Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Wrocław International for March 2012

Read The Wrocław International from March 2012 here on my blog. In this edition I wrote three articles, on page 1, 2 and 3 are articles in English about the new train station in Wrocław and the train crash from a few weeks ago. On page 15 you'll find a Dutch written article about the Dutch and Polish language and the Dutch Meetings I organize. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Complaining about Poles in Holland

I wrote this article for The Wrocław International, but unfortunately it will be printed in the April-edition, since this edition has  'discrimination & racism' as main theme.

A big group of Poles living in the Netherlands are outraged about an web portal where people can report complaints about disturbance from Poles and other central- and eastern Europeans. The website is created by politician Geert Wilders and his Party of Freedom. The following questions are stated on the website: 'Do you have problems with people from central and eastern Europe? Have you lost your job to a Pole, Bulgarian, Romanian or other eastern European? We want to know.' 

According to Ino van de Besselaar from the Party of Freedom (PVV) the site is not to discriminate, but to develop proper insight into “problems caused by central and eastern Europeans in terms of crime, alcoholism, drug use, dumping household waste and prostitution,” so he said in Dutch newspaper AD. Although it officially may not be discriminating, the website generates a lot of controversy, not only amongst Poles but also amongst Dutch people. They cannot comprehend how PVV can be so harsh on minorities. The political party is known for their anti-Islamic ideas for years now, but apparently they are not so enthusiastic about other minorities as Poles either.

At the beginning of March, Dutch Minister of Immigration, Gerd Leers, went to Warsaw to talk to Minister of Internal Affairs Cichocki, as well as to Minister of Labour Kosiniak-Kamysz and Secretary of State for European Affairs Dowgielewicz. He explained to them that it's not a government website, but only from the political party PVV. On the same day that Leers visited Poland, Prime Minister Donald Tusk made the following statement: “The Netherlands is presenting an increasingly un-European face. There is no problem of Poles in Holland: it is Holland that has a problem, because it's the only EU country that is behaving controversially regarding immigrants and the enlargement of the Schengen zone.”

The opinions in Wrocław about this web portal are very diverse. Bartek, a 23-year-old student of the Wrocław University is not to worried about it: “It doesn't bother me too much, we are all living in a democracy so even the biggest idiot has his right to speak whatever he wants to, but luckily we don't have to listen to him.” Wrocław resident Piotr (29) also expresses his opinion: “It's a political issue, some politicians just want to gain voters, of course some of the complaints are well-grounded, but clearly exaggerated. Some misbehaviour of Polish emigrants is very embarrassing for many of us Poles staying in Poland.”

International Dutch companies and some politicians are afraid this might harm the image of the country abroad. Bartek: “I think it could make Holland look bad in Poland, because I think that Poles, comparing to the residents of many other nations act quite good, they are working hard and they're taking the jobs that the Dutch people don't want to do.” Agnieszka, a 26-year-old Polish woman who lives and works in Holland doesn't agree: “I don't think it would change the image of the Netherlands in the eyes of Polish people as I believe the Dutch society knows that not all Polish people are the same, as well as not all Dutch people are - there are also Dutch criminals and drug users, for instance. I believe that Poles know that this website is an idea of only a few people that apparently had some bad experience with some Poles, and it's not an opinion of all the Dutch.”

There are also a lot of Dutch persons who are really fond of Poles and other residents from central and eastern Europe. They organised an eastern European disturbance party in Utrecht to make people aware of how many good things Poles and all the others brought to Holland. The party was really successful, there was a crowd of more than 500 persons who enjoyed a night full of Polish vodka, balkan-beats and polka's. Also the Ambassador of Poland, Janusz Stanczyk wanted to do something to turn the tides and he helped to set up a website where you can leave all your positive experiences with Poles:

Eastern European Disturbance party
Picture by Renate Klinkenberg

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My first solotrip in Poland: Krakow

Thousands of football fans from the Netherlands will be taken over the city of Krakow this summer. At least, that's what is expected, since the Dutch football team will be training here and also rest in a luxious hotel. No matches will be played in Krakow, but since the city is very interesting for tourists and it's way closer to Holland than the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, where Holland will play. So there will probably be a lot of Dutch supporters coming to the old capital of Poland. Not only the Dutch team, but also the English and the Italian team chose Krakow as their residence, so it will be extremely crowded with supporters this summer. Before all the football fans take over the city, I decided to take a look and explore Krakow for myself, since every Pole keeps telling me that it's one of the most beautiful cities Poland has to offer.

Horse carriage on the Rynek.
St. Mary church and a horse carriage on Rynek
So that's what I did: a few days after New Years I took a small, but comfortable bus that would  take me in four hours from Wrocław to Kraków. I was a little bit stressed, since it was long ago I travelled by myself, apart from flying back and forth between Poland and Holland. This summer I did a few traintrips alone, but then I knew that at my destination Bartek will be there waiting for me at the station, or my travelmates from the travelprogram I was in. Now I went to Krakow alone, without anyone to meet there, since I did not had any contacts in the city yet. So it was my first real solotrip in Poland.

I wasn't really worried about the fact I was travelling alone, I would stay in a hostel in the old historic center of Krakow, with a view on Rynek, the market square. The best thing about sleeping in hostels, in my opinion, is that you can meet a lot of different people quite easily. They come from all over the world, but also from different cities in Poland, so I could extend my network of Poles. The bustrip was okay and went smoothly. I don't know this part of Poland that well, so it went pretty fast because I could look out of the big windows to all that we passed by next to the road: I saw some hills, a lot of churches, small villages with cute little houses, half-demolished buildings which seem to be in this state for years already and lots, lots, lots of industrial buildings, the less beautiful part of Poland, so to speak.

When I arrived in Krakow, I tried to find my way to the hostel. After twenty minutes of walking I stood on the market square, surrounded by beautifully lit historic buildings. My hostel was also situated at this great location, I checked in and was brought to my room. I knew that I would stay in an 8-person dormroom and I was very curious to who my roommates would be. I had my hopes up that it would be nice Polish people, so I could extend my network and practice the Polish language at the same time.

The receptionist opened the door to the room and said with a big smile: "Look at this, you've got the whole room for yourself! Isn't that great?" A bit disappointed I asked her: "There is really no one else?" and she answered: "No, it's after New Years, everyone left already, there are only 6 other people staying at the hostel right now." So that's where my plan to meet a lot of great people kind of fell apart, I would have to spend most of the coming days alone. Too bad, but okay, it's such a beautiful city, I can enjoy myself here anyway, with or without people to share it with. After looking out of the window to the beautiful square for a while, I decided to explore Stare Miasto, the old town of Krakow. Read more about this in my next blogpost.

If you want to see more pictures of my trip to Krakow, click here.

Krakow by night
View from my hostelroom on cloth Hall at Rynek