Moving to a new country where you don’t speak the language is a challenging experience. Getting your head around bureaucracy, finding your way around, making new friends… After sometime you get these bases covered. You’ve got a job. You attend parties. There’s plenty of events happening in the city. But still something is missing in your life here. Something you took for granted back home, something that’s a bit hard to put your finger on…
For me, that missing puzzle piece came together when I attended my first Collaborate Krakow networking breakfast. Here, I was welcomed into the bright room, offered food and coffee without question. Here, my job title or nationality weren’t my most important qualities. Refreshingly people were interested in exchanging ideas. I had found an English-speaking community engaged in the city. People seeking creative ways to improve Krakow, the place, that for the moment, is where they call home.
“Collaborate Krakow gives a place you can come to and have community, be active, be part of something or create something new.” Explains Founder Vanda Tribocka, “You belong. A place for multicultural exchange – that makes things grow.” This month the community is celebrating its first birthday.
This month the community is celebrating its first birthday. Vanda, Lithuanian, says the idea for Collaborate came from her experience living as a foreigner in Spain. “I spoke no Spanish and very little English! As a foreigner there, it seemed, there was no possibility to be involved. I was searching for something, but didn’t find it.”
In Krakow, Vanda met Ukrainian Tetiana Demydko and Colombian American Leidy Olivo. They felt a barrier to foreigners participating in local activism and volunteer initiatives. “We were wondering why was there no community of volunteers in English,” said Tetiana. “Let’s make one!” Collaborate aims to help foreigners to become volunteers. “But at the same time, to help Polish
Collaborate aims to help foreigners to become volunteers. “But at the same time, to help Polish organisations be open for having foreigners as volunteers.” Tells Tetiana.
The last year has seen Collaborate flourish, as the group has quickly gained a
reputation for interesting, well organised, FUN events. While the initial target
audience for Collaborate started out as foreigners living here, the gatherings are
increasingly popular amongst Polish people who are happy to speak English. In this way, Collaborate provides a bridge between the foreign and native communities in the city and a common ground for us to discuss issues and potential improvements.
“We started with small meet-ups” says Vanda, “We were surprised to see such a big attendance! Turns out, there was so much need for this community in Krakow!”
Collaborate hosts monthly networking breakfasts, film screenings and evening events centred around a core theme, hosting speakers from local organisations. Meet-ups have covered topics as diverse as art and activism, women, food, multicultural Krakow and traditional Polish crafts. The events provide a unique platform for organisations working on similar topics to present alongside one another and, hopefully…. collaborate!
The open events give the community to the opportunity to discuss big topics on a Krakow level, while drawing on our own culture and experiences from our different homes. Not only are these nights always thought provoking, but the supportive environment fosters meaningful conversations and I nearly always leave with new friendships.
“For me, the biggest achievement has been seeing the project idea grow into a
community.” Says Tetiana “Seeing foreigners volunteering in Krakow, thanks to
Collaborate connecting them to local organisations!”
Vanda is open as to the future of Collaborate, “I’d like to build the community goals together – a guideline to grow by.” “I think of it like a tree.” She smiles, “We have found our nourishing soil in Ambasada Krakowian, that gives us a place where we have planted our roots. Now, after a year, we have a strong trunk. And we start to have more branches – these are our small actions. Across the branches even more networking can occur.”
I have realised that for me, an important aspect to the feeling of home is the sense of engagement in positive change making action – in big ways or small. I’m not a local here, however for now ‘act locally’ means being active in Krakow and Collaborate Krakow is a community through which we can all start to feel more ‘at home’ in here.