Meet the city's Polish PCSO

She might not have travelled from pole to pole but Police Community Support Officer Anna Bartnik has come a long way since her move to Norwich from her native Poland.

Lucy Bolton

She might not have travelled from pole to pole but Police Community Support Officer Anna Bartnik has come a long way since her move to Norwich from her native Poland.

Not only has she proved a vital link between the police and the city's growing Polish community but she has also helped keep her compatriots on the right side of the road as well as the law as DAVID BALE discovered.

When she first arrived in the UK she only had a six month tourist visa but now, some four years later, PCSO Bartnik, 27, is here to stay - and it is not just Norfolk Constabulary which is grateful.

She has found her niche working with the Polish community in Mile Cross where she helped organise the first ever Polish community meeting at the Phoenix Centre earlier this month.

More than 60 Poles attended the meeting which proved a huge success and will be followed by another later this month.

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“It was the best day of my life when I started working at Woodcock Road about nine months ago,” she said.

“I still do all the normal PCSO duties, but I'm also like the first port of call for Polish people living in the area.

“There's no formal organisation in Norwich or Norfolk to help Polish people, and what I do is really needed.”

PCSO Bartnik has worked hard to dispel a number of misconceptions among Polish people about life in the UK, including the police and road regulations - Poles drive on the right, not on the left.

She said: “There's a lot of work just teaching people about the different culture in England, like putting wheelie bins out. In Poland you'd probably put the bins out a week before they were due to be collected, but obviously that's not done here.

“And there's all the documentation people need to have in order to live and work here. I also get involved in landlord queries, and there are the basic translations I do for Polish people.

“And driving over here is different. The points on your driving licence are done differently.

“You also tend to do a lot more over here on the phone. In Poland there is more bureaucracy where you have so many different organisations and people to go, in order to get anyway.”

PCSO Bartnik came to the UK with her boyfriend even before her country joined the EU intent on finding work and a better life for them both.

“It's very hard to find a job in Poland and it's hard to live there, and that's why so many of us have gone abroad,” she said.

“I did not speak any English apart from hello and a few swear words, but I taught myself how to speak the language.

“We were in London for the first nine months, but my partner said it was too busy, and he was constantly stuck in traffic jams, so we moved up to Norwich.”

At first she worked as a receptionist in a city hotel, but then got a job with the family protection unit based at Hurricane Way in Norwich.

“But that was really horrible, working with children who had been sexually or physically abused, so I moved to Wymondham police station as a PCSO,” she said.

“When I first came to England I had no intention of becoming a policewoman, but here I am.”

She was only in Wymondham about two months before she was head-hunted by Sgt Lucy Hayman, the safer neighbourhood team sergeant in Mile Cross, who wanted her to work with the sizeable Polish community in her district.

Sgt Hayman said: “We have a lot of Poles who work for Anova in our area and Anna spends time working with them there.

“She has been a huge success and a tribute to herself. She's obviously able to communicate to her compatriots in their own language, which is a big help.

“And it makes it easier for us that she can tell them about the different rules and laws here. A lot of Poles have come over without much knowledge of how police work in this country.”

There are estimated to be about 6,000 Poles in the Norwich area, with many working as cleaners, packers, builders, plumbers, in food processing and in warehouses.

Since May 2004 hundreds of thousands of Eastern European workers have flocked to Britain after EU member states were given free access to labour markets.

Polish food shops which have sprung up in the city include Titbits Polish Food in St Augustine's Street and Polski Sklep, or Polish grocers in English, in Hall Road.

Masses are now being given in Polish at the Roman Catholic Cathedral, with about a million Polish people estimated to have emigrated to the UK since 2004.

The next Polish community meeting is at the Phoenix Centre at 7pm on February 18.

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