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Polish Dream, American Reality
From Nowy Dziennik
Wednesday, July 24, 2002

By Bozena Chojnacka

It is the college students from Poland who constitute the vast majority of clientele at employment agencies in Greenpoint this summer. Unfortunately, not all of them are able to find jobs. Why? Because even if some positions are available, the students are rather reluctant to mop floors or eviscerate chickens.

It’s Monday afternoon at Polservice, Inc. "We had ten students come in today. None of them was given a job. We cannot promise or guarantee anything. We might be getting ten new job offers in the next few minutes, but as of right now we don’t have any positions available for students," says Jack M. Obernikiewicz, the owner of the agency. "After September 11th the number of jobs went down by 50 percent. Last year we were able to provide a job for every second person. This summer it’s good if we find a place of employment for every fourth client."

Roman Krasniewski from another employment agency agrees that it’s not easy to find employment nowadays, but he underscores that those who are truly willing to work will surely find a job. He also says that college students from Poland often come with a pretentious attitude and unrealistic expectations. They often demand that employment agents not only find them a good job, but also pick them up from the airport and provide housing. Many employers are hesitant to hire them because here hardly anybody considers a work authorization issued in Poland to be a valid document. Also Polish students are not accustomed to American reality. Oftentimes they are only interested in an easy, well-paying job. Working on rooftops or in the kitchen is not something they are prepared to do.

"Students coming over from Poland don’t even want to consider mopping floors, washing dishes or eviscerating chickens," says Marian Meller, an owner of Poland Employment Agency in Greenpoint. "They also avoid jobs that require physical strength, like lifting up heavy loads. Usually the students who come to the US in the summer come from well-to-do families. Others can not even afford to buy an airline ticket. It’s only the children from poor homes who don’t complain or grimace. They are willing to take up any kind of job," he adds recalling his own experience of washing dishes in a restaurant for the first few years after coming to the United States.

The owners of several employment agencies in Greenpoint agree, however, that the job market is full of opportunities for experienced carpenters, plumbers, electricians, truck drivers and waiters. Women can easily find employment as housekeepers as long as they have a driver’s license. Unfortunately, women most of the time don’t know how to drive. What’s more, oftentimes they overvalue themselves and fail to prove themselves on the job.

"Poles don’t have the ambition to seek jobs that require knowledge and skills. Like people from other countries, we should be focusing on learning English and not just on making money," says Obernikiewicz. "We should also be more kind towards each other. We should be helping each other in finding jobs in the places of our employment. People from other countries do that. They help each other out. But with us, Poles, there is still too much jealousy."

Translated from Polish by Joanna Sufin

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