On the first flight out of new Europe, Eddie faces the UK with apprehension

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The Independent Online

The first flight out of Krakow into the new Europe was a difficult one for Eddie. Nervous about going to work abroad, he was sad at having to leave his family behind. And he was very hungover.

The first flight out of Krakow into the new Europe was a difficult one for Eddie. Nervous about going to work abroad, he was sad at having to leave his family behind. And he was very hungover.

Eddie had been partying hard to celebrate becoming a citizen of the EU. The plane was leaving early in the morning yesterday and he had hardly slept. "We start again," said the 41-year-old. "Myself and my country."

Eddie was not his real name and he would not be photographed. "I do not need the trouble. I am going to work with my cousin now, as a painter. He has been in England for many years. After his permit [ran out]."

A few hours earlier, on the stroke of midnight, the cousin's status had become legal. Eddie was free to join him. But others on the flight were equally cautious about being identified, as though they did not really believe anything had changed.

''Yes, we believe it," said a woman in her 20s travelling to see her boyfriend, a builder, in Coventry. "But we are Poles. We want to get on without attention."

Eddie's mother waved from the viewing gallery as we walked across the tarmac at the John Paul II International Airport, but her son just looked up through dark glasses and nodded, slightly. It was not like the old days. He would be back soon. "I can come and go now."

There was sorrow in his leaving, however. His wife and daughter were also waving goodbye. Eddie was off to work abroad because his own business had collapsed, "thanks to dirty tax laws".

Earlier that morning he had been in the Rynek Glowny, the main square of Krakow, along with several thousand other people for the accession celebrations. To an outsider it had seemed subdued: no countdown to midnight, no hugging, no cheering. The bells of St Mary's Church rang early, just before midnight. On the stroke of every hour a trumpeter played the "Hejnal", a mournful tune said to have been blown to warn the people of the city that they were being attacked by the Tatars yet again in the 1200s. As 1 May approached, his notes became Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", the European anthem. Unfortunately, hardly anyone could hear him. "Typical," said a man in the dark. "When something is public in Poland it sucks."

In a bar on the corner of the square, a young man was trying to explain what it all meant. "This is the end for us of 60 years of history. From 1943, when Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin carved these lands up, through the Soviet era and all our troubles, up to the present day, all this has gone. That is a great feeling."

At Gatwick airport a few hours later Eddie was able to walk through the EU Customs channel. "History has taught us to be careful," he said. "Not so long ago we had money but there was nothing in the shops. Now the shops are full in Poland but we have no money. So I am here. We will have to see what happens."

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