Pupils at two Boston schools have said Poland’s culture is ‘very similar’ to England after they took part in the country’s first UK-wide Polish exchange programme following a chance meeting in a council corridor.
Pupils and teachers from Boston Grammar School and the Polish Saturday Club went on the trip to Krakow, in Poland - including eight Polish and eight British students – together with the Polish consulate based in Manchester.
The trip, the first of its kind, was mostly-funded by the Polish Consulate in Manchester (funds granted by the Ministry of Foreign Affair) with support of both schools for expenses such as entry fees, transfer of children to the airport in UK and insurance.
Pupil Dillan Nicholson, 14, said: “The culture of Poland was very similar to our culture in England, especially in the city.”
“I would go again, as I enjoyed my time in Poland and I wish we could have extended our time there,” he added.
Thomas Piggins, 14, said: “I learnt that the Polish food has a different taste to English food, but it tastes nice.”
The culture of Poland was very similar to our culture in England, especially in the city. I would go again, as I enjoyed my time in Poland and I wish we could have extended our time there.Boston Grammar School pupil Dillan Nicholson, 14
“The best part about the trip was visiting the city and the buildings with all of my new friends,” said Mikolaj Zlamaniec, 14.
Boston Community Inspector Andy Morrice spoke with Karolina Kowalczyk, the Vice Consul at the Polish Embassy, as part of his community cohesion work to see if an exchange trip between students in Boston and in Poland could be organised following a Boston Borough Council meeting.
He said: “Karolina met with me, and agreed that the Consulate would fund the project, if I could provide some school contacts.
“John McHenry, head teacher at Boston Grammar School, and Kinga Szymiczek at the Polish school, were keen to get involved and I was able to facilitate a meeting at the grammar school for all parties.
“As a result of this meeting the first ever exchange programme was devised, and the kids are out there right now. This has never been done anywhere in the UK before.
“The whole point of this exchange was to break down barriers, allow some local kids to see Poland for themselves, but also to allow some Polish kids to see Poland for the first time.
“What started as a chat in a corridor, has ended with an amazing experience for a group of kids from two schools, which will hopefully turn into a yearly event. I am sure we have built more bridges between Poland and the UK.”
Karolina Kowalczyk Vice-consul at the Consulate General of Republic of Poland in Manchester said the original meeting discussed the size of the Polish community and a lack of knowledge about the culture and country.
She said: “This is one of the factors of tensions in local communities that could lead to more serious situations. We came to understanding that it is very hard to reach out to adults who already have their opinions shaped. It is possible though to try to make young people get to know Poland better and understand where we come from, who we are.”
The exchange students have been shown the Kraków’s old town: Wawel Royal Castle, Wawel Royal Cathedral, Sigismund Bell, Royal Tombs, St Mary’s Basilica.
They also visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum to understand what happened there and why did it happen.
Karolina said: “They all behave very respectfully in the museum which I greatly appreciated.
“In the evening we went to Wieliczka Salt Mine which was lots of fun for the kids to go so deep under the ground and be able to check with their own tongue that those beautiful walls and floors and truly made out of salt!
“On Thursday we went to see the Old Jewish district of Cracow which currently attracts many tourists not only for its history and museums but also for beauty, restaurants, etc.
“We also visited: the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków, Oskar Schindler’s Factory and The Synagogue Remuh.”
On the last day of the trip the kids visited one of the best schools in Kraków (Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. Bartłomieja Nowodworskiego) where they met Polish friends, saw the schools and heard about the life and education at school.
After that they got a chance to take part in EU celebrations, where all the EU counties were presented in English and a quiz was taken after each presentation.
Karolina said: “I truly hope they have good memories. We, the teachers and myself, have lots of knew ideas after this trip, all of them connected multicultural local societies.”
Christine Abrams Modern Foreign Languages subject leader said the trip was an ‘action-packed’ four days. She said the day at Auschwitz-Birkenau ‘was a very poignant moment for all’.
She said: “The trip provided a great opportunity for BGS pupils as they gained a greater insight into another community.
“It broadened their mind about a culture that is very different to anything they have experienced to date, and therefore bridged a gap in their knowledge of the world and their global awareness.
“Pupils and staff alike discovered the importance of another country, at another time, in history; an important realisation that other countries apart from one’s own have contributed to the world and turned it into what it is now.
“The trip was enjoyed by English and Polish pupils and staff alike, and helped bridge the English pupils’ knowledge gap regarding Polish culture, thus aiding them in understanding the multicultural aspects of Boston more.”
She thanked everyone who had made the trip possible.