Juan David Latorre
The Polish city of Gdansk has been awarded the Princess of Asturias Award for Concord 2019, as announced last June 13 in Oviedo by the jury in charge of its concession. The Diplomat interviews Miroslawa Kubas-Paradowska, director of the Polish Institute of Culture, to find out more about this Baltic city.
What does the awarding of the Princess of Asturias Award for Concord 2019 mean for the city of Gdańsk and for Poland in general?
It is a great honour and joy for all Poles. It is important to underline that this recognition of the key role played by the city of Gdańsk in the important events of the last century comes just as we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War and the 30th anniversary of the fall of communism, the beginning of which goes back to the formation of the Solidarity movement, so strongly linked to Gdańsk.
On September 1, 1939, the German invasion that started World War II took place on Gdańsk What is known in Poland about this historical fact?
In Poland, the memory of the Second World War is still very much alive. I myself belong to a generation that grew up playing in the rubble, that saw the country laboriously rise from the ruin of the six years of Nazi occupation. However, the younger generations, too, are quite aware of what that great tragedy meant for Poland and for the whole world. The resistance of the soldiers at Westerplatte has become legend. It is no coincidence that the site chosen for the construction of a museum dedicated to the Second World War was precisely Gdańsk.
Another very important event was the creation of the Solidarity trade union in 1989 by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa.
Solidarity was a peaceful movement that demanded changes in the regime. It continued to be so when the authorities forcefully introduced Martial Law, which lasted from 1981 to 1983. The Nobel Peace Prize should not surprise the symbolic character of those events, Lech Wałęsa. This prize was really the recognition of the merit of the whole movement, which in barely a decade, between 1980 and 1989, would lead to transformation not only in Poland, but would also be the seed of democratic changes in all the countries of the Soviet bloc.
The city of Gdansk is known for its tolerant character, especially with all kinds of races and religions.
Gdańsk is known as the open city. Of its almost half a million inhabitants, more than 20,000 are foreigners. In fact, in 2016, the City Council of Gdańsk published the document Model of Integration of Immigrants, which “develops a management system in public institutions and social organizations of the city to facilitate the integration of refugees and immigrants in areas such as education, culture, social assistance, housing, employment and health. In addition, a consultative council, composed of twelve representatives of immigrants and two refugees, was set up to transmit to local authorities the needs and concerns of this population group.
The Polish Institute of Culture is one of the most active centres we have in Spain. Do you have any statistics, for example, on those carried out in 2018?
Thank you very much for these words. We do our best to make the best of Polish culture known to the Spanish public. Literature, cinema, music, visual arts, theatre, history, language, sport… there are many manifestations of our culture that we would like to transmit abroad. Last year we organized or co-organized more than 100 different cultural events and activities, an average of two a week, including the holiday season.