Karolina Skrobotowicz, owner of the Unique Estate Company.

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How long have you been in Russia?

We have been here for seven years, although it feels like a really short time. Time seems to have gone very quickly.

Why did you come here?

Like almost all expat women, it was my husband who got a job here. Three years ago I started a real estate company, which specialises in renting apartments and houses for expats. I work mostly with Polish and French clients as I have dual nationality.

Do you like it here?

It was quite tough at the beginning when I saw that not so many people are smiling, but I met some foreigners who have lived here for a long time and they said the same thing about the Polish when they went to Poland! There are little things; one of the things I personally find difficult is that you don’t find any local airlines. Easyjet is coming but I don’t think that €250 is an awful lot off the ordinary fare. The other thing is that it’s not easy to send things here. For example, I wanted to send a new carpet here but I couldn’t because it’s so expensive. But in general I am fine here, I like it.

Is the weather very different from in Poland?

Here the winter is longer. In Poland we usually have a really long Indian summer, which can last until the end of October or the beginning of November. Here at the end of August suddenly you’re coming into long periods of rain. So for us, it is really a must to go for a long vacation during the winter, and then everything is okay.

You have had children here?

We have had two children; one of them was born here. I was a bit afraid of having my oldest child here, so I went to Paris for the birth. I was encouraged by my friends to have my daughter here, and frankly speaking it was wonderful. It was also very expensive.

Do you feel that you’ve changed living in Russia so long?

I think I’ve changed a bit, I’ve become a little bit more global in the way that I think. I have started to think not only about myself, but also about how to do good for other people. Of course my business is not a charity, but I have decided that I really want to help to create better communication between Polish people who live here. I found that it was quite easy to do that because the Poles living here are quite homogenous. So with a little effort from a few of us, we managed to create something worthwhile quite easily.

What’s sort of things do you organise?

We have our business club, which I was the president of for two years. I had to stop doing that when I started my own business because of lack of time. Now, I help organise a Polish Social Club with some friends. Basically we get together on the last Friday of each month and have a few beers. Then I created a Polish language Internet site called: www.wielkamoskwa.ru, which is full of practical information like how to find a hairdresser, a plumber, ideas for gifts, lists of events and so on.

For the past 6 months, we have been holding meetings for Polish women, which we hold in the mornings. We have a facebook page and we meet every month. We then started holding business meetings for polish girls also once a month. This has been going really well and we have 40 or 50 participants.

We also organize our own carnival gala dinner every year, which is our main social event of the year. Most of the participants are Polish. We have already held four such events. It’s always at the beginning of the year, during the last weekend before the Easter fast begins. We always have a Polish DJ who comes from Poland, and we dance our national dance, the Polonaise, which is really lovely. Your heart sings when you see 60 couples dancing the Polanaise, it’s wonderful!

Many of these events and many others have been organised with the help of our embassy. All of the people around the ambassador and his wife, who are unfortunately leaving Moscow, have been really wonderful.

How many Polish expats do you think there are now in Russia?

The Polish embassy does not hold such records so I can’t tell you officially, but I can say from my Internet page, that there are about 1,000 Poles living here who you could call expats. Poland is only a two-hour flight away, so there are a lot of other people – I think about 500 – who come here for a few days and then go back.

Is there a Polish school in Moscow?

We used to have a full-time Polish school, now we have a part-time school where they teach Polish, history and religion; as 90% of Poles are Catholics.
Is there a Polish church in Moscow? There is a Catholic cathedral on Bolshaya Gruzinskaya, there are two services on Sundays in Polish.

How do you see the future working out for Poles in Moscow?

I think the political relationship between Poland and Russia is quite tough but on a social level things are fine. As a Polish girl, I have never had any negative reaction from Russians. They are very nice, and they say I have a very cool accent when I speak Russian. I think it’s a pity that there aren’t so many Polish companies coming here but there are reasons such as the costs involved in opening a company here.