I'm currently enjoying breakfast at Katarynka in Bydgoszcz, reflecting on an event that has the potential to significantly contribute to Poland's international narrative. I've just returned from the World Forum for the Polonia Media Forum, held in Warsaw from September 22 to 24. This gathering brought together 65 journalists from over 17 countries, including Australia, the United States, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, and various Western European nations. The primary objective was to share experiences and devise a strategy for gaining recognition in Poland.
This situation has persisted since 1989, when Polish media seemed to overlook their role in promoting the Polish narrative abroad. It's worth noting that during the Communist era, Polish media played a crucial role in conveying the true picture of Poland under Soviet occupation to both Poles and the world. Notable figures like Jacek Kalabinski made significant contributions, such as his remarkable translation of Lech Walesa's speech delivered to the American Congress: "We the people." Few journalists in contemporary Poland possess the linguistic prowess and rhetorical skills to communicate effectively with the Anglo-Saxon world. This deficit could be addressed if the independent Polish state were genuinely committed to promoting Poland abroad.
The state of Polish journalism outside of Poland was recently illuminated by the Polonia Media Forum. This forum was made possible through the modest allocation of funds by Minister Dziedziczak.
Unfortunately, the state of Polish journalism abroad is bleak. When certain media outlets fold, editors often find themselves without jobs. Portals and newspapers are predominantly sustained by the journalists themselves. Instead of fostering integration within the Polish communities, visits by politicians from Warsaw often divide this environment. Warsaw's media coverage of Polonia tends to be monotonous, focusing on politicians, their names, children, and smiling girls in traditional costumes. This perpetuates a simplistic and uninformed image of Polonia despite evidence to the contrary. While other countries actively engage with their diasporas on economic and political fronts, we in Warsaw and around the world continue to project a stereotypical image of Poles abroad rooted in the past.
Returning to the forum- it was notable for the absence of those responsible for cooperation with Polonia, despite being funded by Polish taxpayers. Warsaw media has shown little interest in the topic of Polonia for many years. It's crucial to emphasize that we're discussing a 20 million-strong Polish diaspora that is not fully integrated into the Polish bloodstream.
The most poignant moments came from our compatriots in the East, specifically from Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. Their stories were deeply moving. Ania Panisheva, who was arrested by Lukashenka's regime, emotionally recounted how Polish journalists in Belarus are still awaiting assistance. Female journalists from Ukraine shared stories of aid efforts for Ukraine and the challenges faced by Poles in Ukraine. Poles in Kazakhstan are still awaiting repatriation, which has yet to materialize. It's unfortunate that these pressing issues are often overlooked in election campaigns.