First visit to Poznań
It was real winter in Poznań, as it is in Warsaw these days.
My wife Karin and I still managed to get an impression of the city and especially the remarkable beauty of Stary Rynek, the main square in the Old town. We were guided by Swedish speaking students from the Institution of Scandinavian languages, who spent parts of their Sunday afternoon to show us around and make presentations in excellent Swedish. Professor Witold Maciejewski and his colleagues had really planned a good programme for their part of the visit, using all the time as effectively as possible.
The next day, Monday, we got an opportunity to meet and have a talk with all the students. As always very inspiring to try to answer all possible – and indeed very relevant – questions we receive. Like: What does an Ambassador really do? Or: How do you asses the cooperation with Poles? Or: Is there anything that has shocked you in Poland? (Which I really can’t say there is). Or: When you are engaged in issues like gender quality or children’s rights, how can you make a difference as an Ambassador?
This last question have me opportunity to describe how we worked with children’s rights during my three years in Tanzania, where I i.a. was asked by the Minister of education in Zanzibar Haroun Suleiman to share Swedish experiences from the law against corporal punishment and alternative ways of bringing up children. That is one often used instrument by people like me: to simply share experiences and facilitate networking between people that could share their experiences with each other.
Again Karin and I made the same reflection as many times before: The level of the students studying Swedish is impressive. After about 2,5 years they are really very capable. We listened to a couple of presentations and promised to continue when we return in mid-April (for the biannual conference on the Swedish language to be held in Poznań).
When I arrived to the so called Collegum Novum, the part of the Adam Mickiewicz University where my meeting with the students took place, I could see our exhibition about Raoul Wallenberg clearly exposed in the entrance hall. And the theme of my lecture was the same: Raoul Wallenberg and his deeds. To spread knowledge about him and the lessons to be learnt from him is something of the most meaningful I do as Ambassador. And will continue to do even if the Wallenberg-year now has come to an end. “One man can make a difference” – one of the teachers came back to that theme during our final conversation before I left. It had remained in her mind. Hopefully in the minds of the students as well.
Poznań is beautiful. Poznań is dynamic in terms of economy. All this is evident even after a short visit. And there are some links to Sweden, though perhaps a bit weaker than in some other major cities of Poland. IKEA was of course mentioned by everybody. And a couple of Swedish regions have a history of cooperation: Västerbotten and Västernorrland. Hopefully more is to come. I will soon return to Poznań and to the region of Wielkopolska. I will encourage more Swedes to follow my example.