November 28, 2022

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Sofia Ciel

I had to change my name to get an apartment – NRK Culture and Entertainment

– I knew that there were many stereotypes about the Poles, but I did not know how they worked in practice, says art critic Sophia Seale.

Ciel means sky in French. Recently, it changed from having a Polish name to a French-inspired version.

When she first came to Norway in 2020, she used her Polish name. Then the epidemic broke out, and the crowded gathering did not subside.

This led to the search for an apartment for a Finn for which Ciel was not ready.

A month passed without an answer. I asked a friend to check my Norwegian, but he responded instead to the fact that I used my real Polish name for Finnish users. “Everyone knows,” he said, “but nobody says it out loud, that you simply have to change your name.”

Ciel changes Finn’s name to a more Scandinavian-sounding name.

Then I got an answer like that, she says, and flicked her fingers.

Disguised racism

Poles make up the largest immigrant group in Norway. Statistics from Statistics Norway show that about 115,000 Poles live in Norway today.

– Poles are often referred to as cheap labor and petty criminals, with fake Covid certificates. We only hear about them, not from them, author and sociologist Ewa Sabzynska says.

Author Ewa Sabizinska describes her book as a letter of concern and a declaration of love for Norway.

Photo: Linda Burnan Engelbreth

Based on her own experience and that of thirty other Poles in Norway, she has just published the book I’m not your pole.

The author himself also suffered from discrimination in the housing market.

– The neighbors sent a letter to the landlord asking her to remove my family name from the mailbox. They wrote that my title might cause the prices of other apartments to drop. Sabzynska says she was a disguised racist.

Sapiezynska describes the book as a disturbing message, with the main theme shedding light on challenges that many do not believe apply to this group.

Poles are not the most discriminated against in Norway. She just says we didn’t talk about it much before.

Iowa Sabizinska

Author Ewa Sapiezynska lacks Polish voices in the public debate in Norway, but she hopes her book will bring more voices forward and move forward.

Photo: Linda Burnan Engelbreth

– He gets a little attention

– Norway’s new blacks are Polish, says Akhenaten de Leon, leader of the Offentleg Organization MOT Discrimination (OMOD).

Through OMOD, he met people from Poland who don’t feel believable when they talk about racism, mainly because they are white.

Skin color is one of the reasons for discrimination. Those who are white skip this extra dimension. But they are discriminated against anyway, and this has been the case since it opened up to immigration from Eastern Europe. This can be seen, for example, in poor working conditions.

in This year’s FAFO reportNearly half of immigrants reported having experienced discrimination in the past year, mainly in working life and partly in the housing market. Somali immigrants are the most discriminated against, and Polish immigrants the least.

As a large group, Poles have great potential to influence public debate. This is a process and things take time, but it’s going in the right direction, says de Leon.

He wasn’t surprised by the mailbox story, and he’s heard several similar stories of residents in housing associations agreeing not to rent to immigrants for fear of falling housing prices.

More people should tell their story

For the past three months, Seal has been looking for a new apartment. This time she not only changed Fen’s name, but also officially changed it.

– I want to avoid the problems you have in getting a name from Eastern Europe, says Seal.

She holds a PhD from Poland, but is constantly asked if it is as good as a Norwegian PhD. She is also aware of the stereotypes raised by Sapiezynska.

– It’s tiring to look like this.

I wrote about my Fenn experience in an article for Morgonbladet magazine.

It is rare for one to show significant racism or discrimination. One can tell of one’s experiences, as Kamara Lundestad Joff does I talk about it all the time Or Johan Shanmugaratnam I We are still breathing. And to bring about change, it takes more people to tell their stories.

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