This story is based on true events although the names of the characters have been changed.
Hello. My name is Felicja. I would like to tell you a story about what happened to me not long after I came to live here in Scotland. In August 2004 I moved to a town just outside Glasgow called Motherwell. I left my home in Krakow, Poland, where I had lived all my life, to start a new life with my daughter Dominika and her husband, Bartek. We chose Motherwell because it already had an established Polish community, and people from our country had been coming here since before the War. Our decision to emigrate was brought on by a number of factors. Dominika had always wanted to train to be a nurse. She spoke often of working within the great NHS in The United Kingdom. Bartek was a joiner by trade but struggled to find regular work in Krakow. They both enrolled in English classes and remained determined to leave Poland for a new life here. I was very happy with this and encouraged them in their collective endeavours. It was not unusual for Polish children to work in another country and send some money back home. I admit the idea of some extra cash coming to me regularly was something I was quite happy about!
Not long before Bartek and Dominika received their papers to come and work and study in Scotland, we had some bad news. My husband Olav, who had been suffering poor health, sadly passed away. As Dominika was my only daughter, the thought of being alone in Krakow scared me somewhat. So much so, Bartek suggested I came to live with them in Scotland, I reluctantly agreed.
Uprooting my whole life and moving it to another country was daunting for me. I tried to put a brave face on, my anxiousness the polar opposite of my daughter and her husband’s excitement. We managed to find a nice little flat on Watson Street, which was near the town’s main centre. Dominika enrolled in a nursing degree and Bartek found work in a nearby building site. I wanted to make a contribution, so, for the first time in my life, I found a job of my own. I was to be a cleaner for an office on Merry Street. I was to clean for two hours in the morning and two at night. It wasn’t much, but it allowed me to meet some local people and learn more about the town I now called home.
One night when I was just about to finish my shift, I happened upon a framed picture that caught my attention. It was a striking image of what looked like a massive industrial plant. It showed two large, looming, blue towers, with a distinctive ‘S’ displayed on each. Parallel to them where what looked like two great big cooling towers. Behind them, was a solitary flame that seemed to be burning from a chimney, like an Olympic torch. I was so taken by this that I stopped in at the Library on my way home to try and learn more about this wonderful image I had just saw. The librarian was very helpful. When I told him I wasn’t very good with computers, he gave me some old paper cuttings and books. The place was called Ravenscraig. It was the biggest steel plant in Scotland, and it was situated a mile from where I was now. I poured over the books and cuttings. I read about how the Ravenscraig was the lifeblood of the town, and generations of men would work there together. I read stories from former workers, from wives and mothers of boys who grew into men in the plant. I also read of its sad demise. Of how its closure effected the whole area, and the politics that were involved. More importantly though, I read about its legacy, and how the people of Motherwell and Wishaw still hold it close to their hearts and why it will always be a reminder of the town’s history.
All of this had a profound effect on me, so it came as a great surprise when, the following week, as I was doing my usual clean, someone had taken the picture down and replace it with a more modern looking effort. A sky line of some American City! I could not believe it. This was a symbol of Motherwell, and all it stood for. I immediately made my way down to the bins outside. Unfortunately it was gone. Taken by the bin men. That night, I walked home with tears in my eyes. How could young people discard history in such a way, like it was nothing?
That night I found myself in Motherwell Library again. This time I asked the same Librarian to go onto the internet and find what I was looking for. I gave him my post office card that had my meagre savings held in it, and with my permission, made the purchase. (Wiping out nearly all I had!)
Two days later it arrived. I ripped open the package and there it was. The same picture, only an artist impression. I carried it to work and waited till everyone had left. When I was sure I was alone, I took down the new picture and discarded it in the outside bins. I replaced it with the Ravenscraig picture I had purchased and awaited my fate!
Sure enough, the next day I was called into the manager’s office and told I was being dismissed for gross misconduct. Apparently I had been caught on a camera, disposing of the new picture. I had no regrets. I felt I had done what I had to.
I have a new job now, working for a family on Hamilton road, cleaning their lovely big house. I never found out what happened to the picture. They never asked if I wanted it back. I hope it’s in a place where it can be seen, for a long time to come.