1. HAPPINESS BOARD

In 1988 for the first time I crossed the iron curtain. It was a great adventure. Despite being a small kid I remember quite a lot. One of the memories totally rules – the emotions are still vivid. One of the Turkish immigrants took all the kids from the labour hotel (that we all lived in) for ice cream to the closest shop. It was tiny, yet inside there were so many goods (for a person from a communist Poland it was very, very unusual). And there it was – one of my best childhood memories – fridge full of ice creams with its table of content – Schoeller ice cream board. All those different shapes, colours, flavours! I was both: dizzy and sick of happiness.
I’ve decided back then – I want to live in a country, where you can buy Schoeller. My dream came true in less than 4 years!

2. SAFETY STATISTICS

In October 2005 I attended my first criminology class. The whole idea of studying this subject seemed super exciting. One of the first questions that the lecturer asked “Can you guess how many homicides have place in Poland a year?” I didn’t think for too long and shouted “10 thousand!” Everybody laughed. “Well, maybe right after the war.” said the teacher, trying to hide his smile. I actually exaggerated big time. There is between 400 and 800 homicide cases in Poland per year. In terms of those stats Poland is a quite safe country. That’s why it came to me as a shock when I read years later that in South Africa, country with population comparable with Polish, my prior homicide estimation would be an underestimation. Around 16 thousand homicides happen in South Africa every year. Many NGO’s claim this number is larger.
I know now what country I want to live in – one that the fear for my life is not a common, everyday concern.

3. THE DOG COMPANION

Tram in Cologne, 2007. One of the passengers, large old man travels with his dog. The doggy is not on the leash, neither has it a muzzle. It’s quite small so people keep on almost stepping on him. It makes the animal more and more angry. It barks and growls. Soon there is no one around him. At last one of the freshly came-in-passengers comes too close and the vexed dog almost bites him. A lady that also just hoop on board calmly says to the old man: “Sir, you cannot travel with this dog on a tram. It has neither leash, nor muzzle.” The answer was foreseeable to me “But Miss, it’s a very gentle animal. He’s little nervous now, but he won’t harm anyone.” But Miss doesn’t give up. She’s very firm but not a bit aggressive “Sir, you cannot travel on a tram with this dog. You have to get off.” And then happened something the left me – Pole – shocked. The old man said “ok, I understand” and he left the tram at the nearest stop.
I’ve decided back then. I want to live in a country, where people can handle such confrontational situations with dignity. As thoughtful grown ups giving good example.

POLISH REALITY TODAY

Whereas conditions 1 and 2 of a happy country are fulfilled without a problem, we’re still far away from accomplishing point number 3. So many things change for better: it’s getting safer, there’s less corruption and more transparency, we’re developing as good entrepreneurs, we fell in love in sport and slowly we’re becoming more and more a civil society. Yet, we’re still awaiting a cultural revolution.

IS POLAND COOL OR NOT COOL?

The most recent SEDA (Sustainable Economic Development Assessment) analysis, prepared by Boston Consulting Group, puts Poland on the top of the list of countries that during the last 7 years significantly developed in a sustainable way. D. Bale, chief of marketing at BCG commented on the discrepancy between such great result on paper and not such great reality: “You should be proud, satisfied, happy. Apparently the level of satisfaction is affected by many other factors. By culture, ambitions, by points of reference and who we compare ourselves with, what we expect from ourselves.” I cannot agree more.

The two most important factors that affect my well being and make my life harder are:

1. Bad will, that results in unkindness, following by bad mood, feeling of distaste from contacting another person, stress and often actual money loss. Bad will (or lack of good one) causes that I don’t feel safe riding a bike on the street (because I can’t be sure if every driver would properly take me over), that I cannot exercise my rights (cause the city clerk is so eager to show off, that he forgets what’s the main purpose of his work), that I die from the heat on the bus as the driver refuses to turn on the AC. That’s all my personal experience only from the last month. To make a change we don’t need to change the law, change the government, or wait for an economic growth. There are no formal obstacles, yet a lot of work is needed. As a society we need to become on the whole more respectful and kinder. This is the Poland I still have to dream about – free from frustration and omnipresent aggression.

2. Badmouth. It’s a milestone still to be achieved. We all think and speak ill of our country, forgetting that this horrible job affects us as well. We all live in polish reality and we’re its co-creators. Co-responsible for the effects. Of course the problems should be discussed. But not with everyone, and not on every occasion. Being so concentrated on disadvantages makes us see no good things. It spoils our souls. As a result we’re missing the opportunity to live well. Cause yes, one can live well in Poland.

TODAY I CHOOSE POLAND

At the end of the day I make my own pros and cons list and I decide that I choose Poland for Today. I love its amazing landscapes. The more of the world I see, the more I tend to appreciate them. I like my life here. And all those problems I wrote about I see as a price to pay. Or better – as an opportunity to make a difference. That’s how I see my country Today.

P.S. I believe that everyone eager to leave this country shall make such list or pros and cons. Figure out of what they’re actually missing here and if this other place has a chance to provide it. If so – I say go and be happy. I’ll be happy for you and perhaps one day would join!