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Between Myth and Reality: Polish Multicultural Cities. Network Intercultural Action (2015-2016)

One of Poland’s beloved myths is that of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious world which ended with the outbreak of World War II. After a period of intense homogeneity (1945-1989), Poland finally opened itself to the processes of interculturation which have been accelerated by migrations from and to Poland. What is more, a number of initiatives have been undertaken in order to bring multiculturalism back to life – especially in urban centres which once took pride in their heterogeneity. Over the last two decades or so, various Polish cities have tried to respond to the challenges of the past and present multiculturalism – the former re-emerging after years of denial, the latter being an effect of the EU accession, globalisation and migration. Their experiences are different and rarely shared – hence the project “Polish Multicultural Cities: Between Myth and Reality” which wished to juxtapose various approached to multiculturalism in several Polish cities and analyse both good and bad practices. Regarding the ALF field of action, the project corresponded to the following ALF field of action: Citizenship and Minorities, Youth, Education, Culture and Arts.

The project comprised of 3 study visit: to Wrocław on 19-20 February, Lublin on 17-19 March, and Białystok on 22-24 April. Every visit was prepared in close cooperation with the local members of the ALF who were the project partners. Though the individual programmes differed (due to the specificity of a given city) the visits embraced similar types of activities: meetings with experts, local leaders and representatives of ethnic/national minorities, debates, workshops, artistic performances. The project gathered an impressive number of participants: 131 (60 in Wrocław, 30 in Lublin and 41 in Białystok, with some of them taking part in more than one seminar).

The major results of the activity are: 1) increase in knowledge and competences related to the phenomenon of urban multiculturalism; 2) familiarisation with the diverse Polish experience of multiculturalism – especially grass-root and official (i.e. municipality-based) actions; 3) further integration of the ALF network members.

The recommendations which emerged out of the projects are: 1) creation of further opportunities for the network intercultural actions and integration events; 2) a follow-up to the project which would address new cities (specific suggestions have been made for the likes of Łódź, Przemyśl).

Project partners:

  • The Foundation for Social Diversity (Warsaw)
  • The Panorama of Cultures Association (Lublin)
  • The “Grodzka Gate ‐ NN Theatre” Centre
  • The Foundation Laboratory of Research and Social Action “SocLab”
  • “Widok” Association
  • The Baltic Sea Culture Centre
  • The City Culture Institute
  • Arteria Association