Third Christmas in Warsaw
The Embassy is unusually quiet today – as it should be the day before Christmas Eve. A couple of remaining tasks to fulfill, very few mails arriving, no meetings scheduled. From my window I can see the big Christmas tree in the Residence and promise myself that I will try to produce some rhymes for the Christmas gifts on time this year. Not waiting to the last minute.
Our two daughters have arrived from their respective Universities in Sweden to spend a third Christmas with us here in Warsaw. The same goes for my brother. It has become a nice tradition. Warsaw is so calm and so beautifully decorated this time of the year. We enjoy staying here for the whole holiday.
After Sylwester however there will be some travelling inside Poland: to Kraków and to Poznań. No work though, only to relax.
And some relaxation is definitely needed. I wrote a Christmas letter to Swedes living in Poland a couple of days ago and realised I had no possibility whatsoever to comment upon even our major activities these last weeks. The same goes for this blog.
One very memorable moment needs however to be mentioned: the meeting with former President Lech Wałęsa in Gdańsk December 11th. He was kind enough to receive my wife Karin, our Honorary Consul Tadeusz Iwanowski and myself for a courtesy call just after he had returned from South Africa and the funeral of President Mandela. I had expected him to be tired after a long journey but could not note anything of that kind. On the contrary, he was full of energy and good humour. And I learned a lot about Polish politics.
Some memories from this exciting job won’t ever fade. This is one of them.
Obviously the Swedish Lucia-tradition has been playing a major role in my calendar these last weeks before Christmas. The celebration in Gdańsk in the evening December 11th was one out of five and you could even say six if you count the exciting so called “mapping” on the Residence facade which now is available on our Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiEeRkZBhIM.
It is really worth eight minutes to watch!
In my speech at the Lucia celebration in Warsaw, co-organised by the Swedish Business Club and our Embassy, I made some reflections about an area added to the Polish-Swedish cooperation in October: “One area which we have added this year is related to xenophobia, racism, discrimination and minority rights. Or differently formulated – tolerance. We are entering an election year in Europe where these issues most probably will be high on the agenda. And all of us are facing challenges in this area in different ways. Also Sweden. Is Santa Lucia in any way related to this? I believe it is. Because today we are celebrating something very Swedish emerging out of a very multinational, multifaceted, multicultural process. A Sicilian saint moved into a German tradition and eventually being mixed with Scandinavian ones. It happens all the time. When you start analyzing what you believe is something very Swedish you often and very rapidly end up in – diversity. For a very simple reason. Differences are enriching. Diversity is a driver of culture and creativity. These are not any breaking news. But we need to remind ourselves and others – over and over again – about the consequences. That values like tolerance, respect, diversity and minority rights are both very right in themselves and a driving force behind development and prosperity. And that we need to be vocal whenever and wherever those values are questioned or threatened.”
In my speech I also made references to the introduction of Martial law in Poland that same day December 13th, 32 years ago. Three days later I participated in the commemoration of nine striking miners from the Wujek mine being killed in Katowice as a result of that repression – also 32 years ago. I visited the Wujek museum in May, was guided around by the former Chairman of the Striker’s Committee and was deeply moved by what I saw and heard. It was simply important to be there for the ceremony.
My final event before Christmas was the Daddie’s congress (Kongres ojców) last Thursday, where I participated in a panel by the invitation of Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to share Swedish experiences especially around paternal leave. Challenging and exciting to do it for the first time in Polish without manuscript – but some time needs to be the first. The most difficult part is actually often to understand what others are saying when they become engaged and start to speak faster and faster…
It was interesting to note that the role of fathers in the interaction with their children was highlighted quite a lot. A common discussion also in Sweden previously but less so these days. Partly I guess because we gradually realised that we are simply individuals - most often with a strong focus on getting the life puzzle to fit together. Mothers are different, fathers are different. But we are both needed by our children. And it is great to see this discussion being energised in the way that happened at Kongres ojców at the Stadium last Thursday.
Now I am very soon going to focus on my children as well. We don’t meet so often these days, so I will make the most out of these precious days that lie ahead.
Merry Christmas – now also through Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2O_lTC5LbMU.