Hello, my name is Kristián. I come from Slovakia and I took part in the integrart5 project (2021-2022). In this letter, I’m going to share some tips on how to do well in the project that I picked up during my time here. I think the best way to share my experience in the project with you is to tell you about it chronologically, because there’s too much to share and it’s easy to get lost in all the information.
I’ll try to mention all the points that I think you can learn from and hence make your experience here better. That means that you’re going to hear about a lot of problems, since you can learn far more from a challenging situation rather than from something just going well. If you want to see more of the good parts of the project, check out the social media of all the volunteers and their cultural clubs, the gallery of volunteerinkrakow web page and websites of the clubs that we work in. Of course, even if you check all of these you won’t see half the good moments of our experience.
In the beginning, we faced many problems, that actually were not caused by anything people in the project could control. In the end everything turned out fine and I’m pretty sure you won’t face the same problems. On the other hand, I think you can take a lot from reading about our experience and it might help you make the best out of your time in the project.
Even before the project started, there were some changes with administration from European union part, which caused the project to start 1 month late – in November and Kraków is quite dark and rainy in November. This made it somewhat harder to always feel positive, but people in the project were very welcoming and so was our apartment, because we made a big effort to make it look like home right away. I recommend you to do the same and try to make it look and feel as cosy as possible …it will be your home for quite a while and you’ll need to feel cosy especially in the dark and cold Polish winter.
Another problem that we faced in the beginning was that during the time that we were only getting to know the places we work in, the city we live in and trying to think about how we can make the best out of our year here, we got covid and we had to stay at home, sick, in the quarantine for over 2 weeks. After the quarantine ended we headed home for Christmas and then, in late January, we got positive once again and had to stay in another quarantine. This made our adaptation period in the project quite long and hard, but we supported each other and made it out without giving up. 😊
In this winter time, there also wasn’t so much happening in the clubs we work in because of covid, so most of us had time to think about workshops/events or any other things that we wanted to make happen during the entire project. For me personally, every idea that I came up with was supported by people in the project, but because of the issues with covid, other problems and because of me postponing the things that could have been done earlier, not all of my propositions could have been turned into reality. Therefore, maybe a little piece of advice for you: if you have an idea and you’re excited about it, try to make it happen as soon as possible even though you have 12 months in the project …because many unexpected changes may happen during your project too and then you might not have the chance to carry out all of your ideas.
The another notable problem that the project faced was a lot of changes that happened just when the war in Ukraine started in February 2022. Two of us left the project at the same time because of a great job opportunity and the war started -which meant hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to Kraków, and soon after we had 2 new members in the project. During this period, our work changed a lot and we started to spend 1 day a week volunteering in Szafa dobra – place where we helped distribute donated clothes to the Ukrainian refugees in Kraków. Besides this a lot of people from all around the world were messaging our social media asking for information on how to help and we tried to give all of them as much information as possible, because every help was needed here. We were all really motivated and happy to do this unexpected work because we felt especially helpful and excited that we can help in various ways in this tough situation, but it was hard to carry out some of our plans and although we did a lot of workshops, events and other work related to the refugee situation in Kraków, we managed to do somewhat less in the other areas that we planned. During this period it was very essential that we all had very good connection and us volunteers helped each other, supported each other and gave each other advice, because this period was quite tough for everyone’s mental health. Also, it was very important to set priorities on what is most important work to be done and which tasks can be postponed or skipped.
I mentioned multiple times how important the support among volunteers was, so maybe some tips on how to get along with 6 people when all of you have to share a flat and 1 bathroom:
Divide your chores in the house and do them properly, so you don’t make each other’s lives harder. Set some rules and boundaries that will help everyone feel comfortable, but won’t oppress others at the same time. For instance: if you want to take a bath that takes 1 hour, first ask everyone if they need to use the toilet, or: if you need to shower in the morning, wake up extra early, so other people don’t have to wait 30 minutes to brush their teeth or pee before leaving the house, etc.
This should prevent unnecessary conflicts, if you will feel like there are some issues in the house, it’s also good to organize a meeting with all of you and talk about it openly, rather than to keep the grudge and slowly start hating someone.
…and then just being nice makes a huge difference. If you try to be nice and show interest in each other in the beginning like we did, I’m sure you will turn into best friends like us. 😊
Besides the information in this letter, we will leave some tips on living in Krakow in the survival guide that you will receive upon your arrival.
I hope you manage to make the best out of your experience. For me, looking back at the project, I feel like it was a great opportunity to express my creativity, make new connections, gain confidence in myself and my capacities, gain skills in team work, organizing events, etc, …and I believe that all of this combined with the amazing friends I made here has completely changed my direction in life for the better. I hope it will be the same, or even better for you!