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Polish Stories Project: Meet CCSU Student Krzysztof Pawlikowski

Catie Talarski
Krzysztof Pawlikowski at CCSU's Polish Studies Program archive room in the school's library.
"All my friends who are still in Poland, they finished school, but there's no jobs there."
Krzysztof Pawilkowski

Krzysztof Pawlikowski lives in Middletown, Connecticut, but was born in Poland in 1989. His parents won the state department visa lottery, so they traveled from their home in Zakopane to the United States in 1995. 

Pawlikowski remembers the ride to Warsaw on his way to the U.S. when he was five years old. "It was like a 12 hour bus ride," he said. "I remember getting off the airplane and just driving from JFK to Middletown. I didn’t really like it here because it was really hot. We came in June or July. It was so humid…. you don’t know the language; all your friends are in Poland."

Pawlikowski said his family was only planning to stay in the United States for two years, but they’re still here. 

The lottery program makes 50,000 permanent residence visas available to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. based on immigration over the previous five years.

Polish citizens received a larger share of these visas in the years after the fall of communism, and were eventually taken off the list of eligible countries. According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than 17,000 visas were issued to Polish citizens in 1994, as opposed to 2,800 in 2004.

Poland recently became re-eligible for visa lottery in 2013.

Pawlikowski is now in his final year at CCSU, studying networking information technology. He also works full-time for his dad's business in Middletown. He tries to visit Poland every few years. "All my friends who are still in Poland, they finished school, but there’s no jobs there, so they are all either in England or Germany," he said. "We’re educating the youth for free, and exporting everybody to the rest of Europe." 

Listen below to some of Pawlikowski's story: 

This story is part of WNPR's Polish Stories Project. Find out more.

Catie Talarski is Senior Director of Storytelling and Radio Programming at Connecticut Public.

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