My father, who died in 1998, was Polish but my mother, who is now 95, is English. When I was young, they were both busy working from home as self-employed tailors. My father was still improving his English and although, he tried, at times, to teach me Polish, he didn't have much time and I wasn't a good student! The Polish lessons that my two older brothers had attended on Saturday mornings had also ended by the time I was old enough to attend.
Being Roman Catholic, we went to mass in Polish one week and in English the next and, although I learnt the opening lines of prayers in Polish, I could never catch subsequent lines. Also, when my father spoke to friends, I was soon completely lost! When we attended events organised by the Polish community, I never felt fully part of things, as the other children, whose parents were both Polish, were bi-lingual.
Again, although we went to visit family in Poland every few years, I was far too interested in playing football with my cousins and their friends to worry about the language and never got beyond the vocabulary needed to get me fed and watered! Back in England, my devotion to playing football limited my interest in studying!
When I left school, I got a job for a small insurance company in Ipswich before leaving to work for the local branch of the Norwich Union. I carried on playing football and represented Suffolk U18's and I also remember playing chess at home with my father most evenings. I got married in June 1983, when I was 24 and my daughter was born in May 1984. My oldest son was born in February 1986 and later that year, after being offered promotion to work at Norwich Union's Head Office, we moved 40 miles north. My second son was born in 1988 and our youngest in 1997.
When, in September 1999, the Norwich Union wanted to set up a Life Insurance company in Poland, I was given the chance to work in Warsaw as the Project Office Manager. (Interestingly, this was 40 years after my father was forced to leave the country - see Archive story).
I commuted on a weekly basis, flying out from Norwich via Amsterdam on Monday mornings and back on Friday afternoons. Sharing a flat with a colleague who went home every week meant that I was able to arrange for my wife and family to visit me on two occasions, the second allowing us to spend Christmas 1999 in Warsaw.
I accepted redundancy from Aviva (formally Norwich Union) in 2008 and, although I went back to work for them for another year in 2011, I've now been working as a teacher of English as a foreign language for the last four years.
My Polish is still limited and although I've tried, from time to time, to improve it, I understand how difficult it is and therefore just prefer to teach English!
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