As featured in award-winning show London Stories: Made by Migrants, Battersea Arts Centre, 2016
“This is a story of bravery, or perhaps foolishness of a certain 18 year old Polish girl. I leave it for you to decide how the below should be portrayed.
Cast your mind back to a time when Europe was united, Donald Trump was just a reality TV star, Britney Spears hadn't had any meltdowns & Brexit was just a racist's pipe dream. Kanye, before he had his head surgically implanted up his xxx, wanted everybody to buy diamonds - I'm talking, of course, about 2005.
As a reward for finishing my A-levels, my parents offered to pay for holiday in Greece. But 18-year-old me didn't fancy spending the summer soaking up the sun on a beach. I wanted to go to England. And get rained on.
I had passed entrance exams to university in Poland, & promised to be back for my 1st year in October. So my parents bought me
a bus ticket from Poland to the only place in England I had a friend - Norwich.
I dragged my pal Marta & couple of other guys along. We arrived in London on a date that will forever live on in infamy - 7/7/2005.
Things got off to a bad start - when we arrived at Victoria Coach Station, everything was closed. Traffic was gridlocked. The streets swarmed with police. My phone was filled with messages from friends & family back home asking if I was alright. The boys were stucked on another bus outside London.
I was told that there had been a series of bombings in London. Marta & I didn't know what to do. We couldn't get to Norwich, & didn't know anybody here.
Marta sat down on her luggage & started to cry. I got chatting with a friendly Polish guy, who invited us back to his 'studio flat.' I had no idea what that was, but it sounded exotic. It wasn't.
Thankfully, I had the wherewithal to nip into a Polish Travel Agent who said they would happily hold onto our luggage & passports. The kind people at Polonez also said that they would call the police if we didn't come back by midday next day to get our bags. At the time I thought that was lovely of them, but now I realised how worried they were about us.
So off we went to Camberwell. Once in the flat I understood what studio flat means. At least we didn’t have to spend a night at the coach station.
The guy, Roman, went off to a shop & bought us vodka & biscuits so we could relax. I had never said no to free vodka, & I never will. By the time I got a phone call from our two guy friends who at last were on their way into London, I was well on my way to becoming tipsy.
Roman went to pick them up & when we were all together, I finally felt safe. The boys ended up staying in a studio next door, owned by Roman’s friends.
During that night Roman suggested that we could rent his flat & stay a month in London. We all said yes, why not to see London whilst we're here.
The next day we went back to Polonez travel. The ladies at the desk were petrified & wanted to call the police, bless them. They didn't want to believe that we were okay & actually wanted to stay with the kindly stranger. It took us a while to convince them, but we promised to come back if anything went wrong.
Luckily we never had to. Even now, more than 14 years later, every time I walk past that shop I smile.
Instead we ended up going for a walk & landed in Peckham.
Fast food is not that common in Poland - it's more like a family day out treat. Our eyes watered & bellies grumbled at the sight of all the fast food, so we jumped at the chance to get some fried chicken.
The first one we entered was ‘Chicken Cottage’. I’m naturally open person, so it didn’t take me long to become acquainted with the staff & tell them all our adventures. And that is how I landed my first job in London - a proud employee of Chicken Cottage, Peckham.
That was 13 years ago. Since than I moved long way away from Chicken Cottage. Now I have MA from Central St Martins, BA (Hons) in Advertising & Brand Communication & partial BSC (Hons) in Criminology and Psychological Studies. I work as freelance graphic designer & a film maker. Being a Londoner is part of who I am. Brexit hurt, but I still feel part of the city & it is, and always will be home.
It took a while to get to the point where I am now, but that’s another story.
Needless to say, I still haven't left London and still have never been to Norwich...”
Until now ...
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