Samba knows more

Well, 12. Visegrad Summer School is coming to an end. Sitting alone in one of the elegant rooms at the highest floor of the renaissance Villa Decius I can’t avoid nostalgic feelings. That was a great time. Now it’s almost over.

The last day was opened by Joanna Skoczek from Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The main topic of her lecture concerns the Visegrad cooperation in public and cultural diplomacy. As she argued the role of soft power in the international relations is growing. Additionally, due to the progressing inclusivity or accessibility of politics whole societies are being involved in the process willy-nilly. The better image the country has the more influence it obtains. Therefore, image building becomes one of the crucial external challenges. It must be credible. Moreover, the state has to find proper addresses to present itself in order to be well-recognised. They are usually – traditionally seen as public opinion creators, elites, politicians, academia, etc. Nevertheless, as Joanna Skoczek pointed out personal contacts are becoming more and more important. As shows the case of the image of Poles in the United Kingdom – the main factor that influence Britons’ perception of Polish emigrants is their everyday behaviour. Hence, any media campaign or image building will be unsuccessful unless it would include those Poles in the UK. They are the most effective and credible conveyors of the Polish national brand abroad.

There are some external challenges as well. Image has to be built upon a cohesive strategy. It demands information exchange. Finally, no policy can be done without budget, coordination and institutions. However, a modern public diplomacy must take into account not only the traditional structures, such as embassies, consulates, etc. but – as already mentioned – regular people, non-governmental organisations, cultural institutes or social media.

The lecture provoked a question of Anastasija Panasevic from Lithuania who asked about some possible negative consequences of diasporas’ activity. As she claimed, this might be caused by the influences that the country of origins might impose on the diaspora to conduct own interests abroad. Joanna Skoczek agreed with the statement. Nevertheless, she’s a general supporter of diasporas’ and minorities’ political activity. She think that they should be included into the domestic or local politics – as long that’s one of the cornerstones of the united Europe.

After the lecture came the time for workshop groups’ presentations.

The first workshop was devoted to the promotion of Visegrad Group cooperation. It was conducted by Natasza Styczyńska and Magdalena Góra. Basically, the aim of the project was to prepare a cohesive V4 brand strategy. The projects were diverse. From “homo visegradus” – a final step in the evolution of human being who represents the best common local features to V4 TV Channel and V4U – which main idea was based on the promotion of the regional cuisine gems or a trip among the most attractive cities of the Central and Eastern Europe.

After that creative writing workshop participants presented their outcomes. Joanna Pawluśkiewicz invited the group to think in a bit different way. Putting aside the well-known area of scientific writing, the participants were asked to develop or free their real creativity. So did they. Following “weird people” through Kraków, making up stories, characters and descriptions – they were introduced to the final task, that is to prepare a crime story. The one that got the greatest attraction concerns a murder of the Visegrad Summer School participant, half-anonymous (so to say) Jarda, the economist. No one could be free from suspicions. Even the almighty Gazprom, other VSS participants or the director of Villa Decius Association – not to mention her doubtlessly innocent dog called Samba.

Finally, the third one was the photo workshop. This year edition was dedicated to the social activity. The main goal was to show diverse forms of noble voluntary work in pictures. That was for instance 440 km project. Its aim is to collect money for leg prosthesis for Urszula Kosma-Krauze. In order to achieve that the project’s participants decided to walk 440 km on the beach. That is a really creative way to help someone. The prices of prosthesis are really high. Moreover, the financial support provided by the Polish state is totally inadequate. Therefore such aid is really valuable. During the workshop, the participants were also informed how could they help disabled people in an inoffensive way. Quite similar was the project “Razem na szczyty” (together to the peaks) conducted by Fundacja Jaśka Meli (Jasiek Mela Foundation). Instead of the beach sand – the mountains are the place where people are wandering around in order to help. That noble initiative impressed many participants of the 12. Visegrad Summer School. They highlighted the importance of such projects. As they said – such initiatives fill too often abused phrases of social inclusion, solidarity and voluntary service with a real and meaningful content.

Another project that the photo-workshop participants presented were the artistic activity of Cecylia Malik. Her works are diverse. From “365 trees”, a performance during which Cecylia Malik each day of a year was climbing on other trees and photographed herself to “Modraszek kolektyw” – that is a multi-event social and artistic campaign aiming at the defence of butterflies.

And that’s how the 12. Visegrad Summer School finished. Obviously, there was that crazy farewell party still. Nevertheless, the fruitfully stimulating and intensively inspiring two weeks were sadly coming to an end. There might be some mystery behind the Visegrad Summer School. Each year another group of seemingly foreign people become friends. Each year there are new stories, new inside jokes, new reunion plans, new jokers and heroes not to mention couples. How does it all happen? Quoting the great crime story written by the creative writing workshop – Samba knows more. Indeed, only the ostensibly careless dog weaving its way nonchalantly within subsequent Visegrad Summer Schools’ students could tell us what’s going on there. But Samba would prefer to keep her secrets. You can only try to guess what’s the Visegrad Summer School magic by taking part in the next edition in July 2014.

Ziemowit Jóźwik