polish caregiver

A Polish Caregiver



chance caregiver support (2)
worry situation around the clock
routine cheer (2) spend/spent/spent (2)
bond take care pass away
turn up memory handle (2)
relief dynamic upside down
day off situation personal hygiene
wool better off take the opportunity
screen dementia exhausting
hope clear (3) exhausted
stop by remind dependable
tend point (4) caring (2)
tender optimism assistance
cope head off seek/sought/sought
bake sign (3) company (2)
advice feasible look after
glad space (2) price to pay (2)
retire content head back
mood highlight pick her up (3)
couch outskirt square (3)
dialysis journey spruce up
habit swing (2) swing of things
tired patience homesick
pray crowded monastery
kidney strength recognize
accept torn (2) attend (2)






Adolf Faulhammer suffers from dementia. Donata Ponishtera is his caregiver.

Donata: “I miss my family; but it is what it is. I need money for medication and to support myself.”

Donata is from Czestochowa in Poland. Eastern European caregivers are in great demand in Germany, like here in Wernau in the southwest of the country.

That’s because few Germans want such low-paying jobs; it’s good money for Donata — but she only goes home to Poland every few months.

Donata attends to Adolf practically around the clock, which means he can keep living at home.

Adolf has had a good night’s sleep. Donata is an experienced caregiver: she helps him with all of his everyday needs with patience and good cheer.

Donata: “I’ve been at his side for six years now, almost seven. We know each other very well. I always spend three months in Germany and one in Poland.

That’s just how it is.”

The caregiving routine has created a strong bond.

Adolf seems content. The eighty year old once worked for the railway. He bought his house, started a family, had two children.

Then his wife passed away.

Five years ago, he began showing signs of dementia. His daughter Bergen often stops by for a visit.

Bergen, Daughter: “How is everything?”
Donata: “Thank goodness, everything’s fine.”
Donata and Bergen handle the paperwork and everything else Adolf needs. The memory loss has turned his life upside down.

Bergen, Daughter: “He used to be full of energy, athletic, dynamic and helpful. And now he needs help himself. That’s something you have to get used to.

It’s so hard; I could never do this.

You can tell he doesn’t like it, and that would make it hard for me.”

Donata has everything under control; much to Bergen’s relief.

Bergen: “Before Donata was here, I had to take care of him for a few days, and I found myself in some impossible situations: I had to take care of his personal hygiene — I couldn’t do it.

Now that Donata is here to look after him, I don’t have to do it myself. She can’t manage everything, of course, like when my father falls down the steps, but at least he is living at home, which is really important to us.

I don’t think my father recognizes me anymore, but that’ just how it is.

You recognize my face, right? I’m Bergen, right?”

Adolf Faulhammer: “Yep.”

Bergen: “You know that I’m Bergen, right? I’m Birget.”

Donata takes the opportunity to Skype with her husband, Leszek. The conversations, seeing him is important for her, even if it’s just on the computer screen.

She’s also hoping to get a chance to talk to her three children and two grandchildren.

But today, Adolf keeps her busy.

It’s an exhausting job; and she’s already 55 years old herself.

The cake is a highlight of Adolf’s day.

But it’s not clear just how much longer he’ll be able to live at home.

Donata turns up the music. It reminds her of life in Poland and her husband

Donata: “I used to dance with my husband often. He was a good dancer, but not anymore.

It was a great time.”

Those days are in the past. Now Donata spends most of her time in Germany.

Adolf’s son Jurge stops by for a visit.

Being outdoors and tending to the garden brings the family together.

Jurge: “We can’t take care of our father ourselves because he needs around the clock assistance. That’s hard to do when you’ve got a regular day job.

Donata is very warm and caring as she tends to father. Bergen and I wouldn’t be that tender even though, or maybe because, he’s our own father.”

Then it’s time to say their goodbyes.

The next day, Adolphe and Donata are heading to Yolanda’s Wool Shop. It’s become an important meeting point for Polish caregivers in Wernau.

Yolanda helps connect German families with Polish caregivers. They’re highly sought after, which is good business for Yolanda. The regular meeting also helps the caregivers cope with feeling homesick. And Adolf enjoys the company.

Polish Caregiver Customer: “We meet practically every second or third day; sometimes every day. Donata is dependable: she looks after Adolf. We Polish women cook, clean, bake . . . we do everything.”

At Yolanda’s, the caregivers also get practical help and advice.

Adolf Faulhammer is better off than many elderly Germans who need care. He’s able to keep living at home; that’s not financially feasible for many families. And many don’t have the space at home.

It’s a good job for Donata, though being away from her family for months is a high price to pay.

Donata: “I’m tired, that’s true: I work a lot every day, and I miss my family. But that’s how it is: I need the money for medication, for my life, my apartment.

But I’m glad when I go home and see my husband and children. She spent almost three months here without a single day off.

Now, she’s heading back to Poland.

Donata: “You take care of yourself; don’t forget to eat and drink. Take care of yourself.”

Some two-hundred thousand (200,000) East European women work as caregivers in Germany today. Many of them are old enough to retire themselves.

Donata is just one of many Polish caregivers on the bus.

They’re exhausted, but happy to be heading home.

After a seventeen (17) hour bus journey, Donata has reached Czestochowa. Her older son, Patrick, is there to pick her up.

Donata’s family lives on the outskirts of the city. Four people in a fifty-five (55) square meter apartment.

Her son Alexander is on the couch.

At first, he’s not in a very welcoming mood: his mother has been gone for three months. But the apartment has been spruced up, and the dog is happy to greet her.

Finally, her husband Leszek returns home. He’s been on dialysis Leszek like Adolf in Germany suffers from kidney disease.

Slowly, family life gets back into the swing of things.

Out of habit, Donata speaks to her husband in German. It takes some getting used to being back in Poland.

Donata: “My husband’s tired because he’s had a five-hour dialysis session.

But everything’s fine.”

Later, they head off for a walk in the countryside — just the two of them.

For a few hours, they leave their worries behind.

Donata: “I feel very happy when I’m here. I love this place. It’s not too crowded and it’s so quiet.”

Whenever she’s back in Czestochowa, Donata visits Jasna Gora Monastery to pray.

Donata: “I go to the monastery and thank God that I made it back to Poland in good health, that the journey went well, and that my family is doing well. I get my strength and energy from God.”

Despite her strength and optimism, she feels torn. But Donata accepts this situation as it is.


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1. Mr. Faulhammer is an “ordinary” senior citizen. True of false? Can he take care of himself? What might have caused his condition?

2. Is Donata a local? Is she German? Why is she looking after Mr. Faulhammer in Wernau, Germany?

3. His son and daughter do not care for him because they don’t love him. Is this right or wrong? Why do East Europeans, and not Germans, look after elderly people?

4. Is caring for Mr. Faulhammer easy or difficult? Is Donata frustrated or enthusiastic about her work? Does she work Monday to Friday, eight hours a day?

5. Donata is working in Germany so she can marry a German man and buy a BMW. Is this correct or incorrect?

6. Do Donata and her Polish compatriots meet in bars, cafes and clubs?

7. Donata travels with German tourists to Poland on a train. Yes or no?

8. Is her husband a construction worker? Do they live in a family home in the suburbs?

9. What does Donata do in her hometown? Does she feel entirely happy, mostly happy, have mixed feelings, feel rather sad or depressed?


A. There are migrant workers in my country. Yes or no? If yes, where do they come from? What sort of jobs do they do?

B. Do people from your country work abroad? Where do they go and what do they typically do?

C. Describe the economic situation, the labor market and attitudes among local people.

D. What happens when people retire and grow old?

E. What might happen in the future?

F. Should people and the government do anything?

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