This week, Kafkadesk spoke with Joanna Zawadzka: a 22-year-old political science graduate, former volunteer at the Regional Center for international debate who also worked at the Polish Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Technology, she recently decided to run in last October’s local elections in Poland’s southern town of Opole, a few kilometers away from Wroclaw.
Although her bid to join the local committee was unsuccessful, she tells us about what made her want to get into politics, how she sees today’s political landscape and what are the biggest challenges ahead.
What made you decide to run in Opole during Poland’s local elections last October?
I always wanted to participate in elections, but first I wanted to pursue my studies and finish my bachelor’s degree, and I did last year. The time had come.
What would you like to change in Opole and your district?
Opole is a beautiful city full of charm, but it doesn’t use its potential to the full. If I had won the elections, I would have liked the city to provide more support to higher education institutions, for instance. Students have a large and yet untapped capital that needs to be highlighted and promoted. Another big problem, as in many other cities throughout Poland, is the air quality, I wanted to use the city area to add more greenery and increase the number of available parking spaces. I know that this is a big challenge, but it’s all about logistics here. Finally, many people in my neighborhood often feel threatened and scared in the streets, due to a lack of monitoring and lighting.
Are there many people your age getting involved in politics (local or national)? More generally, how do you see Poland’s youth’s relations with politics today?
Yes, young people are becoming more and more involved in Poland’s social and political life. They often join numerous political youth groups or associations. It is certainly difficult for young people to show up because they often have to face numerous stereotypes, including the widespread idea that they lack both knowledge and experience. However, hard work for citizens is often noticed and appreciated, and I think this is what it’s all about. Through the associations and civic organizations, young people have a chance to learn from people who have experience and important knowledge to share. This is an illustration of strong cooperation between the generations and age groups.
Was this your first experience in politics?
To be honest, it’s hard to say if it really was. I feel as if I’ve always gravitated around political involvement one way or another. I often had the opportunity to help organize political events, where I met many inspiring people, who pushed and encouraged me along this path.
What are the key-lessons that you take from it?
I certainly know what the elections look like from the inside now. It is really hard work, countless sleepless nights and a lot of stress. But the goal itself rewards and justifies everything. Even though I didn’t win, I’m very happy I took part to it and I don’t regret my decision.
Local elections are over, but there are many elections coming up in Poland in the next year (European, national). Are you going to get involved? If so, how?
One day for sure. Election campaigning is very expensive. Extensive structures are needed, as well, of course, as the support of a certain majority. I am only at the beginning of this road.
What’s your opinion about the current state of politics in Poland?
That’s a very broad question! But the first aspect that comes to mind is the fact that Poland is currently – and more than before – divided into two ‘political blocs’: Polish society is increasingly divided. Another important aspect is how much the image of Poland has suffered recently on the international scene. It’s very difficult to reform the state under such conditions.
If you had to rank the three main challenges facing Poland today, what would they be?
Poland has to proclaim loud and clear that smog and pollution are not an abstract or a theoretical problem and that they impact the lives of people every day. The government has taken steps in this direction, but public awareness on this issue remains low, with people often burning garbage and plastic in furnaces, which has serious consequences on air quality. Another challenge would certainly be to improve relations on the international stage with other countries. And finally, it’s very important for Poland to focus on creating good conditions for entrepreneurs to strive in the current economic context and bring new products and services on the market.
Where do you think the country is heading, both in the short-term and five-ten years from now? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about your country’s future?
It’s hard to say. Poland is developing and following its own path. However, it’s important to remember that our country also relies on a network of international relations. Bilateral ties with the United States, China, France and Germany, among others, all have an impact on Poland. The problem of one country affects another. The future is uncertain, especially in regard to Europe’s many problems (refugee crisis, trade war, conflict between Ukraine and Russia).
You can read our other interviews on Poland:
English Touring Company: “It’s a really exciting time to be involved in theatre in Poland”
Krakow Improv’: “The magic is that everything happens only here and now!”
Warsaw’s Experient Explorer: “I want to bring community together in an organic way”
Kontakt Magazine: “There are many different ways to be Catholic in Poland”