Poles Apart

By SallyB2 Last edited 128 months ago
Poles Apart

It would seem that Mayor Livingstone, famous for courting the unusual, is at it again. He is new-best-friends with the Polish community in London. His jolly japes this time include a Polish reception at Town Hall, replete with pierogi and pickles, and a trip to POSK, the Polish Community Centre in Hammersmith. He is quite the darling of the Polish press, by all accounts.

Of course only the very cynical would suggest that it has something to do with the fact that there are 55,000 (and counting) Polish voters in the capital and the mayoral election is just round the corner.

Londonist can see nothing wrong with getting to know the different components of London – pretty essential stuff, we reckon, for a mayor – and undoubtedly a certain amount of schmoozing goes with the job.

And we like Polish people (although we wish they wouldn’t put so much salt in their food) – they are for the most part bright and hard-working, and integrate splendidly into the buzzing throng that is London.

No, our raised eyebrow on this occasion is the fact that neither Polish officials nor them up at mayoral HQ seem to be doing anything about the very few Poles who are spoiling it for the rest of us, the alcoholics, the crack addicts and the scroungers. The new Polish ambassador to Britain seemed to distance herself from the less law-abiding of her compatriots:

But the Ambassador insisted that she had never heard anything else than Poles contributing to the British economy. “If you stay here it means that you must have employment and pay taxes.”

But perhaps the trouble is those on the black market who do not contribute? “Black market is something that your authorities have to fight against,” she replied.


Our friend The Shopkeeper tells us that currently 4 out of 5 shoplifters in his neck of the woods (Southwark) are young men from Poland (until a year or so ago an honour held by mid-European gypsies), and that around 50% of anti-social behaviour in or around his shop involves the same demographic. They reel into the shop, with reeking breath and blood-shot eyes, in search of alcohol or (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) crack cocaine in exchange for Polish cigarettes. Later they slump drunken in the street, or worse, engage in street brawls.

These lost souls are not representative of the Polish immigrant population, many of whom have been here for generations. In view of the huge swell in the numbers of Poles entering the UK, it is in fact hardly surprising that we will end up with a few undesirables. But if the mayor wants to get to know and help his citizens, then he needs to address the needs of the whole community, warts and all, and not just the voting part.

Image courtesy of bennylin0724’s flickr stream.

Last Updated 27 August 2007


Outrageous slur against Polish people based on the flimsy testimony of exactly one shopkeeper. If you weighed up criminal activity and the contribution to local businesses in terms of working, spending, etc., I bet you'd find Poles well ahead of, say, native-born Londoners. What's the shopkeeper doing selling crack or allowing crack to be sold in his shop anyway? I live in Hammersmith and have never seen a Polish brawl, but fights among the locals are common.


Thank you for your comment.
Firstly, this Londonist has many Polish friends, and stands by her assertion that they are among the most intelligent and industrious of peoples - they are also fun and creative. She would most certainly not wish them to take this article as a slur on their character, nor was it ever meant as such.
Secondly, Londonist's friend, the Shopkeeper, does not actually sell cocaine or even alcohol - but that does not stop people entering his shop in search of it.
Londonist is not implying that other nationalities do not commit crime, or that they are any better behaved.
But the fact remains that there is an increasing problem, especially in areas of low income such as many parts of Southwark, with anti-social behaviour perpetrated by unemployed Polish men. And it is a problem which should be addressed.


Excuse me, can you point me in the direction of the Londonist website? I seem to have stumbled on to the Daily Mail website in error.


bloody hell, that's quite an article.

there are people born in London who are crack cocaine addicts. will you write about them next? no, I guess not.

does this 'Shopkeeper' get shoplifters to fill in a form that indicates their country of origin as they leave? or - just a thought - might he be applying his own prejudice only for it be spewed out on this blog like the pool of racist bile that it is.

let me guess - some of your best friends are gay too, right?

surprised to read this on Londonist. next!