They came for a better life and found it, and found people to be welcoming. They have no desire to go “home”, as Boston is now home.
These were the real-life experiences of two people from Lithuania delivered by them to a sharing and learning event held by Inclusive Boston. Inclusive Boston is a partnership project to promote community cohesion and is entering its second year. It brings together a range of projects that aim to promote cohesion and address some of the issues migration has had locally.
Even when “chat show” host Ivan Annibal invited comment on any negativity they had experienced Irena and Jurate only pointed to language difficulties, stressing that learning English was the key to opening doors and overcoming “instability” such as dependence on unskilled seasonal work at slack times.
Irena Sereicikiene came to Boston from Lithuania 15 years ago, initially for a holiday to visit her sister, and stayed. She told the meeting, called to discuss the first year of activity by Inclusive Boston partners, that she did not speak a word of English.
An accountant in Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital city, she worked hard to learn English and for her first 13 years in Boston worked for a recruitment agency. She now works for BLIC (Bringing Learning Into Communities) as a languages teacher.
With Ivan acting as a self-confessed Michael Parkinson, Irena said: “Boston is my home. Language is the key to everything – it opens doors and builds confidence.”
Those in attendance heard that the children of those who came to Boston from Eastern Europe, most in search of work and a better life, are now the driving force for integration.
Irena said her daughter has just graduated from Leeds University and although she goes to Lithuania to visit grandparents, she has no plans to leave England for good.
Jurate Matulioniene, a self-employed English language teacher, said there is now a Lithuanian population in Boston of 10,000. She said her three children now consider themselves more British than Lithuanian. She came to Boston after her husband had already settled to help relatives run a shop here.
She said: “We wanted an education for the children and imagined something magical in England. We made new friends and people are friendly – we like the politeness and beautiful manners.”
She said they had made efforts to ensure their children could speak Lithuanian and learned about the traditions and culture so they would be prepared should they wish to go back, but they had no desire to do so.
Both told of skilled people from Eastern Europe trapped in menial jobs because of language difficulties – doctors and vets working on a line in a factory who had so much more to offer.
Speakers included Andy Fisher, head of regulatory services at Boston Borough Council, Dr Ruth McAreavey, senior lecturer in sociology at Newcastle University, Ivan Annibal, of Rose Regeneration, Liz Price, of the University of Lincoln, Maddy Eyre, local communities development officer at Boston Borough Council, and David Fanning, chief executive of Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service.
They, and an audience of representatives from Boston Borough Council, Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Sservice, Christmas in Boston, BLIC, Boston More in Common, MP Matt Warman’s office, The Parish of Boston, Big Lottery and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government discussed the first year’s activities, benefits and the way forward for the next year.
Host Ivan Annibal with his interview guests, Irena, left, and Jurate.