European Discrimination

I’m Canadian and Eastern European. I was born in Canada a few years after my parents immigrated from Poland. It was 1986, and Poland was in political, social, and economic turmoil. There was an exodus of people with dreams and ideas that couldn’t flourish inside of the Iron Curtain.
My parents were on their way to spend their honeymoon in Croatia, but they didn’t get off at their stop. They stayed on the bus. Next came Slovenia – they kept going. They got off the bus in Trieste, Italy because it opened the door to Rome, Italy. The Eternal City served as a temporary base for Polish people looking to escape in the 80s. It was the halfway line between prospective immigrants and their countries of choice, mainly Australia, Canada, and the United States.
That long prologue to this article was necessary in order to understand my frustration. As a Canadian with a European passport, I often travel on the latter in order to avoid long lines or visa questions. When asked for I.D, I often present my Polish one because it doesn’t make a difference to me.
I’ve noticed a look. A special look of discrimination within Western European countries reserved especially for those from the East. The Russian Dictatorship a.k.a “Communism” that swept across countries like Ukraine, Romania, the Czech Republic, and so on, stunted their growth. Intellectuals were murdered and resources were exploited. If the communist years were erased, perhaps these countries would have grown to aide the big fish of the European Union.
But they didn’t. Instead, tons of Eastern Europeans immigrated to Western Europe and became a product of their environment – many falling into drugs and prostitution, among other things.
Not everyone is a bad apple however. There were hundreds of thousands of other hard working Eastern Europeans who immigrated not to cause trouble, but to start a new life. I’m tired of the look people give me when they see my ID. No, I’m not a prostitute, alcoholic, or a maid. I’m not a mail order bride.
I was walking down the street once with a German friend, who knew about my Canadian origins only, when we came across a man digging in garbage cans.
“He’s probably Romanian, or Polish or something.” stated my new friend.
When another friend met a girl at his university, his friends wouldn’t let him hear the end of it because she was Ukrainian and probably after his money.
In a supposed “united” Europe, I see nothing but social and cultural division. Neither Spain or Italy can call themselves multicultural nations, despite the increasing percentage of immigrants coming in from Arab, African, and other European countries. Thousands of displaced immigrants fleeing war torn nations are marginalized and mistreated by their nations of refuge, and I see 1986 all over again.
When football (soccer) player Mario Balotelli made his debut for Italy, many fans made their feelings clear. Balotelli, a black Italian raised in Italy, has been greeted several times by fans throwing bananas at him on the field.
If it’s wrong to make assumptions based on origin or race in North America, why are Europeans, (mainly from Southern Europe) so far behind?
I consider myself Canadian, but there’s a part of my past that’s impossible to ignore, and easy to offend, especially when it comes to comments made from total ignorance.
I shouldn’t be treated differently based on which I.D card I present, and lastly, I’m sick of the all-knowing “look” that comes afterward.

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3 thoughts on “European Discrimination

  1. I went to a Catholic school (many years ago) where probably half the class was either Czech, Ukrainian or Polish – and it was great! We learned how to pronounce the unpronounceable and never noticed there was any difference except those vowel-less names – and the fact we didn’t have to go to school on Saturday morning to learn in another language. I never understood and will never understand discrimination against Eastern Europeans – the parents of my many friends were good, hard-working people and so, now are those friends.

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    • I had only positive experiences in Canada…but when it came to Italy, the complete opposite. I think countries like Italy are very racist and nationalistic. They aren’t ready to accept a multicultural society.

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