Vietnamese earn hard livelihood in Poland
Updated : 07/10/2012 14:17 GMT + 7
The golden age when the Vietnamese community in Poland pocketed millions of US dollars thanks to their clever trading practices seems a thing of the past, as they are now sharing the pain of the global economic turbulence with native traders.
Hundreds of Vietnamese nationals in Warsaw have been doing business at the Bakalarska, or Baka, market, which was renovated in 2010 and has 600 outdoor stands for traders.
Unlike the Wólka Kosowska commercial center, which functions as a wholesale market, Bakalarska is a retailing market which attracts many Polish and Vietnamese shoppers at weekends.
However, there are few customers these days, as a Tuoi Tre reporter observed when he visited a clothing booth run by Toan and his wife, Nga. At 3pm, there are almost no customers wandering around the market.
Despite the rough business, Toan and Nga still regularly open their store at 5:30am and only shut the door at 6pm.
“We just cannot take a day off, even when we get sick or the temperature drops to 25C below 0,” says Toan.
“Otherwise we will have no money for paying for booth and house rents, dining, and fees to extend our temporary residence and work permit in Poland.”
Traders in the market have to do hard work such as transporting heavy cartons of goods from their stand to the warehouse.
Despite the physical difficulty, there are many women who do this every day in Baka. Nguyen Thi Hien, hailing from Thanh Hoa Province, said she is expecting a child and will give birth to her in the next three weeks. But she still works at the market on a daily basis.
Vietnamese people were once renowned in the Polish market economy for their diligent and hardworking nature. But they are now all struggling to overcome the hardship.
A 10-year stay in Poland has also failed to help Ha, a youth from the northern province of Bac Ninh, avoid unemployment. Currently looking for a job in Baka market, Ha admitted that it is not easy to find work during these hard times.
“Working as a hire worker can only bring in throwaway wages while the work is hard,” he said.
“No one can stay for long if he has to carry hundreds of cartons a day.”
But Ha said he will soon return to work, under the pressure of earning a livelihood in a foreign land.
“I just cannot remain unemployed forever,” he said.
Empty shopping zone
Wólka Kosowska is a large shopping zone with four centers attracting a large number of Vietnamese, Chinese, and Turkish traders.
“It used to be a busy commercial center here with huge volumes of goods traded every day, but the place is now in extreme penury,” said a trader who sells jeans.
Many Vietnamese traders have fallen victim to swindles and defaults worth millions of US dollars, and the latest cases of experienced traders at the center only darken the gloomy picture of the Vietnamese community.
But for some traders who have been doing business in Poland for decades, there are many other reasons for the lackluster business.
“The legal framework has changed, resulting in stricter policies and higher taxes that have put some Vietnamese into trouble,” says Tran Hoang, an attendant at a Vietnamese law firm in Warsaw.
“There is also harsh competition from traders of other countries, while consumption has slowed due to high inflation.”
Tran Quoc Quan, deputy chairman of the EACC Group, says the Vietnamese community in Poland is experiencing its most difficult period since immigrants first came to the country.
“However, Vietnamese traders are seeking a suitable way to survive the crisis,” he adds. “They refuse to give up their hope that the situation will improve in the following years.”