Page last updated at 03:48 GMT, Wednesday, 30 April 2008 04:48 UK

'Why I left UK to return to Poland'

by Chris Mason
BBC News, Warsaw

Agnieszka Uminska and her son Mark
Mrs Uminska went to London for the money and to learn English

Agnieszka Uminska sits back in her chair at the dinner table of her flat in a tenement block in Warsaw's suburbs - nursing a cup of tea.

After nearly two years in Thamesmead, south east London, the 37-year-old mother-of-one has joined many fellow Poles who decided it was time to return home from the UK.

Research by the Institute for Public Policy Research suggests up to 1m immigrants from Eastern and Central Europe arrived in the UK in the four years since eight countries joined the European Union in 2004.

However, about half of these migrants, like Mrs Uminska, have now returned home.

So why did people like her come to England in the first place? And why are many of them now leaving?

I want my son to be happy. If he will be happy here in Poland, then here is our place
Agnieszka Uminska

"I went to England to work," Mrs Uminska says, whilst pointing to a picture in her son Mark's bedroom of the two of them at Madame Tussauds.

"I saw an advert in a newspaper to work for BUPA in a nursing home. I was interviewed here in Warsaw - and I was offered a job in Thamesmead.

"One of the reasons I went to London was for the money, of course.

"Another was I wanted to speak English better and I thought England was the best place for that!"

And so after arriving in October 2005, she signed up for English classes at Greenwich Community College - and stayed in London until August 2007.

For nearly two years, 11-year-old Mark had to live with his Grandma in Poland.

Over a cup of tea Mark practices his English by reading out the names of animals pictured in a calendar hanging on the wall.

Son's difficulties

The calendar was sent to him by his father - also Polish, who is currently living in Scotland.

Whilst Mrs Uminska was away in London, she sent Mark money from her wages at the nursing home.

But when he came to visit in the school holidays, he found things tough - and his mother only managed to make it back to Poland a few times whilst she had a job in England.

"In the end I had to come back for my son," she says.

"Mark didn't want to stay in England. A very big problem for him was the language barrier.

"Everyone's only got one childhood and I want my son to be happy.

"If he will be happy here in Poland, then here is our place."

Strengthening economy

And so, like thousands of others, she packed her bags and headed home last summer.

Few predicted so many Poles would head for the UK four years ago, and they are now the largest group of foreign nationals in the country.

But now there's a new trend - and Agnieszka Uminska is a part of it.

Fewer Eastern European migrants are heading for the UK, and more and more are heading home.

As the Polish economy develops, for many the lure of being back with their families has just proved too strong.




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