One year in Poland – and a visit to the fascinating city of Łódź
June 27th I concluded my first year as Swedish Ambassador to Poland.
I arrived just after the State Visit by the King and Queen in May 2011. And just in time for the inauguration of the Polish Presidency of the EU.
What followed was half a year of intensive work for our Embassy to follow and report not only about the Polish EU Presidency but also about the election campaign and the following formation of a new Government.
In parallel I needed to get to know Poland and key Polish counterparts, not least in light of the declaration of cooperation between our countries that was signed by Foreign Ministers Sikorski and Bildt during the State Visit.
Intensive work for sure – but to a large extent facilitated by the close ties already existing, by the very experienced staff at our Embassy and by the helpfulness by our Polish partners in different parts of society.
The successful Polish EU Presidency has together with the equally successful Euro2012 reinforced the image of a modern, economically dynamic, forward looking Poland with a strong commitment to European integration. I read an article in the Swedish morning daily Svenska Dagbladet on a similar theme the other day and I can just confirm: http://www.svd.se/naringsliv/nyheter/varlden/polska-fotbollsfesten-over_7334283.svd
This is also the main impression that I take with me from my first year in this exciting country.
Last Friday I travelled along the famous A2 highway, in a way symbolizing the great number of infrastructure improvements that are ongoing all over the country. The trip to Łódź went very fast indeed even though some final works were still ongoing.
What I have lacked more than anything else during my first year here is the time to make numerous visits to region outside the capital. Not least for that reason I was really happy for this opportunity to visit Łódź before my summer vacation – but also because the city in itself has such a fascinating character.
I am right now reading the novel by the Swedish author Steve Sem-Sandberg “The poor people in Łódź” (Biedni ludzie z miasta Łodzi) telling the deeply moving story about the Jewish ghetto – making the individuals visible as well as their everyday life under unbelievably terrifying circumstances.
The history of industrial Łódź, though, was something new to me. Not least fascinating was the visit to the textile museum and the new insight that Łódź was one of the fastest growing cities in the world when the number of inhabitants rose from almost nothing to over 600 000 in a hundred years when the textile industry was booming – a period which also gave the city a really multicultural origin. Even if there certainly were some very grim elements also in this process of industrialization, clearly pictured in Andrzej Wajda’s famous movie “The promised land” (Ziemia obiecana).
And there is so much more to see in this fascinating city. Beautiful buildings, some with industrial character, some being old palaces. Some reconstructed, some still waiting. The Museum of cinematography was one case in point. Both interesting due to the theme (and linked to the famous film school in the city) but also due to the history of the building being a palace, once belonging to one of the famous industrial families in the city, the Scheiblers.
My wife Karin, my youngest daughter Amanda and myself were extremely well received by the authorities, which on different levels have a lot of linkages to Sweden, especially Örebro. And I noted – as in all cities I visit – the great interest for the Swedish environmental experiences, not least in the area of waste management where municipalities now according to the new law need to change the practices quite a lot.
That’s an area where our Embassy and especially counsellor Gunnar Haglund already has done a lot, and we will try to continue along those lines.
After vacation. That starts the upcoming Friday.