Last month, the Chad published the inspirational story of Jakub Klosowicz, who had just been elected as Shirebrook Academy’s first Polish head boy. Now, journalism student Pamela Kokoszka (pictured) shares her experiences as a Polish teenager growing up in Mansfield.
I wish I could say my childhood in Mansfield was good and I loved it but it really wasn’t. I had no friends and I was bullied because I am Polish.
When I first came to the UK ten years ago I was just a normal 12-year-old girl, excited for the new school and town. It all seemed so exciting to me at the time.
I couldn’t speak English but so what? I could learn. No big deal.
I didn’t realise how scary the new school would be until my first day. I felt so lost and alone but then I met some Polish kids and it all seemed better to me,
I thought to myself, “You’re not on your own, it will be fine”.
Knowing there are other kids in the same situation as me made it better. Until we were taken away from the rest of the year group and placed in a separate classroom with this Polish lady who said she will teach us English.
The school thought it will help us but she took us away from our lessons and separated us from all the other kids. We became strangers to others and struggled with our studies as we were never in lessons.
The kids at school hated us - they would throw sandwiches at us, call us names and tell us to go back to Poland. I can’t even remember how many times I cried to my mum, begging her to let me go back.
I hated school. I would try and speak to teachers about it but no one would believe me.
Because I couldn’t quote exactly what was said to me, they said they can’t do anything about it.
They accused me of lying. The Polish kids I thought would be my friends turned on me, and even joined in on the bullying just because my English was worse than theirs and they wanted the other kids to like them.
I guess they got bored of being bullied and figured out a way to stop it before I did. I just wanted to cry - there was no one who wanted to help me and I still get upset thinking about it.
It wasn’t just the school that was the problem though. Whenever I would go into town with my sister and other kids would hear us speak, they would point at us and say mean things to us. We both hated it and we both didn’t want to live in England any more. We wished we had never come here.
You probably think, ‘She was bullied, everyone gets bullied - it’s not that much of a big deal.
It was to me though. I just wanted to be a happy kid. I wanted to have friends and enjoy my life. I didn’t want to come to school everyday and count the hours until it was over. Unless you have been bullied yourself you don’t really know how much it affects and changes you.
The only times I was truly happy were when I was at home with my family. They were the only times I could forget about the school and enjoy my life.
I remember how easy it was when we would go back to Poland for summer holidays, it was fun, no one hated us. We never wanted to go back to school when summer was about to finish.
Begging our parents to let us stay didn’t work, we had to go back to school.
I really felt like the bullying would never stop, I started hating my life, I would never speak in class and would hide in classrooms during the breaks, just so I didn’t have to watch all the other kids have fun when I felt like crying or even worse give them an opportunity to bully me again.
Some kids actually learned some bad Polish words just so they could shout them at me. I couldn’t believe how much effort someone would go into just to make my life more miserable.
You know how everyone loved it when your teacher was late for lesson or you had a cover teacher? Well I hated it, I hated it because everyone got to do whatever they wanted and there was no one there to tell them to behave.
I remember this boy in my Spanish class kept throwing stuff at me throughout the whole lesson and whenever I told him to stop he would just mock me and carry on throwing stuff at me.
I got so used to being bullied that even when someone tried to be nice to me I thought they would just make fun out of me or something. I didn’t believe anyone could be genuinely nice to me any more.
I couldn’t handle it any more so I started skipping school - it wasn’t difficult because my parents would leave for work before we left for school and come back and hour after we got back.
Skipping school, however, only caused me more problems when my parents eventually got called into school to discuss my poor attendance.
I was in trouble with both school and my parents and I even nearly failed my GCSEs because of it.
When I started college it all got better. My English had improved, I made new friends. My problems went away, at least I thought they did - but at the time I was happy.
I didn’t experience any nastiness or racism directed at me for about three years until I started working at KFC.
One evening I was working on the till by myself and a couple in their fifties came in. As soon as they heard my accent the woman kicked off and refused to be served by me.
She started shouting abuse at me. I can’t remember what she was saying, I didn’t want to even hear it. I just stood there - I couldn’t even move or say anything. I was traumatized, everything I went through while I was at school and been trying not to think of any more suddenly came back to me.
My manager had to come out of the office and tell me to go to the staffroom and ask the couple to leave, which was followed by an argument between the customers and my manager. It was the first time someone has ever stood up for me. She even had a chat with me about bullying and explained to me that the nasty words people throw at me are only powerful because I let them be. If I don’t let them affect me then they’re just empty words. I didn’t really believe her at the time.
This wasn’t the last time I was bullied just because of where I come from, but eventually I learned that I don’t have to let it affect me. I realised that I’m happy with who I am and I’m proud of being Polish.
I have amazing friends and family and that’s all that matters. Who caress what others think?