By Barbara Uciechowska
All names, places and events are NOT coincidental. This is a true story.
“Sometimes someone unexpectedly comes into your life and changes your life forever” – Inspiring quote from the internet.
It was the beginning of 2020 and I just came back to my hometown Gdańsk, after an unsuccessful attempt to live abroad in the UK. I was looking for a job, so my brother suggested applying for a call centre in Gdynia. Dealing with electric bills and selling solar panels to random people was never my thing, but due to a lack of other options, I scheduled an appointment for an interview. A few days later I started the three-week training and met a lot of nice people. This is when I became certain that I would stick to this job for a longer time.
One day after training I was heading home. It was a beautiful day, with birds singing and flowers blooming, despite it only being February and still being able to feel the cold winds hitting my naked ankles. My mom told me earlier that it was too soon to wear trainers, but I wanted to feel the spring.
I had a bag of sweets in my purse. The vanilla-strawberry ones, which are dipped in dark chocolate. They were never my favourite sweets, but I just felt like taking them that day. It was like how you sometimes wake up and say “Today it’s pistachio ice cream day”, even though usually chocolate is your favourite flavour. You’ll buy pistachio and later find out that it was the best decision ever.
A group of tourists
I got on the train and was lucky enough to find a free spot with four seats, where it’s two pairs of seats facing each other. I sat down near the window and started listening to my favourite songs while admiring the view of the cities and forests I was passing by. A few stops went by quietly, until a group of tourists entered the train. They took seat everywhere in the wagon and started talking loudly in a language I couldn’t recognise, let alone understand.
I didn’t notice that one of the people took a seat right in front of me, as I was too busy observing the group of foreigners making fun of the Polish language by trying to read out words from a magazine. ”Pasztet” (Pâté) and “maślanka” (buttermilk) were the funniest words in the world to them and I had fun listening to their failed attempts to pronounce “kiełbasa morlińska” (sausage). It’s always nice to hear someone try to talk in your language.
Eventually, I noticed the man sitting in front of me. I assumed that he wasn’t part of the group of tourists, because nobody else sat there with him. He looked stressed and miserable, like an introvert at a party or someone who had to go to the doctor by himself for the first time. I was still in a great mood though, so I thought “Why not share it?” I gave the man one of the sugar bombs from my purse and started talking about the nice weather and the loud group of tourists
that had just entered the train. He smiled and ate the candy I gave him, but he didn’t say anything besides a quiet “dziękuję” (thank you). I thought that he was just a bit shy, so I continued minding my own business, happy that I probably made his day a little brighter. This is when a small lady unexpectedly came and stood next to us.
The question that would change my life
At this point in time, I had no idea that this lady would soon become one of my best friends and my new boss. “Dzień dobry! I see that you are talking to my colleague!”, she said, gesturing vigorously as she took a seat next to the man who looked even more confused than before. “We came here for a trip with our company and I even know some more Polish words!”. I didn’t have much time to respond, as the lady started saying every word she knew with a surprisingly good accent (well not really, but she will read this so I have to be nice). Unlike before, it was now me that felt like an introvert at the party, almost crushed by her positive energy. Only a few people can accomplish that so easily.
My family has a saying for this kind of people, which can be roughly translated to “firecracker”. It means that a person knows everyone, has friends everywhere and can get anyone excited for anything. They will sneak into your life and then explode with personality and excitement, being able to tell you even the worst jokes on earth and still get you to cry from laughter.
After the lady was done showing off her knowledge of Polish words, I laughingly told her how impressed I was, as her vocabulary at least extended beyond knowing only the most popular Polish curse words. Then out of nowhere, she asked me a question that would change my life forever: “Do you need a job? We are looking for an office manager for our office in Gdynia”. I stared at her for a moment, as if I suddenly didn’t understand or speak English anymore. “Did
she just offer me a job?! Who does that? I am just a stranger on a train!”, I wondered to myself.
“Yes um… actually… I mean…”, I mumbled as I was still processing what she just asked me. “I have a job in a call centre right now, and I don’t really know anything about being a manager”. I realised that this could be one of those once in a lifetime opportunities and that maybe I should just go for it, even if it sounded crazy. I told the lady that I could give it a try, if they would show me what I would have to do. “Great!”, the lady said as her smile somehow became even more vivacious. She promised me that she would support me and that I would have nothing to worry about. We then exchanged email addresses and planned a date for an interview. I also learned her name: Ans Abalain.
Ans briefly left for another wagon before returning with her friend, Dennis Tilgenkamp, who turned out to be the CEO of the company. We talked for a bit about the possibility of hiring me and I again explained that I had no idea what the job is about or what it requires. Before I had to get off the train Ans promised me that she would send me an email to plan the interview.
Signing the contract
I went home excited, but still didn’t really believe that Ans would actually contact me. I thought it was like a “we will call you back” – scenario of which I heard so many times before. My brain just couldn’t process that I just got a pretty good job offer. Out of nowhere. On the train.
When I got home, I told my mom and siblings what happened. At first they didn’t believe me, which didn’t surprise me because I couldn’t believe it either. But after showing them the email they started to laugh about the whole situation and started asking questions about whether it could be a scam. “What if they’re gonna kidnap you?”, “Can you really trust them?”, “It’s impossible that this is a normal job offer”, “There must be a catch”, were some of the concerns that went through our minds.
Luckily our suspicions turned out to be false, as I went to the first interview then a second interview and not much later signed a contract at Marviq. I started working a part-time job at the company without any knowledge or experience.
It’s now been over a year since I started working at Marviq and the part-time job has since then turned into a full-time job. I met a lot of people here, learned more than ever and Ans has become one of my best friends. She supported me, taught me everything and even saved my butt a few times. Sometimes I still can’t believe that one of the first words I said to her was k***a.