with it, depending on where I am at that moment. I will always compare and see the advantages and disadvantages, but over the years I have come to compare both places a lot less. I think it’s a matter of finding a balance.”
As for the future of Europe, Kasia doesn’t expect much to change. “I think history goes in circles. You get stability, and then movement again. The current Euro sceptical crisis is needed to shuffle ideas a little, but nothing big will happen. I think that the integration we’ve seen will continue in the future. And that’s good. The exchange of knowledge and thoughts can only be a good thing, and the EU is encouraging it. And it’s giving people freedom.”
This interview is part 14 of the series #ThisIsMyEurope. Join the conversation on Twitter [@OneWorldNL] and read the other interviews on the special #ThisIsMyEurope Oneworld page.