Multikulti on the ground: Warsaw is ours and we belong to her

Article published on July 10, 2012
Article published on July 10, 2012

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

This is the title of debate taken place on 29 June in Warsaw café Coco de Oro, in which free guests took part, who have been in Poland for several years. This meeting was the part of project Multikulti on the ground realized by Cafê Babel in ten european cities.
Aim of the project was to do research on multiculturalism of these cities, on their openness to foreigners, but also to point the beauty of these cities by eyes of others.

At the debate an audience was listening to relations of three people: Polrich Gromnica, Elmi Abdi and Jose Luis Villacampa. Polrich is from west part of Germany, but he has polish descent. He has been in Poland for sixteen years working in Warsaw as a radio journalist. For the first time he saw Warsaw, the city seemed him awful and ugly. He is still surpraising because of poverty in Poland – there are many homelesses in Warsaw and even in nice districts there are poor houses among riches. Polrich made himself at home in Warsaw, when he got a temporary residence card for next ten years. He thinks this city is still changing for the better and organizing Euro 2012 was the big progress. It is also important, that there are in Poland many events, which show us other cultures. In spite of Warsaw disadvantages, Polrich said that in some aspects Poland is better than Germany, for example bank operations are faster in Poland.

Also Elmi was telling about his experiences. He arrived to Poland in 1996 from Somalia, where is still civil war. When he saw Warsaw, he thought, that this is the most beautiful city in the world. But life in Warsaw turned out to be very hard – Elmi didn’t know Polish language and he had to find accommodation and job. He noticed soon that Polish men are the nation rather closed for foreigners, especially for those of another skin colour. Other guests – Polrich and Jose – confirmed this observation. ‘Poland would be beautiful, if she was opener to foreigners’- said Elmi. Polrich told, that Poland have not experienced multiculturalism, which is common in the West. For that reason Polish react allergicly to other nations and cultures. In Germany this problem take place in the east part of the country, where are less foreigners. However there is no wonder in German cities to see a men of an another skin colour. In Warsaw people are still surprising because of a sight of Elmi and they don’t tolerate him. He is a presient of Somali Comunity in Poland, which helps Somali being in Poland and popularize knowledge about refugees, showing that we can take adventages from them and we should not reject them by reason of skin colour or another culture.

Jose arrived to Warsaw nine years ego. When he got out of a train in the Warsaw Central railway station, he didn’t have positive feeling – there was dirtily and ugly. However when he left station and saw city, it seemed him quite interesting. Firstly he didn’t know Polish language and in addition he found it hard to accommodate himself by reason of colder climate than in Spain. Jose made himself at home in Warsaw, when he made friends with Varsovians. Each of speakers said, that friendship with Polish is something uncommon – they learnd that from us. Jose said that nobody take care of friends like Polish. Polrich told that he was surprised because of solidarity and cordiality, when after his arriving to Poland he stayed in student hotel. Eden Elmi admit that he experienced much of kindness and care from Polish friends and he wouldn’t leave Poland because of them. Polish are considered nation of unusual pertinacity and persistence – they don’t give up in spite of fallings.

Foreigners find it hard to turn up in Polanad – Polish aren’t open nation and there is language barrier. Our speakers had to learn Polish language. But Poland is attractive for guests from abroad – for example young people come willingly to Poland to study, some people arrive there because of material reasons. Fans of football think well about Polish after Euro 2012. Are they attracted by Poland by traditional Polish hospitality, rich history and culture, sparser in today Europe catholic mentality and sincere piety or originally connection of tradition (also communistic) with modernity? There are different answers, but it is obvious that we should cultivate our culture and not forget that we could benefit from guests from other countries and much learn.

Katarzyna Maria Bies