The Treasure of Wrocław. What Should Promote the Capital of Lower Silesia in the European Union?
I believe that everything depends on people and great things can be achieved in any surrounding circumstances, Wrocław is a perfect city where motivated people and favorable environment met – reminds Valeriia HULKOVYCH
Every city in every country in the world has something special and unique. I am lucky to live in one of the most fascinating cities of Europe – in Wrocław. During my tour around Europe a couple of years ago I was fascinated with this city where you can lose track of time when I went over the bridges and looked up at the windows on the Market Square. I was also absolutely sure that one day I would be back for a longer time because one weekend is definitely not enough time for Wrocław. Now I am a second-year student at the University of Wrocław and it seems to me that I cannot still realize what a magnificent part of Poland it is. What exactly attracts people to this city and what should be done in order to increase the level of interest even more? What should promote the capital of the Lower Silesian Voivodship in the European Union and even beyond it?
The very first term that comes to my mind while thinking about key features of life in Wrocław is its cultural diversity and cultural exchange. Having the best geographical location helps citizens constantly explore new parts of Europe. Promoting all kinds of tourism is not a new idea for Wrocław, but there is always place for some improvements and updates. Today the city welcomes a lot of tourists every year and most of them will come back for sure even more than once. The involvement of foreigners in various concerts, plays, exhibitions, meetings, festivals and other events means that Wrocław has a lot both to give to and receive from the outside.
The geographical location is also the key feature of a different notion – tolerance. Historically, many nations have lived in Lower Silesia. Apart from Poles, there are plenty of Germans, Ukrainians and other minorities. I am sure to say that Wrocław is a city with the biggest variety of minorities, at least in Poland.
As I am Ukrainian, I can confidently claim that the people who live here are open to the world. Every pupil will answer your question and every granny will give you needed directions on the streets, whenever you ask. Nowadays we can witness that many Ukrainians are coming directly to Wrocław, and the city welcomes those who are ready to work and develop, and this friendly acceptance could be a good example for everyone. So Wrocław is a good example of a city where so many cultures mix and successfully coexist together. Moreover, there are so many different churches for every religion – numerous Roman Catholic churches as well as Orthodox ones, synagogues for Jews, mosques for Muslims and so on. For such an important part of the country, it is vital to have a religious representation for everyone around the world – this provides a perfect atmosphere to have a productive dialog between cultures and minorities.
The thing that has always amazed me is Polish knowledge of national history. Regardless of age and place of origin, every Pole will tell you the history of the country, national heroes and why they are proud of their country. Having traveled around Poland, I noticed that still, the citizens of Wrocław are most interested in their history. People are willing to spend free time visiting museums, debates, exhibitions connected to history and heritage. I am sure that every country, not only from the European Union, should learn from Poland and Wrocław in particular. The constant increase in the number of museums and different modern interactive exhibitions proves it. Another pride of Wrocław that impresses every tourist are the dwarfs. The fact that the people managed to preserve this important historical heritage and develop it makes us want to dig deeper into the history of our regions to find something similar. Literally, everyone who feels creative enough can suggest their own dwarf –the symbol of anti-communism and the freedom of speech. As for me, this is a great tool to integrate everyone into the life of their country, so these little things do matter and other countries could take the attitude of Wrocław towards national history as an example.
It seems like people here remember the past, appreciate the present time and care about the future.
Another feature that the people of Wrocław should promote is their activeness in the local life of the city and region as a whole. Everyone strives to make some contribution to the life around them, take part in various activities. In Wrocław expressing yourself is really easy, thanks to great numbers of foundations, institutions and organizations.
One of the most significant events was “Wrocław – European Capital of Culture 2016”, which gathered together all the citizens of the city and beyond. The events like this prove that Lower Silesia has a lot to show to the world: how talented, friendly and open the people are, how the city cooperates with different parts of the world creating art. This event also mobilized the creative society and helped the process of integration for international guests. Without any problem, I got a chance to be a volunteer during the whole year. I became aware of how the city functions and I could meet wonderful people.
While assisting to the journalists from Rijeka, Croatia, the city that is going to be the European Capital of Culture 2020, I was said that one of the most important tasks of this press tour was to find out how citizens of Wrocław managed to gather and create such a huge event on such a level. Isn’t it the best thing that should be promoted in Wrocław? The idea of a successful co-existence in variety, exactly as the motto of the European Union says –In Varietate Concordia– “united in diversity”. I am sure to say that this motto really works in Wrocław and that is what should be taught to other cities of Europe.
Also, the citizens do not hesitate to show their attitude towards government and it doesn’t matter whether support to go to any kind of protests. This level of public participation can even compete with the capital of Poland – Warsaw.
When I ask my friends from other cities of Poland what is their first association with Wrocław, the most popular answer is: amazing architecture and fascinating views. I cannot disagree with this because Wrocław is a unique place, where so many styles are combined and preserved.
A simple walk can show you the medieval Market Square, the oldest and the most beautiful part of Wrocław – Ostrów Tumski (the Cathedral Island), and also some districts left after the communist rule as well as modern buildings and huge business centers.
Wrocław is one of those cities that can be described as perfectly located. Being surrounded by mountains, having Odra river in the heart of the city – everything provides grounds to be the most ecologically-friendly city. The people in Wrocław can enjoy a great number of parks, long embankments and a two-hour trip can get you far into breathtaking views onto the Sudetes mountains. It seems that every person in Lover Silesia cares about the environment and this should be appreciated. Although I wish more people chose bikes or decided to walk to their destinations instead of wasting numerous hours in the traffic jams – Wrocław is going in the right direction in terms of ecology.
As I am an international student, the access to the educational resources and equal opportunities is especially important to me. No matter what you study in Wrocław – if you are willing to achieve something – you will get help. So many different resources are available for every student, starting from countless libraries and finishing with grants and internship opportunities. There are cities and even countries that specialize in either technical or social science, but Wrocław is a city where these sciences are in balance and complement each other. No matter which area students would like to study – they are sure welcome in the capital of Lower Silesia. It is completely fair that Wrocław is one of the largest educational centers of Poland with almost 150000 students. The attractive environment attracts students from every part of our world – it is crazy having a class of Polish language at the university together with people from the USA, the UK, Indonesia, Somalia and even Argentina. Facts like this make Wrocław a hospitable place for everyone.
The cities of the European Union should follow not only the cultural aspects of life in Wrocław. The capital of Lower Silesia is a huge developing industrial center in Poland and in Europe in general. The biggest areas of the industry include a public transport manufacturer, so the city can not only supply itself but also develop its economy. Also, Wrocław attracts a lot of foreign world-known companies. The people have an opportunity to work in Google, HP, Bosch and so on. The most important branches are the high-tech sector as well as the pharmaceutical industry. That means Wrocław creates favorable conditions for work for everyone and strives to become one of the most important business centers in this region of Europe.
Wrocław is not afraid to move forward.
People constantly plan their future projects, develop new ideas and talk about their region in and outside Poland. So many things are going to take place in Wrocław in the nearest future – important political meetings, music festivals, sports games and everything is because people are willing to know more.
Because of the great impact of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland influential people connected with religion can help to shape the national attitude and solve hardest disputes. The most significant example that should be mentioned here is Cardinal Bolesław Kominek. After so many years of horrible arguments and quarrels, his letter to German bishops with cherished lines “We forgive and ask for forgiveness” helped to open a new chapter in the German-Polish relations. Nowadays it is vital to remember about people like Bolesław Kominek in order to keep united and find a perfect balance in every aspect of our life, and citizens of Wrocław are doing a good job in commemorating such important people.
Trying to summarize everything that has been said above, the most important aspects of Wrocław that should be promoted are: the cultural and historical heritage, the openness, multiculturalism and innovations. As a result of these things people are much attached to their city and this attitude is developing even more. Other Europeans should learn how to be open and not to be afraid to accept new things, because as Wrocław shows – changes are not always bad. I completely agree with the words of Tibor Navracsics, the European Commissioner for education, culture, youth and sports, that “In a time when the European Union is struggling to cope with unprecedented challenges, Wrocław has managed to uncover and show all the characteristics which make this part of the world unique.” That means that despite all the current troubles we could always find a compromise and a preferable solution.
Wrocław is a unique city indeed. It remembers the horrors of the Second World War, which left the city ruined not only physically, but also spiritually. Many new citizens came from different regions and they started to learn how to live together and build their identity. This city is a perfect example how life can arise from ruins and tragedies.
.Although I believe that everything depends on people and great things can be achieved in any surrounding circumstances, Wrocław is a perfect city where motivated people and favorable environment met. After spending a couple of days in Lower Silesia you will draw some conclusions for sure. Looking from the perspective of the main goals of the European Union, it seems that Lower Silesia does its best in order to successfully fulfill every one of them, starting from the ecology and culture, ending with national security and market development. As I have said before, I think the most important thing that Wrocław “teaches” us is how to successfully coexist among such a variety of cultures, voices and visions. For me, the main goal of Wrocław should be showing a successful realization of the idea of unity in diversity.
Essay awarded in the 3rd edition of the “Win the Internship in the European Parliament” competition, organized under the educational program “Awaken Your Potential” by Kazimierz Michał Ujazdowski, MEP.