Back home from Podlasie

Heavy traffic on the way back to Warsaw from Bialystok. But my wife Karin and I are definitely very satisfied with what we have experienced these last 2+ days.

It is not that easy to write blogs sitting in the Embassy car with an iPad on my knees, so this will be the short version.

Why did we go to Podlaskie region? First and foremost because we have hardly been there before. Karin never. And in my case only for a short visit to an Eastern Partnership conference in September.

Now we could spend the whole Sunday in the Podlaskie region, which is quite multicultural in its character. The orthodox church is very present and visible (not least because of the significant number of belarussians living there). And the villages where tatars have been living since they arrived during the 17th century are simply fascinating. We visited the mosques in both Kruszyniany and Bohoniki.

The first refugees from today’s Crimea may come to the region, we have been told, through an inititiave from the Polish tatars.

This morning we started the more official parts of the visit in Bialystok. The wojewoda Maciej Zywno told us about the systematic and active work that has been ongoing for quite some time to fight racism and xenophobia i.a. through mobilizing civil society (where he also has a personal background). The President of Bialystok Tadeusz Truskolaski and the marshal Jaroslaw Dworzanski generously hosted us for a lunch where we learned a lot about the plans to use the coming EU funds for efforts to develop a more innovative local economy, where the Universities will play a major role.

In the afternoon we visited one of them, the Medical university, which is located in the stunningly beautiful Branicki palace and where around 40 Swedish students are studying. We met around 15 of them to hear their experiences before heading back to Warsaw.

Yes, one more item to mention from today’s programme: the company visit to NIBE-BIAWAR – that is Polish Biawar having been bought by Swedish Nibe 14 years ago and doing very good business in areas like water heaters both for the Polish market and for export.

Very multifaceted programme for this visit to a very multicultural region. Already looking forward to see more of it in October. We will be back.

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