Welcome to Kafkadesk’s Quarantine Diaries, our new segment gathering testimonials from across Central Europe to understand how people in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic are living the unfolding coronavirus crisis and, maybe, give you some comfort to show you you’re not alone in this ordeal. Today, Matthew, a 33-year-old Brit living in the Polish city of Wroclaw, shares his story.
I’m a 33-year-old British economist, teacher and yoga instructor and I’ve lived in Poland for almost two years. I love this country and am happy living here overall. I am settled here for now and didn’t consider returning to my native U.K. when the restrictions were announced.
Generally my experience has been that Polish people are respecting the restrictions and are very afraid that the country would fare even worse than Spain or Italy if the virus spread fast. There is little belief that the public health system is ready to deal with a major outbreak. Also compared to the U.K. there thankfully seems to be less stockpiling in supermarkets – a shameful trend at home.
The contrasts in attitude here have been almost comical, often rapidly oscillating from the ‘we are strong Slavic people and have dealt with much worse’-type approach to ‘everyone panic!’ dramatic reactions. I wasn’t so surprised really as both sides are definitely present in Polish culture.
But this past weekend, I was really disappointed to see lots of groups – especially young people – hanging around in my local park near the city centre. Lots of kids playing unsupervised and older teens exercising in outdoor gyms. I didn’t see a single police officer during my walk. The city’s mayor had the same impression and wrote the next day about how angry he was at this “insane” behaviour. My city, Wroclaw, already has one of the most concentrated outbreaks in Poland.
Most of my friends and contacts here are suspicious of the current government and suspect that the scale of the problem is probably bigger than official statistics suggest, and also that the government is likely using the crisis to its own advantage. quarantine poland
The restrictions don’t affect me personally as much as some people, as I already worked mainly from home and like a slow-paced life without too many things planned. I actually feel more connected to colleagues and friends in the U.K. than before due to the new focus on video calls.
I think it’s a challenging time for everyone and it’s healthy to recognise this. But I believe it’s also a great time to slow down, count our blessings (especially compared to people in low income countries that may be obliterated by the virus) and find time for old or new hobbies.
I am concerned about the likely economic and social impacts of the virus longer term in Poland. I know so many people who lost most of their income overnight; existing living cost struggles are bound to get worse; and the significant drug, alcohol, domestic abuse and mental health problems are unlikely to move in a positive direction.
For some reason though, I still believe that the resourceful Polish people will find a way to pull out after this very challenging period.
Stay tuned for more quarantine diaries from Central Europe!