Ukrainians for cleaning, gardening, pierogi, and sex. At the Piaseczno “slave market,” Poland.

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Ukrainians for cleaning, gardening, pierogi, and sex. At thePiaseczno “slave market,” Poland.

By Ewa Wołkanowska-Kołodziej, Iryna Kołodijczyk

Translated from Russian by J.Hawk [excerpts]

A Pole locked up two Ukrainian women in the basement. He let
them out after two weeks, but they didn’t want to talk about it. “Didn’t you go
to the police?”—I ask. “But we have no rights here”, they answer.

You stand by the road and wait for a Pole. On Sunday, in the
frost, from 5, 6 in the morning. Maybe today a Pole will wake up thinking “I
don’t have a pressed shirt” or “why pay for a worker if I don’t have to pay?”
Then he’ll get in the car and come get a Ukrainian girl: to pain walls, load
coal, assemble scaffolding. He’ll pay 7 and sometimes even 20 zlotys per hour.
At the end of the day he may pay less than promised, or not pay at all. But
that’s better than working for a month and getting paid nothing.

I drive to the illegal labor market in Piaseczno. Ukrainians
fondly call it “the little market,” Poles, more directly, the “slave market.”


Roksana: “A week ago a young man took a woman who used to
pick apples for him into his car. They drive off, but then I see the car stops
and she jumps out crying. What happened, I asked. She replies—he told me I’m
taking you not to pick apples but for loving. But she was 60 years old!”

A few women nod her heads. Olena: “When I first came here, I
stood over there, by the bushes because I didn’t know anyone. Others looked at
me funny and whispered among themselves. One finally came up and said, stand
closer to us. Here they wait for sex.”

Gala: “A Pole took me and a friend to paint in Konstancin. A
big house, tall fence. We entered the garden and are painting, but he asked me
to change the bed for him. So I enter into his bedroom and then he approaches
me from behind and starts to grope me. I ran out screaming, the two of us wanted
to run away, but the gate was closed. What were we to do? We kept on painting.”

Olena: “Poroshenko ought to come and see this. Let him see
how Ukrainian emigres live… it’s easier during the summer. A farmer pays 7zl
per hour or by kilo, then one can earn as much as 100zl in a day. Sometimes he’ll
offer work for several weeks, even offers housing and food. But the work is

Anna: “I managed to pick radishes for 6 days. They paid
3.5zl per box. In each box 50 bunches of radishes, 12 radishes per bunch. I was
not used to such hard work. I filled 12 boxes in 12 hours, but some women
filled as many as 30. I paid 5zl per day for housing. You work close to the
ground, it’s as cold as in Siberia. If it rains, you sit in the mud the whole

Kateryna: “Picking beets was like a concentration camp. We
could not stand up because then supposedly you slow down. We could not talk,
only use sign language. One sandwich and a cup of tea for dinner. That was all.”

Larissa: “Never admit to the Poles that you can make
pierogi! They won’t leave you alone, you have to feed them all the time. It’s
worse than cleaning. I spent an entire day making pierogi, and they didn’t even
invite me to eat with them.”

Olga: “I recently quit after one day. There were three
reasons. The lady of the house wanted a copy of my passport. That never
happened before. Two, all families encouraged me to eat whatever food is on the
table. So I took an apple and she told me not to do it without asking. Three,
she told me not to touch the dishes in the sink because she fills the
dishwasher herself. So I drank my coffee and put it in the sink, and she yelled
at me for that too. I thought, what do I need this for? I suffered my share in
life, I have a sense of self-worth. Now I tell all employers I’ll work for only
8 hours per day. Like a white person.”

J.Hawk’s Comment: It’s as bad as that, and even worse. Ukrainians have been a fixture on Poland’s “labor market” for many years, but now there are far more of them, and they are chasing fewer jobs. And the official-level “sympathy” for the Maidan does not translate into tolerance toward Poland’s gastarbeiters, many of whom are acquiring radical anti-Polish attitudes as a result of the humiliating treatment they receive in Poland.

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