‘It was hard leaving my sons behind’
Polish-born Alla Pashynska moved to North Staffordshire in 2001 to work as a teacher. Now the owner of VIP Clinic and living in Hartshill, she tells Jenny Amphlett the highs and lows of moving to a new country and starting again
Back in 2001 I was running a bar and weighing up whether I wanted to move to Germany or the UK. I wasn't as fluent in German as I am in English, but the decision was made for me by a friend I had made from Staffordshire.
He said there was a shortage of teachers in the UK and, as I had trained as a teacher, I decided to come over and give it a go.
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I moved to Stone, as that was where he was from, and got myself a job working behind a bar.
I enrolled on a six month 'returners' course for teachers, and was soon working as a supply teacher during the day and at the bar in the evenings.
It was important to me to stand on my own two feet from the beginning.
You can't just come to this country and claim what you can from the system. You can't expect everyone else to pay for the way you live.
While I was still working as a supply teacher I set up a travel business concentrating on Eastern and Central Europe, which expanded into people travelling to those areas for medical treatments.
I've since been featured in various magazines and appeared on Inside Out on BBC1.
When you are in your own country you are more relaxed, whereas being in a different country gives you a bit of a kick.
You are on your own so you have to make a success of things. It is all about making an effort.
Every time you overcome an obstacle it makes you even stronger and makes you want to do even more. An obstacle is a challenge for me.
I like North Staffordshire because of the people. They're absolutely amazing and very supportive.
I never expected English people to be so funny. I always thought they would be more reserved.
I've got some absolutely amazing English friends here, and I honestly don't feel any different to them.
I think I have more friends than some people who were born here, but that is down to my personality as well.
My business has now expanded into the VIP Clinic, offering health treatments at the M Club at Festival Park and in Hartshill.
I've done a foundation degree for start-up businesses at Staffordshire University and have invested in treatment machines costing £80,000 plus.
I have embraced change and business is going well. My clients now include high profile people such as the Stoke city player Jonathan Walters.
I go on business trips quite a lot and I find myself missing North Staffordshire as it is my home now. I wouldn't move anywhere else.
I miss my family. My two sons are both grown up now, 24 and 26, and live in Poland, and my home is here in the UK. We communicate a lot, but we are in different countries.They were teenagers when I moved to the UK in 2001.
I had experienced marital problems and it was the best way forward.
They both work in IT and one of my sons earns more than I do now.
It is possible to earn a good living in Poland if you work hard and have the right job.
They rarely come over to the UK to visit as they are very busy with their work.
I see them when I go back to Poland on business trips, although sometimes I'm in a different part of the country and it isn't possible.
Most of the time we communicate on the phone. We do talk a lot.
I lost my parents when I was still a student and had to learn to be very independent and cope on my own. My sons are very independent too.
Some parents don't give their children independence and then those children struggle to cope without them. My sons have achieved a lot for their age.
Not having them with me was the only thing that was hard about moving to the UK really. But you have to be tough.
You can't just sit around thinking about it. You have to get on with what is happening here.
Coming here was really pushing myself.
When I was working as a supply teacher when I first moved to the area a pupil once said to me that she wished I was her mum.
It turned out that even though they lived together her mum never spoke to her as she was always on the telephone or watching the TV. It's about more than living in the same space.
I speak fluent English and haven't experienced any prejudice here because I am Polish.
My friends are all English and I don't really know any Polish people here. I don't feel any different to English people.
I had one bad experience with a Polish man who wanted me to do some translation into English for him.
He was trying to use the system to get money and I told him that I was ashamed he was Polish.
I can't stand people like that, but then there are people like that in every country.
If you come to a country you have to accept absolutely everything.
You can have an opinion, but that is it. You have to take on board the traditions, customs, everything.
North Staffordshire accents took a bit of getting used to for the first few months.
I don't call people 'duck', but if they say it to me then that is fine. My friends joke that I say some words in a Stoke accent now.