ROZHGAR Sharif sums up just how cosmopolitan Huddersfield has become.
He’s a refugee from Iraq who has set up a business in Huddersfield to cater for the tastes of another community – the Poles.
The 27-year-old set up the Wisla Supermarket on John William Street in Huddersfield town centre last year to serve the town’s 1,000-strong Polish community.
Rozhgar used to work at a bacon factory in Doncaster.
He hails from Kurdistan, came to Britain in 2002, and studied English in Scunthorpe.
He also worked in a Polish shop in Doncaster.
“I live in Fartown and really like the Polish people in Huddersfield,’’ he said. “They’re very friendly and the shop is important to them.”
Rozhgar – who employs three part-time members of staff – is very aware of the size and significance of the Polish community in Huddersfield.
“I saw this as an opportunity,” he said.
“It’s a cash and carry business and I quickly realised the market for a Polish shop.”
But Rozhgar has not been working alone. He’s been accompanied by his girlfriend Ewelina – who just happens to be Polish – and business partner, Piewant Ahmad.
“We met through the Polish shop I worked at in Doncaster,” said Rozhgar.
In general, he is pleased with his business initiative.
“I became aware of the size of the Polish community in Huddersfield and opened the shop. We are open 9am to 10pm and it’s pretty constant.
“We obviously get a lot of Polish people in the shop. I’d say it’s 60% Polish.
“We get some English and also a significant number of Lithuanian and Latvian people.”
The supermarket’s name, Wisla, is a reference to the longest river in Poland, the Vistula which is Wisla in Polish.
The Wisla winds its way from the Beskidy mountains in the south to the Bay of Gdansk in the north.
Overall, it is 1,047 kilometres (678 miles) long.
The Vistula has its source in the south of the country, at Barania Góra (1220m high) in the Silesian Beskids western part of Carpathian Mountains.
It then continues to flow over the vast Polish plains, passing several large Polish cities along its way, including Cracow, Sandomierz, Warsaw, Plock, Wloclawek, Torun, Bydgoszcz, Swiecie, Grudziadz, Tczew and Gdansk.
It finally flows directly into the Gdansk Bay of the Baltic Sea.
Back in Huddersfield, things are looking good.
“We sell around 3,000 products,” said Rozhgar. “Food, drink, soups, sauces, meats, everything.
“A big seller for us is Polish alcohol. That’s very popular. Particularly Polish beer.”
Huddersfield’s Polish population is not concentrated in one particular area – but rather spread out around the town.
Recent years have seen an increase in Polish immigration into Britain.
According to one website the 2001 UK Census recorded 60,711 Polish-born people resident in the UK.
With the migration that has followed Poland’s entry into the EU, the Polish-born population in the whole of the UK is estimated to have risen to 515,000 in the year to March 2010.
Unofficial estimates have put the number of Poles living in the UK higher, at up to one million.
The main hub of the London Polish community is Hammersmith in west London, as well as Ealing, Balham, Enfield and Haringey.
Many towns and cities in the UK have long established and relatively large Polish communities, most notably London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham.
Other communities exist in locations such as Leicester, Slough, Reading and Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire.
Rozhgar also has plans for the future: “I want to have a bigger shop, probably on the same site, just bigger,” he said. “The demand is there.
“I’ve got loyal customers and the shop is important to them.”