As an Englishman living in Poland I am legally required to watch Londyńczycy, at least that’s what my wife tells me and she wouldn’t lie about a thing like that. I’ve never seen the inspectors myself but she tells me they came round a couple of times when I was out to check I was watching and were very angry. Just to be on the safe side I’ve been paying extra special attention to the program during those brief parts of the hour I’m able to remain conscious. If you’ve never seen or heard of Londyńczycy it’s a weekly soap opera about Poles living in London, also I would like to swap my life with yours.
The basic premise of Londyńczycy is that London is a cross between the Thunderdome out of Mad Max and an experimental institute dedicated to testing the moral fibre of Poles. So it’s fairly accurate. Nobody in the series has anything approaching a happy, constructive or fortunate time in the city. In that respect the series has obviously taken some pointers from Britain’s homegrown London-based soap Eastenders. Are there any Poles in Eastenders now? It’s so long since I even thought about Eastenders I just got that feeling I imagine ex-cons get when they suddenly realize they’ve been out of prison for five years already.
In the finest tradition of television drama Londyńczycy takes some generous liberties with locations, characterizations, and basic logic in order to satisfy the preconceptions of its viewers. For example, I conducted an exhaustive survey of the non-Polish characters in the London of Londyńczycy and came up with the following population break down:
A typical Londyńczycy episode
Scene 1: The street outside Marek’s 120 m2 bedsit in Mayfair that he can somehow afford.
Marek is on his way to buy milk at the local corner shop which, like everything else in London, is next to Tower Bridge. He bumps into one of the knife-wielding drug dealers who make up 90 percent of the area’s residents.
Drug dealer: Hey! Why don’t you watch where you’re going you dumb Polack! Love a duck, apples and pears, innit.
Marek: Hold your horses old fellow. I’m simply on my way to buy innocent wholesome milk. Dupek.
The drug dealer slopes off with a sneer having assumed “dupek” means “you’re absolutely right.”
Scene 2: Corner shop interior. Mr Dim Luc, the Korean corner shop owner, is stacking cans of Zywiec and moaning about foreigners.
Marek: Mr Luc old chap, I see there is no milk.
Dim Luc: Ah yes my friend, but there is an illicit truck full of milk coming in this afternoon from Gdansk. If you can come up with 5,000 English pounds I can let you have the whole shipment.
Marek: What an interesting idea.
Marek does acting to show his inner struggle to overcome his natural Polish goodness and innocence in the face of the evil necessities of Crisis London. Finally, he phones his wheeler-dealer cousin, Darek.
Scene 3: Interior of Darek’s palatial office. Tower Bridge is visible through the window. Darek is drinking whiskey and looking vaguely worried about some numbers on a computer screen, but not doing any actual work. His phone rings.
Darek: Good day.
Marek: Cousin. I have a proposition for you…
Darek: I hope it’s better than that scheme to corner the market in barszcz czerwony you dragged me into last week. Especially since the barszcz czerwony cartons were actually full of amphetamines that we couldn’t possibly have known anything about…
Scene 4: Later that day. A dingy warehouse under a motorway flyover. Tower Bridge is visible in the background. Marek is waiting and nervously counting 5,000 pounds in unused notes. His phone rings.
Marek: Kasia… not now my love. Maybe when this madness is over and I can build you that little house in Jelenia Gora we can talk… hello… hello…
An articulated lorry with “Mleko Goodness” written on the side pulls into the warehouse. The driver climbs down from his cab, hugs Marek, takes the money, and rushes off in the direction of Tower Bridge. Gangsters appear, some of whom are American for no apparent reason, and immediately pull guns as if they were in a Bruce Willis movie rather than under the westbound Hammersmith flyover. One of the gangsters is the drug dealer Marek bumped into in scene 1.
Drug dealer: Okay punk, hand over the keys or I’ll pop a cap in your arse.
Marek: Please no. I paid for this milk fair and square.
Drug dealer: Oh it’s you, the dumb Polack who doesn’t look where he’s going (laughter from other gangsters, who are apparently severely starved of entertainment). That was bang out of order don’t you know. Now hand over the keys and we’ll be out of here with our seven tons of cocaine that you couldn’t possibly have known anything about.
Marek: I didn’t know anything about that!
“I say old chap, would you care for a cuppa before I off your sorry arse?”
Scene 5: Marek loses his cousin’s money but, in a bizarre and unlikely turn of events, saves the life of the drug dealer who instantly undergoes a radical reassessment of his racist attitudes towards Poles. He carries on being a drug dealer though. Darek drinks whiskey while staring out of the window at Tower Bridge but also doing acting to suggest he is staring at the lush meadows of Poland. Then he goes home and shags a nurse. Kasia flicks through a fashion magazine and dreams of becoming a fashion person of some kind. Then she stares out of the window at Tower Bridge waiting for Marek to call… etc.
In a turn of events that can only be described as “bizarre” because a more appropriate word for such mind-bending levels of illogicality has yet to be invented, the makers of Londyńczycy have come under severe attack in Poland for wanting to sell the series abroad. According to Uzar News “The National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) does not want to permit the series Londyńczycy (Londoners) being broadcast on foreign TV stations. ” Why? Because: “Polish ex-pats claimed that the series features Polish people involved in quarrels, selling drugs and marital infidelity.”
I can, in fact, confirm that British people never imagine Poles in Poland getting involved in quarrels, selling drugs and committing adultery. This is for much the same reason that we never think about pebbles in the South China Sea being wet; namely because its bleedin’ obvious. Do these people seriously believe the rest of the world imagines Poland to be an earthly paradise where oaths are never uttered, fidelities never broken, and drugs freely distributed under some government joy scheme? Pressing the issue a little further would it be unfair of me to point out that this is a series about the real life phenomenon of Poles living in London? That being the city in the United Kingdom where lots of Poles and an even larger number of non-Poles live, in real life. Presumably the logic behind this objection is that nobody in London has so far noticed the Poles living amongst them or, if they have, haven’t so far cottoned on to the fact that they are human beings like the rest of us.
I have nothing to say about this that you couldn’t already imagine me saying.