Triggered by Brexit deadlock, Polish immigrants head home after years in Britain
Flights booked, suitcases packed and fed up with Brexit, ecologist Katarzyna Kociniewska is returning to Poland in search of new opportunities. Her boyfriend Radosław Stańczak will be joining her in three months' time in the northern Polish city of Bydgoszcz.
The couple are among the Poles, currently Britain's largest minority group, who have chosen to pack their bags as Poland's economic conditions improve and frustration grows over uncertainties related to Brexit.
Stańczak, who has been living in the UK for 13 years and owns a construction firm, said the uncertainty caused by the British government's inability to break the Brexit deadlock had been the trigger for many Poles, including the couple, to leave.
The British parliament has repeatedly failed to pass Prime Minister Theresa May's divorce deal or to vote for any alternative.
But Stańczak said that the couple's decision is also thanks to the strength of the Polish economy, which experienced a 4.9 percent GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2018 and has a record low unemployment rate.
Stańczak now thinks there are more opportunities for him and for Kociniewska than when he left in 2006.
Kociniewska, who after living in the UK for two years has grown to love British customs and religiously buys scratch cards from a local corner shop every week, said a lot of people were concerned by the current situation.
The British government needed to decide whether to stay in or leave the EU, she added.
She said ambitious and highly educated Poles would be willing to return and would not be afraid of the competition in the job market.
According to data from online transport services broker Clicktrans, the number of Poles moving to Poland from the UK in 2018 accounted for more than 85 percent of all moves between the two countries for the second year in a row.
Only a year before the Brexit vote, there was no significant difference in the number of Poles moving from Britain to Poland or from Poland to Britain, according to Clicktrans.
Sharing a final pint at her local pub with friends before her departure, Kociniewska was optimistic about returning to Poland. She said she missed her hometown and was excited to make a new life in Bydgoszcz.
Stańczak was more apprehensive - after living in the UK for over a decade he feels at home and worries that the transition will take some getting used to, he said.
Last week, after two years of Brexit negotiation that has left the British parliament in deep division, EU leaders agreed to extend Britain's date of departure from the bloc for the second time.
According to European Council President Donald Tusk, all possible outcomes are still on the table, including deal, no-deal and even no Brexit at all.