In France, the “Polish plumber” has become an anti-immigrant scapegoat. But here, the Polish lifeguard is welcomed with open (if occasionally flailing) arms. Each year since 2002, about twenty have come to beef up the Parks Department’s thin reserves. Living in sublets and at the Y, they put their $10.60 an hour ($12.13 for second-years) to good use buying cheap electronics. Though guards aren’t allowed to give their names to the press, these Rockaway veterans were granted immunity to speak with Jada Yuan.
Przemyslaw Koscielak, 27
Speedos: Pro or con?
I used to wear them here. But there was once a bunch of kids pointing and laughing. And my chief said, “Yo, Przemyslaw, get dressed.” So I stopped wearing them.
Arkdiusz Sawiak, 27
Are beach bodies better in New York or Warsaw?
Poland. But it’s not as bad as I thought. Here, if people are fat, they’re not afraid to go on the beach. In Poland, I guess if people have a complex with their body, they just don’t go out.
Jakub Sekula, 22
Last year. Now I’m a good guy—for a while. Ladies, come find me. My chair’s at 116. Bring a cup of water. Without it, you have no chance.
David Hasselhoff: Hero?
I don’t like him or his movies. They are one big lie.
Agnieszka Sot, 23
How does this differ from lifeguarding in Poland?
In Poland, we don’t have a lot of tourists.
Are you afraid of sharks?
If I was, would I swim in the ocean?
Men in Speedos:
Pro or con? Oh, I like them.
Przemyslaw Kropiewnicki, 23
Three weeks ago, the current put a girl on the jetty. It was so strong I couldn’t move her, so I catch the jetty and her and I’m waiting for help. I had many cuts. When I got out, I was all in blood.