From Belarus to Bialystok, Maksim's journey paints a vivid picture of an immigrant's life in Poland. With limited financial resources, he found himself on a swift quest for a livelihood shortly after his arrival nearly a year ago. A recruitment agency made his job search easier, landing him a position at a road service company in Bialystok. All he needed was a bank account, a personal identification number (Pesel), and registration (meldunek) - all of which were secured within a day with the agency's assistance.
Work: A Symphony of Seasons
Employed under a contract of mandate (Umowa zlecenie) with a variable schedule, Maksim's duties oscillated with the seasons. Summer months saw him mowing grass, cleaning up trash around the roads, and changing garbage bins, sometimes pulling a 12-hour shift. As autumn leaves fell, his job was to gather them up. Winter, however, brought more complicated work schedules and duties, primarily involving snow removal tasks at night. This change led some colleagues to stay overnight in a trailer near the highway to save on commuting time.
Wages: The Variable Equation
The net rate of 17 Polish zloty per hour was Maksim's pay - the minimum wage in Poland then. However, a chunk of this pay was retained by the recruitment agency. His earnings were as variable as the seasons, peaking at 6,000 zloty in summer, around 3,500 zloty in winter, and slightly more in autumn. The reduced workload in winter saw some Polish workers looking for better-paying jobs or heading abroad.
Observations and Experiences
Interestingly, Maksim noticed a cultural difference in work approach between Poland and Belarus. While roadway work in Poland is largely automated, manual labor still holds its ground. Polish workers would use a tractor for tasks that could be manually cleared swiftly, unlike their Belarusian counterparts. The workday routine involved gathering at a collection point at 7 a.m., attending a briefing to discuss work assignments, taking safety breaks, and marking worked hours at the end of the day. While the physical work was manageable, Maksim sometimes faced moral challenges from certain supervisors. The atmosphere and organization of work depended greatly on the owner of the private road companies. His experience provided him with intimate knowledge of Bialystok and the opportunity to earn based on the number of hours worked, which he found to be a motivating factor.