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Martyna Flemming
Martyna Flemming ©Ania Liesting

Polish Women

Many Polish women are house slaves

Martyna Flemming (43), Author and labor migrant from Poland

“I have a sister a few years older. The way we live our lives is completely different. She has devoted her life to raising her children, the household and taking care of her husband. That’s her choice, but not mine. I had my own dance school in Krakow in my native Poland, I lived near the Arctic Circle in Bodo, Norway, I worked for the Cypriot mafia in Cyprus, because in the beginning I didn’t know who I was working for. I took part in more than a dozen TV game shows and for two years I lived off my earnings from those shows. I have changed residence more than 40 times. I have had more than 35 professions, which have given me many skills and now doors open more easily for me. My personal life was also turbulent: I was married, I had several long-term relationships, I am the mother of a deceased child. I have written five books about my life. And I’m only 43 years old. I always live like there is no tomorrow. I am addicted to adrenaline, I get bored very easily and I am anxious. I also don’t think I have the courage or the desire to settle down. My sister chose to settle down. But there were times when she wasn’t happy, when she wondered if this was the life she wanted, if she’d married the right man. I have often advised her to choose for herself and leave with the kids. She didn’t dare, she didn’t have enough self-confidence and courage to take that step, she is afraid of changes. She has been at home for 10 years. I think: what a waste of your life. That applies to many women in Poland. They are modern house slaves, their lives revolve around serving their husbands.

I respect the women who fight for their position and rights in Poland. I think it’s great that they aren’t tired of fighting yet. It does not yield much yet, not much changes in Poland. And yet they continue their struggle.

Am I a femme fatale or feminist? The second certainly not. I know too many women who call themselves feminists, but who complain that their husbands don’t give them flowers, that their husbands don’t pull the chair for them in a restaurant, that their physical weakness is not recognized. You don’t have to be a feminist to become empowered. Women in the Netherlands are much more emancipated than women in Poland. Polish women often have two jobs: at work and at home. Because Polish men who find out that their wives do everything for them often don’t help at home. It is deeply rooted in the culture of my country. Boys grow up knowing that all they have to do is make money, girls are raised to be perfect, to serve men, to be beautiful, not to whine, to babysit and to take care of the house. A married Pole lives longer than a Polish bachelor, because his wife does a lot for him. A Polish woman who has a man takes on more responsibilities. They have a harder life than when they are alone. Polish women ignore each other too often. I refuse to live like this. I live as I want, not as I should.”

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