First Person - Petr Galatik

Petr Galatik is a 34 year old from the Czech Republic who works for cash in the UK and rides a Yamaha YZF750

My hometown is a place called Ostrava, in the Czech Republic, I used to work as a mechanic in a truck factory there. I really enjoy working on the tools, taking something that doesn’t want to work anymore and bringing it back to life. My skill has certainly helped me revive a few of the bikes I have owned over the years. There was always work for me at home but the pay was very low, bad by local standards let alone what mechanics earn over here in the UK.

I have travelled looking for work  before. Three years ago I saved enough money to get a flight to the United States of America. I travelled around working for cash in garages. It was fairly easy because a lot of the immigrants over there are Hispanics or Asians and I look like a westerner, which I found helped me to find work and keep work.

I worked for a while with a race team maintaining the bikes and repairing them when they had been crashed, the boss liked what I could achieve with little or no money. I once fixed a fuel leak on a bike with a Coke can out of a bin! After that I earned myself a go on the bike, I said I was fast because I thought I was. I wasn’t and realised I should stick to fixing them instead.

I used to ride a 750 Yamaha in the States, I have always ridden bikes and they have always been Yamahas, I just like them, I know them and they are easy to maintain. At the moment I have a YZF750.

I always liked the idea of working in the UK, London especially. I came over about a year ago. My plan was to find a regular job and then bring my wife and 8 year-old son over. I found work quickly at a garage in North London, the manager asked no questions and paid me in cash every Friday. After a few months I had saved enough to bring my family over. I travelled home, bought a car and drove them over. Everything was going great until three months ago when my wife fell pregnant. I think the National Health System in the UK is rubbish, nowhere near as good as what we have back home so I decided it would be better for her to return until the child is born.

It was lucky really as the garage I was working at was sold not long after. The new boss kept me and two other foreigners in the workshop. He seemed happy with the existing system of paying us cash and asking  no questions, which suited me fine. Then someone left and I ended up spending more time dealing with the customers. I could understand them but I don’t think they liked the fact that they were being dealt with by a foreigner. After a couple of complaints the manager gave me the sack. No warning or anything, I went to work on a Tuesday and by the end of the day I was jobless, stuck 1,650 kilometers from anyone that knew me. That was quite hard.

One of the guys that used to come in the shop told me that some Czech and Polish bikers hung around at the Ace Cafe. I came over and found a couple of Polish bikers, I tried to get on with them but couldn’t. I really struggle to get on with Polish guys, in my opinion they have come over here and ruined it for the rest of us. They seem to work for less than anyone else will and there are too many of them. So I just hang out on my own now.

Monday is the most important day of the week for me, that’s when I find work. Whenever I ask for work people always say “come back after the weekend”. They are either saying it to get rid of me or they genuinely mean it. So Mondays are exciting because I either find some work, or have to face another week surviving on little or no money.

I would never sell my bike though, it means a lot to me on a normal day but even more when I am struggling and don’t have my family around me. It costs little or nothing to keep it. The UK police leave me alone because of the number plate, it’s insured back at home so I carry my documents with me, but I have never met a UK policeman that can read Czech!

The Ace Café means more to me than just somewhere to park my bike. I can spend some time looking at bikes, chat to other bikers and forget about my worries for a few hours. I can worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. As long as I have my bike and some fuel in the tank today, everything  is going to be okay.

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