When I was new as Ambassador to Poland two and a half years ago I wrote a blog called “Recovering”.
This time I ”only” have a rather bad cold behind me, but that headline could still serve as good summary of the week that has passed. I am trying to recover. Stop coughing. Get rid of the viruses and start functioning as usual.
The cold hit me last Thursday on my way by train to Katowice.
I had participated in the 15th Anniversary of the Polish accession to NATO the evening before, a very dignified ceremony with an excellent speech by President Komorowski. Thursday morning saw me leaving for meetings with students at University Śląski in Sosnowiec where i.a. a significant number of students are studying Swedish (as second language after German).
I am happy to say that the meetings went very well. The students that had been studying Swedish for some years had, as mostly is the case here in Poland, reached an impressive level and we talked for a long time. The second activity was a speech for a larger group of students about gender equality in Polish with questions and answers in Polish as well. It was a challenging experience but I managed to do it – for the first time!
After that, though, I spent the rest of the day trying to cure the cold…
The result was so-so.
But my programme in Katowice and Zabrze during Friday was so inspiring that I more or less forgot the flue dimension of the day. We – that is my colleges Józef Neterowicz from the Embassy, Daniel Larsson from Business Sweden and our Honorary Consul from Kraków Janus Kahl - started with a breakfast meeting with a couple of Sweden related companies in the region. We will try to have more meetings of that kind outside Warsaw the coming years. So rewarding to learn about the business climate directly from private sector people on the ground.
Later I visited TVS for an interview together with Józef Neterowicz – obviously about the dramatically negative devel0pments in Ukraine but also about the Women’s congress (because of my visit the following day). And additionally also about cleantech business where Józef, who is the expert in this area, took the lead. The President of TVS Arkadiusz Hołda hosted us in a fantastic way. We had the opportunity to visit also Zabrze close to Katowice, a city where an exciting cooperation about biogas between Poland and Sweden is ongoing within the framework of the Polish-Swedish platform for sustainable energy.
I am clearly impressed by the innovative approach of Zabrze and its President, Małgorzata Mańka-Szulik. I need to go back there and see more both of the city and of our cooperation.
We concluded the day with a very informative meeting with Professor Adam Gierek, member of the European Parliament. I am now trying to meet as many politicians as possible from different camps learning about the upcoming European election May 25th. The increasingly important role Poland is playing within the EU is making it increasingly important for our Embassy to be able to understand more in depth how the European issues are dealt with in Polish politics.
Saturday meant visiting the first Women’s congress in Słąsk together with our interns Nathalie Lindh and Karolina Laczak. I have attended one regional congress of this kind before, in Zielona Góra, and I would happily do it many more times. The energy coming out of the discussions, not least about the role of women in politics, is almost overwhelming. And just the kind of energy that is needed to make change happen.
My task had three parts. First a speech about gender equality in the introductory session. Then a panel session about the modern father. And finally a couple of interviews. Everything in Polish. I hope I made myself understood…
Back in Warsaw my cold had worsened again – but I managed to be present when we hosted the signing of a contract at our Residence Monday morning where “Gästrike återvinnare” will be involved in training 600 practicioners in waste management. I am thrilled by this exciting project and really looking forward to hear how it will evolve.
Everything we are doing right now is certainly taking place in the shadow of the Russian aggression against Ukraine now including the totally illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol. It is an issue that has been and will continue to dominate our agenda for a long time.
I will however have the opportunity to see more of Poland outside Warsaw the coming days. Tomorrow my deputy Ulrik Tideström, my wife Karin, our driver Radek Wywrocki and I are leaving for a visit to Podlasie ending Monday with the more official parts. Including meeting Swedish medical students in Białystok in the afternoon.
More about that visit in my next blog. Which will be written without any coughing breaks. At least I hope so.