Joseph Conrad, born in 1857 in the Polish town of Berdiczew, was orphaned in infancy, and since he had neither formal education nor the backing of relatives, he had to support himself by working as a seaman. He travelled to various countries, at last reaching England in 1886, where he became a British citizen.
During his stay in Britain, he worked extremely hard to learn English, and his progress was such that he succeeded in becoming a novelist. His books, acclaimed as works of great literary merit, were eventually accepted as English classics, and amongst the living writers of his time, he was ranked second only to Thomas Hardy. Conrad died in Britain in 1924.
One may be born poor, but that does not mean that one cannot educate oneself, or—as in Conrad’s case—master a foreign language as if it were ones own.