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OU on the BBC: Meet The Immigrants - Programme four

Updated Tuesday, 8th April 2008

Find out more about the fourth programme in the BBC/OU Meet the Immigrants series.

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Monica Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Production team

In this episode, we meet Monica Liminovitch from Poland. She works in Bournemouth caring for elderly people. Being a care worker is a completely new experience for Monica. In Poland, she worked as a pharmaceutical rep in her hometown of Poznan. But she needed a new challenge and has given herself a year to see if she can cope with life in England.

In Bournemouth, it's estimated one in twelve of the population is Polish. The Poles are the largest group of European migrants settling in Britain. They've opened their own shops; eat Polish bread baked by Poles in their own bakeries locally; they've set up their own radio stations and newspapers, and in Bournemouth, a team of Polish immigrants are top of the local amateur league football.

Monica is a practising Roman Catholic, and like many of her fellow immigrants, she visits the Catholic parish church in Bournemouth for mass each week, celebrated by Polish priests, in Polish - an event that is so popular that some people have to take part on the pavement outside as the church is so full.

Latvia joined the EU at the same time as Poland and many of its citizens have also headed west in search of a better life. In this episode, we meet one of them - Victor Tamulis, aged 21 - who's coming to the UK for the first time. But it's not just economic reasons that have made him leave his wife and son in Latvia - there are tensions at home and a break seems like a good idea to his wife.

Victor's new job is at a hotel in Bournemouth, which every night hosts ballroom dancing. He's going to be the hotel's odd job man, but even doing this he'll treble his last wage in Latvia and be able to help his family by sending money home.

The hotel has 35 staff, most of whom are migrants, from countries like Brazil, Columbia and Portugal. The owner of the hotel is Terri Flett, who used to be a professional dancer. She's convinced that the hotel industry in Britain couldn't survive without this new wave of immigrant workers. As well as working for her, she insists all her staff learn to dance in the hotel ballroom. Viktor is a reluctant participant.

Viktor is not a natural extrovert and he finds working in the hotel bar quite taxing. His wife Anita comes over to Britain to visit and the couple spend a weekend in London, talking about their situation. Despite his personal life being difficult, Viktor returns to Bournemouth resolved to continue his job, even though he is apart from his two year old son in Latvia. After two months of lessons, Victor's ready to take to the dance floor with the guests, and a smile.

Meanwhile, Monica's ambition to complete a year in England is proving quite a challenge. Two months after arriving in Bournemouth she's had some bad news. Her employer has dismissed her. She goes to her local Citizens Advice Bureau for help. On enquiring with her employer, the CAB discover that Monica had failed to complete some shifts (when challenged, she says this was because she was tired) and in signing her contract as a care worker, she'd opted out of the working time directive.

Monica returns to Poland to seek solace from her family and friends. After recharging her emotional batteries, she remembers that she promised herself she'd spend a year in England, and that's what she is going to do - so she returns to the UK to find another job.

First broadcast: Monday 14 Apr 2008 on BBC ONE

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