Dubai: An 82-year-old homeless Polish woman is leaving the country this weekend with a heavy heart.
Teresa Godlewska, an art consultant who came to the UAE 34 years ago, said: “I am embarrassed and ashamed that I am leaving this beautiful country as a destitute. I have spent 45 years in the Middle East, 34 in the UAE alone, and even if I had saved Dh100 every month, I would have had close to Dh1 million today. So as I say goodbye, I want to appeal to all expats not to make the same mistakes I have. Please, please save money for a rainy day or you will end up destitute like me.”
In August last year, the octogenarian had appealed for help in these columns when XPRESS readers readily reached out to her. With the help she received, she renewed her trade licence. An art gallery owner even offered her a guest room at Bastakiya free of cost. “But it’s all over now.”
Godlewska, who ran an antiques, restoration and framing boutique called Tarmeem World, has an investor’s visa valid till 2016 and a driving licence that expires in 2022. “But what am I going to do with them?” she asked. “I even sold my 20-year-old car for Dh2,000.”
Unlike the last time, Godlewska made no appeal for help. “I am at a dead-end and it looks like I must resign myself to my miserable fate.”
She said a friend had bought her a one-way ticket to Warsaw. “I have no place to live in my homeland and no family to ask for help.”
She said she has no idea how she will survive in Poland. “I will not be entitled to any pension. The only concession I might receive is free transport but that’s if I am in the city. In 1952, I worked with a Polish TV channel which marked its 60th anniversary last year. I wonder if they would be interested in me now. I am good at languages and can converse in English, German, French, Italian, Turkish and some Arabic. I hope I get an opportunity to take lessons.”
A child of the Second World War, Godlewska said her life has been embattled in more ways than one. “I have had a bad marriage and have been disowned by my family. Many in my community have shunned me because I begged for help and portrayed the community in poor light. But Dubai has made me a survivor.”
She said the optimist in her is still hoping for a miracle.
“My health is fantastic at 82 because God knows I cannot afford to take ill. I feel privileged that I have seen a country develop from sands and dunes to the magical world it is today. I have had great times in the UAE, met some wonderful people and done charity work too.”
As she reluctantly prepared to fly back, she said: “The weather in Poland is beautiful now. But I dread the winter and hope I don’t freeze to death. I wish I can be back in Dubai before then.”