Interpreting the Polish “Holocaust Law”

By Katharina Geiselmann

The Polish Sejm has passed a Law at the beginning of this year, which makes it illegal to blame Poles for any crime committed during the Nazi occupation. Even though it also covers crimes committed during the Communist era (and war crimes by Ukrainian nationalists), it came to be known as “The Holocaust Law” in the debate that it sparked all around the world. This shows not only the sensitivity of the topic of the Holocaust, but also that 73 years after the victory over the Nazis, it seems the different Holocaust narratives are rather dividing than uniting Europe. Can, and should a consensus be reached when it comes to Holocaust memory? Or is the motto united in diversity a legitimate solution for the European memory? Especially the latest EU-enlargement challenges the concept of a common European memory, as the Western countries have agreed on their memory more or less, while new members have not been included yet, and bring other, fresher memories to the table: the communist past. Considering that the Holocaust, however, is said to be part of the European memory as negative founding myth[1], in cooperating Eastern narratives and agreeing on what and how the Holocaust is to be remembered is an integral part of the integration process. Continue reading “Interpreting the Polish “Holocaust Law””

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Exposing corruption – at what cost? The EU’s failure to protect its journalists

Julia Mason

Last week’s chilling news about the murder of Slovakian journalist Ján Kuciak and his partner Martina Kušnírová at their home close to Bratislava marks the second case of an investigative journalist paying the ultimate price for their work in an EU Member State. In October 2017, Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb as a result of her investigations of Maltese officials regarding fraud, money laundering and links to the Panama Papers.

This time the victim was Ján Kuciak, a 27-year-old journalist working for the news website Aktuality.sk. Kuciak was investigating cases of suspected VAT fraud by two businessmen Marian Kočner and Ladislav Bašternák, who are both associated with the ruling party in Slovakia, Smer. Kuciak had also recently been investigating the Panama Papers scandal and the suspected theft of EU funds destined for Slovakian by the Italian mafia group ‘Ndrangheta. Months before his death, Kuciak had filed two complaints with the prosecutor’s office after receiving several threats. Neither had been followed up.

Cases like these are doubly worrying. Not only do they reveal that violent and ruthless methods for stopping investigative journalism are taking a hold in the EU’s own Member States, but the lack of effective investigation into these killings by the national authorities responsible also exposes deeper problems regarding impunity and the rule of law.

How has journalism become so dangerous and what are European leaders doing about it? Continue reading “Exposing corruption – at what cost? The EU’s failure to protect its journalists”

How Brexit could pose an opportunity for the EU

By Linda Piersma

In the midst of a nasty break-up in the West and moves by Hungary and Poland towards ‘illiberal democracy’ in the East, a unique opportunity might present itself: a pan-European list of MEPs. Because let’s face it, the European elections do not rouse the spirits of most European citizens. Very often, European elections are hijacked by national quarrels that transform the European elections into an evaluation of respective national government’s performances. While we know all about Trump and American affairs, European issues do not get a seat at the dinner table. With the United Kingdom (UK) leaving the European Union in March 2019, 73 seats will become available in the European Parliament. Notwithstanding the trauma of Brexit, these free seats can be  used to create a pan-European list of MEPs to be voted upon directly by European citizens. Such an electoral college will strengthen European democracy, thereby bringing the EU ever closer to its citizens and put a halt to the nationalization of the European elections.

More than being just a fancy idea, it provides a firm response in the face of recent illiberal moves by Hungary and Poland. Over the last year, ruling Eurosceptic parties Fidesz and PiS have taken several highly controversial measures. For example, by taking government control of NGO funding. Recently, their close bond was confirmed when Mateusz Morawiecki, freshly appointed Prime Minister of Poland, decided to use his first bilateral visit to meet with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Together, their deep resentment and distrust of Brussels increasingly poses a threat to Europe’s core values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Continue reading “How Brexit could pose an opportunity for the EU”

Is Euroscepticism one of the key threats to the EU? When Healthy Criticism becomes Bad Medicine

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Anti-EU Flag: Photo by Honza Groh

Elizabete Marija Skrastina

There are two types of threat – those from the outside and those from the inside.

Since the first foundations of the European Union were laid more than fifty years ago, it has changed, deepened, and certainly, become more complex. In fact, one can even argue that the EU is somewhat unique, exploring new ways for states to cooperate while allowing them to maintain their full sovereignty.  A similar system has never been attempted in the history of humankind.

However, with the these changes, new challenges have arisen. It is not a secret that the EU is currently facing an “identity” crisis, to some extent. After Brexit, a new wave of sceptics has awakened as determined as never before. Eurosceptics.

Interestingly enough, the term “Euroscepticism” first appeared in 1985 in a British newspaper. Since then, in various forms, such as hard or soft Euroscepticism, economic or political, it has become a permanent component of the political landscape of the EU.  It is a truly complex phenomenon, with many issues underlying it. With every new aspect of Europe introduced, the main focus of Euroscepticism has changed – from attacking the notion of the European citizen to opposing the common currency and immigration policy, to even the critiquing of the whole idea, as we see now.

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A vandalized EU sign in Sopot, Poland, 2003. Poland elected a Eurosceptic government last year.  Photo by Tomasz Sienicki

Having a Eurosceptic party as a member of a government coalition is common practice, and criticizing the Union is usually a “job” for the right and far right wings, who have enjoyed a recent rise in public support. Yet, what might surprise you is the fact that even in the European parliament, within the very heart of the EU, we can find Eurosceptic groups. It makes sense. The EU is an international organization made up of 28 Member States. A very popular debate among politicians and political scientists presently is whether the EU is turning into some sort of federal state, like the USA, leading to criticism of its supposed power. It is true that with every new treaty signed, the European Union has come closer to resembling a federal state, even if in reality it is far from it. It is also odd, though, because, the EU only has just as much power as the Member States are willing to grant it. The EU is the Member States, although some of its critics argue that at this point, states are pressured to be a part of it, because otherwise, the state is bound to face difficulties on trade and cooperation with others. While to some extent this is true, we can find plenty of examples where states have chosen to remain outside of the EU – Norway and Switzerland, for example, or Britain, which currently in process of leaving the EU.

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A Eurosceptic poster encouraging UK citizens to vote to leave the European Union, in Omagh, Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU. Photo by Kenneth Allen

It should be noted, that no European Union is not an option anymore, and even the harshest Eurosceptics sense that some minimal form of integration is unavoidable. The debate remains whether the EU should be an “ever closer union” or return to its original state as a free-trade zone with minimum supranational competences.

However, the close relationships between the Member States of the EU might be seen as a powerful response to globalisation. The nations of the world are ever more interdependent, and with the influential economic and cultural position of the US and the rapidly increasing influence of China, it could be argued that, if for nothing else, Europe should “stick together” for social and economic security and international competitiveness.

Nonetheless, unfortunately, most of the Euroscepticism that we see during our day-to-day lives is not based on political and/or economic facts and calculations, but rather on “she said, he said, I heard…” This is the most dangerous type of Euroscepticism. Based on the absence of knowledge or understanding, or plain ignorance, it spreads fast and effectively, and is carefully nourished by a mainstream media that submissively give the people what they want – a bad image of the EU. It is just that simple! When looking at survey data from 2015 Eurobarometer report, 42% stated that they do not understand how the EU works. If one does not understand how the EU works, are they able to critically assess the information given through the media?

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Marine Le Pen, Leader of Front National, a Eurosceptic party in France: Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen

Looking deeper, since 2010 Euroscepticism has increased not only in traditionally sceptical countries, such as Denmark and the UK, but also in founder states, such as France and Germany. Moreover, in 2015, Iceland withdrew its EU membership application. This summer, the British voted “leave” and now we see speculations here and there about Frexit, Nexit, Gexit and so on. The founding states themselves are debating the future of the Union.

Therefore, the European Union is now threatened not only by the economic crisis and the refugee crisis, but also by an “identity crisis” – mistrust and ignorance. Scepticism itself is not so bad. There is an opposition for every practice in this world, and often the opposition only pushes for the better. The EU is a new form of international organisation, and, in fact, it is expanding into unknown territory. On that account, if justified, Euroscepticism can be seen as “healthy criticism” and is actually great for reflection on current policies. Unfortunately, at the moment a major part of the scepticism among people of the EU is more “unhealthy”, as it does not propose possible compromises, but is founded on a lack of information as well as  twisted information and thus, leads to resistance against any form of European Union. To fight this, people need to be informed, information needs to be made available and supporters of the EU must help disseminate an accurate image of the EU. To do that, first they must educate themselves on the inner workings of the Union. Eurosceptics will not be deterred by a Europhile who knows nothing of the EU.

Staying informed is the least we can do.

Stay informed with The Euroculturer and click here for more by Elizabete Skrastina.

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Why does Ireland have the EU’s strictest abortion regime? Applying and Repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution

 

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A mural in Dublin calling for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland, which bans abortion.

Eoghan Hughes

With a significant pro-choice victory in Poland as the country’s conservative PiS government performs a U-turn on restricting access to abortion in the case of incest, rape, fatal foetal abnormality and risk to the mother’s life, it is easy to forget that the EU still has one State in which very few of the above constitute a legitimate cause for abortion.

Last year the Republic of Ireland became the first country to legalise same sex marriage through a popular referendum with an overwhelming victory, which seemed to signal a new liberal turn in a country many people across Europe and the world associate with conservative Catholicism. Yet Ireland, despite calls from the EU, the Council of Europe and the UN, has retained one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, where fatal foetal abnormalities and rape are not considered legal grounds for the termination of a foetus and where, even in the cases where woman’s life would be endangered by seeing a foetus to term, a woman might be denied the necessary treatment. Enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann) the Eighth Amendment prevents a woman having an abortion because the foetus is considered to have an equal right to life:

“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.” Continue reading “Why does Ireland have the EU’s strictest abortion regime? Applying and Repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution”

The Public, the Private, and the Privates: Europe’s Abortion Debate against Shifting Backgrounds

 

Sophie van den Elzen

Recurrent images of the masses of women filing through the streets of Europe’s capitals remind us that the conflict over whether to prioritize women’s right to choose or a fetus’ right to live is one at the heart of many major social debates. Not only does it chafe at the junctions between social progress and tradition, individualism and normativity, encouraging women to exercise their right to self-determination and protecting sacralized family life; the issue also serves as a pin on which politicians hang the canvases they paint of ‘their’ nations as either traditionalist religious countries respectful of their past (such as Poland under PiS) or liberal countries  pragmatically looking to the future (e.g. The Netherlands under VVD).

With Europe’s eyes glued to those countries with the most ostensibly hostile public opinions to the right to legal abortion, it is perhaps also important to glance over at those in which a woman’s right of choice is most firmly established. Continue reading “The Public, the Private, and the Privates: Europe’s Abortion Debate against Shifting Backgrounds”

The Czarny Protest: Poland’s Government faces revolt over new strict Abortion Bill

This article is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily representative the views of The Euroculturer, the management and editorial staff of The Euroculturer or contributors to The Euroculturer

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Emma Danks-Lambert

The Czarny Protest- Women in Poland don black to protest the loss of their dignity and security in rallies held outside of parliament buildings and in town squares across major cities in Poland.

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Czarny Protest in Krakow

They are wearing black to protest the introduction of new abortion laws which would see victims of rape and incest forced to give birth to the result of their violations, whilst those whose fetus has severe or permanent impairment, those who would be at risk of long-term health complications from carrying their child to term, will have no choice in the matter. Soon Poland may see a law passed that restricts abortion in all but the most clear cut life and death situations.

The abortion law in force now, was passed in 1993 and restricts abortions save for cases of risk to the mother’s life, impairment of the fetus, and children conceived through rape and incest.

Women are being told by the Polish Parliament that their life, their place in Polish society, the fact that they are theoretically equal citizens before the law, matters less than what their womb can produce.

Pro-life activists, backed by the Catholic Church, were the ones who submitted this new law for the consideration of the Parliament, asking for the complete restriction of abortions save for life or death situations and gathered half a million signatures, four hundred thousand more than was necessary for submission.

The Law and Justice Party (PiS) who is currently in power and considering these further restrictions, are a national right-wing conservative party but even the main opposition party Civic Platform- a liberal-conservative party, has refused to consider liberalizing abortion laws.

If the anti-abortion bills become law, women and female children who do undergo abortions for any reason short of life and death situations will risk between three months and five years in prison. Whilst doctors who seek to perform these unauthorized abortions will face increased prison sentences. The Gazeta Wroclawska quotes one protester stating that :”It’s a cruel and inhuman law. It will endanger all of us. We do not want to live in a country where the bed of a pregnant woman is surrounded by armed police officers and a prosecutor, where every abortion ends in investigation, where raped girls are forced to bear the children of their rapists ” (Translated from Polish)

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Czarny Protest in Gdansk

Pro-choice activists have tried to counter with their own initiative by producing a bill called ‘Save the Women’, which would allow abortions for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.Within a very short time the bill had collected215,000 signatures but has since been ignored by the Parliament.

The reasoning behind the Black Protest movement is described by the organizer of the Lublin branch, Catherine Babis, as – “(We) organized the protest, because we are tired of being treated like objects in the ideological controversy. It is easy to talk about sacrifice and holiness of life, if it applies to sacrifice someone else. We do not agree with forcing women to be heroic in the name of someone else’s ideology and someone else’s beliefs. We can see how it ends in countries that have introduced similar laws, countries dealing out sentences for miscarriage, and the doctors looking idly on the death of women who could be saved. We do not want Poland to be turned into a hell for women. We want dignity and security for us and for our families.”

Click here for more by Emma Danks-Lambert.

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Internship Experience and Advice 2015-2016

Debora Guanella
Edited by Ann Keefer

Galicia Jewish Museum
September, 2015-January, 2016 Kraków

Since the very beginning of my MA Euroculture experience, I have made very clear my intention of pursuing the Professional Track to address the lack of study-related working experience in my CV. Within the wide range of topics covered during the first and the second semester, I was particularly interested in questions of cultural memory and heritage, their preservation and their role in building national / group identities. These were the two main reasons that led me to move to Kraków during the third semester to work as full-time intern at the Galicia Jewish Museum.

The Galicia Jewish Museum is an innovative cultural institution opened in April 2004 in Kazimierz, the Jewish district of Kraków, Poland. It is a registered charitable foundation in Poland (Fundacja Galicia Jewish Heritage Institute) and it was founded by the British photojournalist Chris Schwarz in collaboration with  Anthropology Professor Jonathan Webber. The Museum’s mission is not exclusively to commemorate the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, but also to present and to celebrate the Jewish contribution to the history and culture of Polish Galicia with its two permanent photographic exhibitions Traces of Memory and An Unfinished Memory. One of the Museum’s main goals is to challenge the widespread misconceptions regarding the Jewish presence in Poland and to promote the contact  between Jewish and Polish cultures. In order to achieve its aims the Museum also hosts conferences, panel discussions and workshops on Jewish history, Jewish culture, antisemitism, Holocaust studies and intercultural dialog.

My work at the museum primarily consisted of giving tours of the permanent exhibition Traces of Memory and welcoming visitors at the reception desk. The role of the guide is not only to tell the story behind some selected photographs or to suggest possible interpretations, but also and especially, to explain to the visitor how to read the exhibition’s sections in combination with one another. Further tasks may vary depending on the interns’ individual skills and on what is going on currently  at the Museum. The other tasks I carried out for the Education Department included preparing reports of feedback surveys, translating texts from English into German, organising ice-breaker and entertainment activities for visiting groups, leading workshops and training new interns.

Overall, working at the Galicia Jewish Museum has been a very positive experience. The atmosphere was relaxed and stimulating, the museum’s staff helpful and, most important, the interns’ work was valued and trusted by everyone.

Based on my personal experience as a third semester Euroculture intern, here are some suggestions I would like to share with those MA Euroculture fellow-students wishing to follow a placement at the Galicia Jewish Museum or at a similar institution: Continue reading “Internship Experience and Advice 2015-2016”

Second Time a Charm?

Wawel Castle in Krakow, Poland
Wawel Castle in Krakow, Poland

Heather Southwood│southwood28@gmail.com

In Goettingen I was one of approximately twenty Euroculture students, in Krakow that became one of nine, in Indianapolis I couldn’t sit in Starbucks on campus for long without someone I knew walking in, so when I made the decision to return to Krakow for my fourth semester, as one of three I knew it was going to be a shock to the system.

For the first two semesters, my closest friends had been those fellow MA Euroculture 11-13 students, who I studied with, lunched with, cooked with, drank tea with, ate copious cookies with, stressed over deadlines with, partied with and later lived with… you get the picture.

In Goettingen, lunch in the Mensa was a regular daily occurrence and coffee breaks had the potential to be of greater frequency than that of productivity in the library. During my second semester in Krakow all the Euroculture students had lived in the same building, we were in and out of each other’s flats with alarming regularity. You wanted strong coffee – see Penelope. You needed chocolate – go to Sarah.  You wanted custard – only Larisa understood that one! We wanted to visit a bar – just run up and down the stairs knocking on doors and you’ll soon have company.

So, at the start of the fourth semester, as I sat in my temporary room, suitcase on the floor, rain drumming against the window, having just arrived in Krakow from the UK, with the knowledge my fellow Euroculture classmate would not be arriving for another two weeks, I wondered, had I made the right decision for my final semester?

“Krakow was a city in which I felt I could really live, it was fun, affordable, stunning…”

Everyone makes their decision as to where they are to spend their fourth semester based upon their different priorities, with many different things being important only to themselves. For me, it was the city; Krakow was a city in which I felt I could really live, it was fun, affordable, stunning, there was always something going on. However, as the rain fell and I knew I had some flat-hunting to do to find the right apartment; I thought back to all my friends in Goettingen and questioned the decision I had made. I was tired from travelling, and therefore grumpy – I’ll admit it, and running with the assumption that in fact Goettingen was as though it had been exactly in my first semester. In my mind, I would be visiting the Mensa, having coffee, chatting in the library. It didn’t take me too long though to realise that just as Krakow for fourth semester was going to be different, it would be the same for the Goettingen students.

One of the great things about Euroculture is the ability to explore a new place and culture within and (occasionally) outside of Europe. However, the fourth semester is different, there are less classes, there is a thesis deadline looming in and you are living in a city you’ve experienced before. It’s easy to assume it would be the same, some of the same people will be around you, you’ll know the streets, the market days… It was not.

“In our second semester we knew very few Polish students, I hoped my fourth semester would not be the same…”

In our second semester we knew very few Polish students, I hoped my fourth semester would not be the same. In fact, some may say that was a challenge I set myself… I quickly realised, however, how much that challenge would affect my whole semester. A friend and I were invited on a trip with Polish European Studies students to Warsaw. Thankfully, neither of us actually spoke much Polish, as such, when decisions as to where to go, where to eat, even during a press conference, we could shrug at each other awkwardly, solidarity in our ignorance. However, in the evening, with the help of a beer or two, gone was the initial shyness and it turns out the Polish students were happier to speak their fluent English and we were happy to give them a laugh with our faltering Polish skills. When twelve students share a hostel room for a weekend, friendships quickly emerge and there wasn’t a week which went by without some kind of Warsaw trip reunion, friends bringing friends of friends, snowballing in to a great group of friends giving us an insight into Polish culture. Of course, there were also always the second semester students in Krakow to hang out with, drink with, and have dinner with. In my tired (I’ve just arrived in Krakow and my suitcase was really heavy) haze, I’d forgotten that with fourth semester comes the opportunity to meet the new students of the second semester. There was always the opportunity to talk about Euroculture, internships, the run up to the IP (at my end – without the worry), and to smile at the things we found new and interesting in Krakow.

“I made many Polish friends and finally felt like I was getting some ‘inside’ knowledge on the city…”

Over the semester, I made many Polish friends, I spoke more Polish than I ever had in my second semester in Krakow and I finally felt like I was getting some ‘inside’ knowledge on the city. I visited my friends’ bakery for an afternoon coffee hit, was cooked lunch, I was even educated as to which Polish cheese (and many other food niceties) to try by Beata a fellow MA Euroculture 11-13 student and Pole. I followed the news stories in Krakow more. As the semester progressed, I realised how ignorant of Polish news I had been in my second semester and how by following the news, chatting about current Krakow events with my friends, it changed the way I understood the city.

As a fourth semester student, our Eurocompetence III class had become the writing of a grant application which we actually planned and implemented during the IP, as the Urban Challenge. At the first class, with Luc and Karolina, Euroculture Krakow Staff, running the class, out-numbered the only student, me, I learnt that when it’s a small class, there is no one to hide behind. However, I didn’t need to hide, it didn’t feel like a class, it didn’t feel like on one side there are the staff on the other the students, it felt like a collaboration and a friendship. Working with the staff on the IP, seeing the other side of the IP, was a unique opportunity, the gala dinner was somewhat bittersweet and emotional as it began to hit us that this was our final semester, in fact, by this point, I had written and defended my thesis, it was a celebration but also, we knew, the end.

If you had said to me in advance of my fourth semester in Krakow, I would have scoffed that initially I would have questioned my decision of Krakow. I had told myself it would be different, I knew that. I wanted it to be different. In America, I surrounded myself with American students and found out how much of a difference it made, being invited into many American homes including at Thanksgiving, to see how they lived. In Poland, it made the world of difference, I felt at home, I made friends who I have already seen in London this summer and will meet some more in Manchester this week. I learnt about Krakow and other polish cities through the stories and tours of friends and residents.

“So, second time a charm?”

Euroculture was an incredible experience and opportunity for me, living abroad in places I hadn’t contemplated living in before. No one semester stands out to me as being better than others, each was a unique opportunity, I can’t compare them, each one was different and if I had chosen Goettingen instead of Krakow, I know my fourth semester there would have been different again. The fourth semester felt like a bridge out of Euroculture, I felt like I was preparing for ‘real life’ within the safety net of Euroculture.

So, second time a charm? Absolutely, yes in fact, as much as I’m excited about not having to pack my life into 20 kilos for four months for a while, I wouldn’t mind hitting rewind and doing it all again.

Heather SouthwoodChief Copy Editor

Heather is from Manchester, completed her undergraduate in Law before studying MA Euroculture at the University of Göttingen, Jagiellonian University, Krakow and IUPUI, Indianapolis. Her research interests include human rights, religious rights and inclusive citizenship. Currently, she is living back in the UK, working with suppliers in Europe and the Far East, constantly challenging her intercultural communication skills every day.

My Memories of Krakow: the Heart of Polish Culture and Cuisine

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Wonderful smoked cheese, oscypek

Suzanna Fatyan │susanna202001@yahoo.com

In the spring of 2006, I was accepted to the MA Euroculture programme in Poland. Childhood memories suddenly took over me: my Mom playing Chopin – ballad, nocturne, waltz and mazurek (mazurka). Music filling the house. A lovely cake with a similar name, full of walnuts and raisins baked by my Granny. This specialty, consonant with Polish dance, is an integral part of Polish cuisine. These memories are my first links to Poland. The flavour and fragrance of the cake turned the music of Chopin from a subject of aesthetic addiction into an integral part of home warmth and comfort. Amusingly, other memories are also connected to those gustatory and odoristic aspects. I remember the taste of Polish strawberry jam and oatmeal biscuits, szarlotka, trickled pastries and other Polish dishes. Our grandmothers knew how to cook them because, due to similarity of circumstances, they appeared in Uzbekistan together with Poles. We have bright sun, generous nature, and an abundance of fruits, vegetables and berries. For that reason, wonderful fruit and berry aromas of Polish cosmetics, popular in our country, felt close and familiar.

 “I remember the taste of Polish strawberry jam and oatmeal biscuits, szarlotka, trickled pastries and other Polish dishes. Our grandmothers knew how to cook them…”

My childhood memories about Poland are fragmentary, chaotic, irregular. Books on the shelves: Adam Mickiewicz, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Jerzy Stawiński, and brilliant aphorisms of Jerzy Lec. I remember the movies of Andrzej Wajda, fine faces of Polish actors, perfect beauty of actresses: Beata Tyszkiewicz, Ewa Szykulska, Barbara Brylska with delicacy, culture and healthy dignity always impressive in their characters. Incidentally, these features carried to the point of absurdity had frightened us in Russian operas where Poles were portrayed as vain, arrogant people.

Besides Chopin, Poland has other famous brands, reflecting the scope and depth of the scientific, artistic and spiritual potential of the Polish nation. Copernicus, John Paul II, Krzysztof Penderecki:  graduates and honorary doctors of Krakow’s Jagiellonian University which supplement the city’s list of brands. And this was the university where I was going to be studying.

“Krakow…Copernicus, John Paul II, Krzysztof Penderecki:  graduates and honorary doctors of Jagiellonian University which supplement the city’s list of brands.”

The childish joy I experienced through my acquaintance with Poland is hugely strengthened in Polish restaurants, delicious food distributed by someone’s generous hand in open air cafes. The hospitality, warmth and generosity of Polish people make you feel as if you are surrounded by your closest relatives.

Wonderful Polish homemade food

Homemade Polish food
Homemade Polish food

“Living in Poland, be prepared to gain extra weight.”

In Poland, you are invited to homes, you are surrounded with care and love every minute. For that reason, it doesn’t take long until you perceive Poland as your second home and get excited every time you hear a Polish word uttered.

Pierogi
Pierogi

Living in Poland, be prepared to gain extra weight. Hanging out with friends is intrinsically combined with delicious café experiences. And in Krakow it becomes an addiction. Probably, the most famous Polish specialty worldwide is pierogi (variation of dumplings). These yummy stuffed pies amaze you not only with their number of fillings like mushrooms, buckwheat, berries, strawberries … but also colours. I have never tried such beautiful and colourful pierogi in all my life! Polish soups are also a special part of the menu. The most traditional and remarkable to me is zurek, which is usually served in freshly baked bread. This rather substantial combo often turns out to be your meal of the day!

Kawa coffee
Kawa coffee

If you are in Krakow for Tłusty Czwartek (Fat Thursday), you will have the chance to try fabulous local donuts, pączki, filled with rose petal jam. Once again, a return to childhood! My Granny made rose petal jam as our garden was full of roses! The best place for pączki is Rynek Główny (Main Market Square), where the largest number of donuts is distributed. You are too late? Don’t worry! You can try this dessert in one of Krakow’s numerous coffee houses along with excellent hot chocolate, kawa (coffee)  or herbata (tea). The selection of herbata will surely amaze your imagination. It may contain all types of berries, herbs and even flowers from local forests. It was in Poland that I tried blueberries for the first time, and they immediately became one of my favourite berries. In Krakow, you buy berries, fruits and vegetables not only in shopping malls but also from farmers’ markets (in Uzbekistan we know them as bazaars). For that reason, food in Poland has a wonderful taste that you always think about. While travelling between cities of Poland you can admire the beautiful farms that produce the food you can then enjoy.

“Poland is famous for its desserts…Also, amazingly, the Poles even add poppy seeds to pasta!”

Poland is famous for its desserts, especially szarlotka, sernik (cheesecake) and makowiec (pastry with poppy seeds). Amazingly, the Poles even add poppy seeds to pasta! Even having lived in a warm country, I have never seen poppy seeds in such huge quantities as in Polish cookies. Szarlotka in Krakow is also worth trying! It seems quite unusual to me. First, it comes warm, while we serve it cold. Second, the apples were thinly sliced, while in my country we usually slice them in rather large pieces. It tasted fabulous, in candle light and accompanied with kawa!

kiełbasa
kiełbasa

Luckily, I also experienced winter time in Krakow, when I saw beautiful Christmas decorations and ate carp, kiełbasa (sausages) , several types of zapiekanka (bread roasted with mushrooms and cheese), wonderful smoked cheese (oscypek) with jam  as well as flavoured ginger breads. Don’t miss the local liquor based on honey, mied, along with Żubrówka (vodka with herbs), which are both are available in shops and restaurants.If you favour a vegetarian diet, bar sałatkowy (salad bar) Chimera at ul. Św. Anny 3 will be a true discovery for you, with the best choice of vegetable and fruit salads.

“Lastly, it is of crucial importance to know wonderful cafés…”

As a student, it is of crucial importance to know a wonderful café in the old part of town: Massolit at ul. Felicjanec 4. Massolit has a great choice of books in English which you can read in the café while sipping herbata. Books can be either bought or exchanged.

Several years have passed since I graduated from Jagiellonian University but the warmth and hospitality of the people, and the charm and ancient spirit of the city and university remain in my heart.

suzannaSuzanna Fatyan, Contributing writer

Suzanna is from a city of Oriental fairy tales – Samarkand in Uzbekistan. She studied English language and literature in Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages for BA. In 2008, Suzanna graduated MA Euroculture from Jagiellonian University in Krakow and Deusto University, San Sebastian. Suzanna works as tour guide in Samarkand, writes blog for Uzbek Journeys in Australia and travels as much as possible.