Limits of Europe

Limits of Europe

Apolena Rychlíková / Czech Republic, Slovakia & Frankrig / 2024

A prominent Czech journalist leaves her family and joins “cheap labour force” in WesternEurope. Undercover, she works at an asparagus farm in Germany, tries her hand as a maid at a hotel in Ireland and takes care of the elderly in France. She experiences first-hand the struggles of Eastern European low-wage workers whose sacrifice and hard workallow for the Western society’s comfort. What is the real price that Europe pays forexploiting its own citizens? How do the lives of economic migrants, who have been forcedto leave their children and elderly parents, look like? And why are privileged Europeanslooking the other way?

For more than two years, I watched Saša Uhlová, a close friend, mother, girlfriend, daughter and wife, how she throws herself into the migrant experience with empathy and enormous commitment and sensitivity. How she takes on the burden of immigration, finding work through extortion agencies, how she can perfectly blend in with her surroundings and become, quite naturally, one of many millions of Eastern European workers seeking their fortunes in Western Europe.

Sasha’s story, depicted in our film Limits of Europe, contains several levels. On the one hand, it is the level of journalistic work and personal commitment that brings its sacrifices. Saša didn’t just leave her four children and friends at home, but also her seriously ill father. She decided that, like labor migrants, she cannot have a choice if they don’t either.

Then there is the level of social inequality in Europe today. The experience that Uhlová collected, they reveal the painful contradiction between East and West. Between rich countries and poorer ones. They show that the position of migrant workers is one of the most vulnerable. That the West how much, of course, relies on their work and when problems arise, as in Britain years ago, it will make them the target of hateful political campaigns. As if they weren’t people with their dreams,
needs, with their own dignity.

For more than two years, we shot a film that tells about one essential experience: the experience of those who tend to be invisible, despite the fact that we encounter the fruits of their labor every day. Whenever we eat fruit or vegetables from large European farms. Whenever we lie down in a carefully made bed
in one of the expensive hotels. Whenever we leave our parents, children or other loved ones to be looked after by a carer, whose salary and working conditions we are afraid to ask.

The borders of Europe are a reflection of the world we live in, even if we tend to close our eyes to it.