Pole new world— Warsaw


Relations with Russia are improving, it escaped the economic crisis and young entrepreneurs are returning with new ideas and cash. Monocle reports on how Poland, despite the odds, became the European nation to watch.

Debt Trading Partners, Gazeta Wyborcza, Museum of Modern Art, The Palace of Culture and Science

“Poles lack things to be proud of,” says Bartosz Weglarczyk, foreign editor of Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s second biggest-selling daily newspaper. “Our food makes you fat and our football team is rubbish. But the way that our country coped with the Smolensk tragedy is something of which we as a nation can truly be proud.”

Among the 96 killed were a number of its leading political and intellectual figures, including the president, Lech Kaczynski, when their plane crashed just short of the runway at Russia’s Smolensk Airport in April. Poles got through…

Open minds

Gay rights in Warsaw

Poland is a deeply Catholic country but social mores are more liberal than perhaps anywhere else in Central and Eastern Europe, at least in the major cities. Holding EuroPride, Europe’s biggest gay parade, in Warsaw this summer seemed like a risky idea at best. But despite a small, noisy counter-protest, the July event went off more smoothly than events in other countries in the region, which have often been marred by violence.

“Ten years ago, if two men were kissing in the street they’d be attacked,” says Sarmen Beglarian, the curator of the yearly Wola Art Festival. “Five years ago it was already kind of normal, and now we can have a parade in central Warsaw.”

Ninety-seven per cent of Poles describe themselves as Catholic, and naturally this makes gay rights issues controversial, as well as in vitro fertilisation and abortion. But among Polish Catholics there is a sharp divide between conservatives and a sizeable minority, mostly young Poles, who have much more liberal opinions.

Euro 2012

Football hopes

Poland hopes that the 2012 European Football Championship, which it will host jointly with Ukraine, will help attract visitors to see that it has a lot more to offer than just the stag-night destination of Krakow. Games will be played in Warsaw, Gdansk, Wroclaw and Poznan. Three of the stadia will be new. “There has been tremendous spending in road infrastructure, which will benefit the country, but the technology and IT sector lags behind and this could prove problematic,” says Jaroslaw Janecki of Société Générale. “As always with these events, there’s also a question of how useful all the construction will be after the tournament is over.”

Five things the Poles do well

Service industry
Smiling barmen and helpful waitresses, almost all fluent in English, make a welcome change from the grimaces in neighbouring countries.

Art centre
Lodz’s Modern Art Museum is one of the world’s oldest, and with Warsaw’s vast new museum opening in 2014, Poland is becoming an exciting destination.

Boats and yachts
Poland is the region’s top producer of small sailboats and yachts, from small family workshops to major producers such as Delphia.

Roman Polanski, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Andrzej Wajda. Polish directors have had an influence around the world.

Café culture
Old and independent coffee shops can often be found in Poland’s cities; big global chains have struggled to make an impact.

Five things the Poles could improve

Tourists go to Krakow but there is much more on offer, such as pristine beaches and towns such as Wroclaw.

Airline hub
National carrier LOT is fine but could better capitalise on Poland’s location at the heart of Europe and turn the country into a transit hub.

Construction brand
Polish plumbers and carpenters have wowed western Europe. The nation should capitalise on this.

Multilingual workforce on a similar timezone to western Europe provides endless possibilities for outsourcing.

Poles will insist vodka isn’t Russian at all, but Polish. Marketing campaigns for top brands could boost their international popularity.


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