Economists point to the fluidity of capital as a driving force in global markets. Capital respects no borders or nationalities. It flows wherever investment promises to deliver a handsome return.
Human beings, unfortunately, float—and sometimes drown—in its wake. I’ve met some of those characters.
Earlier this year I paid a visit to London and stayed in a hotel in the city center. I noticed one evening that the member of the hotel staff who served me a cup of tea in the lobby was clearly distraught. Her eyes betrayed a recent cry, and she was stumbling through her work. I asked after her well-being, and she answered quickly, “Life is terrible, but I can’t talk about it.” I let her be.
The next evening, as I was again relaxing in the lobby, Katja came over to my table to thank me for my concern the night before. She went on to share her remarkable story.
Katja is from Poland and had been in London for only eight months. She had to leave Poland for her own safety. The local mafia had murdered her father because he would not cooperate with a corruption racket they were running in Warsaw. She knew the identity of the man who pulled the trigger because he continued to threaten her family after the murder. Katja bravely turned him into the police and a high-profile court case ensued. She subsequently appeared on television many times to denounce the stranglehold that criminals and corrupt police officers had on Polish society.
Sadly, her efforts were like trying to slow a mighty stream with a single stone. Her father’s killer was found innocent, and the local mafia had her number. She fled to London and considers herself lucky to have found a job in an upscale hotel. Life is expensive in London, so Katja shares a flat with several other East European girls with whom she ekes out an existence.