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East-to-West Migration Remaking Europe

Janis Neulans, 39, a laborer from eastern Latvia, rides the train from suburban Dublin into the city to have his rsum typed. He arrived in Ireland with high hopes for a job but little money.
Janis Neulans, 39, a laborer from eastern Latvia, rides the train from suburban Dublin into the city to have his rsum typed. He arrived in Ireland with high hopes for a job but little money. (By Kevin Sullivan -- The Washington Post)

The Latvian contact, Oleg Ribakov, 38, who works as a truck driver, does show up. It's 2:30 in the morning when he meets Neulans and Novikov by the baggage carousel. He drives them to a four-bedroom house shared by 10 new immigrants, mostly Latvians. The tidy brick townhouse is in the western Dublin suburb of Lucan, a numbing sprawl of nearly identical new housing developments -- dull prose in a city of poetry, the back office of Ireland's economic boom.

Ribakov shows them to their room upstairs. It has two mattresses and no sheets or pillows, but it's clean and warm. Neulans's blue eyes are ringed with red. He's asleep in minutes.

He's up by 8 a.m. and chats with the other Latvians in the house as they head to jobs as drivers and construction workers. No one knows of any job openings.

Tatjana Belova, a cheerful Latvian woman who arrived three months ago, hands him a copy of the Dublin Infocenter newspaper, which is filled with want ads in Russian, Polish, Latvian and Lithuanian: Driver. Mechanic. Carpenter. Halal butcher.

Neulans sits on a torn green leather couch in the living room and scribbles numbers. He'll settle for anything decent. Belova helps the two newcomers write their own ad: "Latvian men, 39 and 47, willing to work construction jobs. Urgent." She punches the ad into her cell phone and texts it to the newspaper.

There's a knock at the door. The Russian-speaking property manager wants the first week's rent, about $78 per person. Neulans hands over the cash.

They walk half an hour to Lidl, the closest grocery store. Neulans looks quizzically at free-range eggs and sunscreen. He thumbs a pack of chicken. Too expensive. He buys a loaf of bread, some cheddar cheese and a bottle of diet cola.

Neulans wants a cigarette but can't afford them until he finds work. "If you don't have a job, you don't have any fun," he says.

'Sorry, No Jobs'

Over the next week, Neulans makes dozens of calls answering want ads. He walks endlessly through industrial parks knocking on doors. He goes to a private employment agency, but it demands a fee of $1,100. He keeps trying on his own but everywhere he goes, employers want his curriculum vitae, or CV -- his rsum. So he tries to write one: "I some speak English. I very want work at you."

He shows it to Belova. She frowns, then helps him write one that describes him as "accurate, reliable, hard-working." Neulans wants it typed up to impress the document-happy Irish, so he hops onto a double-decker 25A bus for the 45-minute ride into the city center. He gazes out at the River Liffey as the bus rolls past the Guinness brewery and onto O'Connell Street, the heart of Dublin.

At the Access Internet Cafe, a clerk named Michael Martin types up Neulans's rsum and, without being asked, spruces up the English and embellishes a bit -- Neulans is now "enthusiastic" and a "team player."

"The Irish have been all over the world looking for work," Martin says. "We know what it's like."


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