What did we learn from the panel on Dual Identity?

October 18, 2019

British Poles was a media patron of an event held at London’s Ognisko Polskie on the 15th October 2019. The event was organised by Polaron. The issues concerning British Poles, Polish Brits and others who would consider themselves as members of multi communities may be read in a recent article Poles Apart: Dual Identity, Heritage and Citizenship. But what were our feelings after the last event?

We keep hearing that there are over 20 million people of Polish heritage living outside of Poland, on every continent. And it’s true – you’d be hard pressed to find a country in the world with no Polish people at all. From Australia to Zanzibar, we’re everywhere. But we’re not all the same. In fact, whilst it may be stating the obvious, we’re all different. And perhaps somewhere confused about who we are as people.

The Polish diaspora has been shaped by waves of immigration and is made up of people with different levels of education, backgrounds, ambitions, connection to their ancestral land and political alliances. Many of us struggle with bridging the two cultures, whether physically or just in our heads. There’s the issue of language, the pressure to integrate and priorities we each make in life for ourselves and our families. We do our best to find our feet in our adopted homelands but also to retain our heritage and be able to pass it onto our children.

The panel discussion covered what it means to be part of Polonia in the UK, as well as around the world, in today’s fast-paced world. The panellists also discussed what it means to be Polish to them individually and how to better define our aspirations as a community. The audience engaged in a dynamic dialogue and shared their own stories of struggles and victories. Topics such as leadership, community relations and preserving your heritage we’re all part of the discussion.

Held at Ognisko Polskie, the event was well attended by people of Polish background, as well as their British partners and friends.

What did we learn? It turns out that whilst everyone’s story of immigration is different, we share similar views on our identities.

When it comes to dual identity, it’s complicated!

Many of the panelists and audience members have mixed feelings about what it means to be Polish and British, or American, Canadian or Australian. Some are positive, like pride, traditions and the cultural aspects, whereas others are perhaps a source of guilt and anxiety, like political or societal changes.

This panel was about all of that, and more. We heard a range of perspectives and ideas from six fantastic panellists who generously shared their opinions. Some were born in Poland and came to the UK as children, whereas others were second generation or arrived more recently. All were accomplished professionals in areas ranging from law to media.

Moderated by Eva Hussain, CEO of Polaron, the panel discussion was supported by British Poles as the media partner. The panelists were Anna Oszajca, George Byczyński, Bartłomiej Kowalczyk, Anna Belaus-Griffiths, Kate Boguslawska and Jedrzej Burkat.

We hope the panel will lead to some more soul searching, reflection and further discussions. In fact, we are already planning a similar event in May, so watch this space!


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