Kasia Braiter talks to Nadine Schmit, ambassadress of Luxembourg, who moved with her husband to Warsaw in September 2020 and it is our fourth posting abroad (after Brussels, Washington DC and Portugal).
You came to Poland just before the pandemic. Not a good time for all of us. How has it influenced you getting to know Poland?
When I arrived in Poland in September 2020, because of Covid-19 related constraints still in force at the time, it was indeed not easy to get to know people directly. Luckily, I was able to meet some members of SHOM.
My experiences during previous postings abroad with associations similar to SHOM proved to be of great value, whether regarding opportunities to discover the cultural and human richness of an often-unknown country, adaptation to a new environment, precious recommendations or making great friendships and meeting new people from all over the world.
With my husband we had the chance to visit Gdansk and Krakow before everything shut down in 2020. Unfortunately, we had to postpone some other trips. Since then, we have been able to discover quite a few interesting and thriving parts of Poland.
I remember that from the very beginning you joined in helping to organize an aid campaign organized by SHOM. Why was it important to you?
As a child, I was active in scouting for many years. I also participated in Charity Bazaars for the Red Cross in recent years. Lately, I have also been collecting money for the Red Cross and volunteering in selling children’s clothes at the Red Cross Bazaar in Luxembourg before arriving in Poland.
During my husband’s postings abroad, I have been volunteering in parents’ associations, organizing school fairs and raising money to enable school trips for the less fortunate students.
I was also president of the spouse association during our stay in Portugal.
I always tried to help supporting people in need and when I arrived in Poland in September 2020, it was natural to help during the SHOM Charity Christmas appeal in December 2020.
You have been the SHOM president since last year. Despite the difficulties related to the pandemic, SHOM organizes many campaigns and meetings. Can you tell us about those ?
I am very proud to be currently the president of such a welcoming and supportive association as SHOM .
As a social club we welcome new members, help them to settle in Poland and find new friends in a new environment. We organize social activities to introduce our members to the culture and history of their host countries, as well as being keen to learn more about each other by exploring our cultural and culinary diversities.
SHOM’s major fundraising event is supporting various projects run by 25 charities thanks to the annual Christmas Charity Bazaar in December in Warsaw which has developed into an institution in pre-Christmas Warsaw. It has always been supported by the First Lady of Poland, who traditionally grants her patronage.
More importantly, SHOM is very pleased that the funds raised from the Bazaar benefit all levels of Polish society, be it financing projects that support children, mothers, families, or elderly people, improving social conditions or supporting people with special medical needs.
We believe that every person has a right to education, care, shelter, food, medicine, clothing and hope for a better quality for life.
For all of us this is a way to show our gratitude to our host country and those in need and to intensify the connection to Polish society.
With the current situation of the refugees from Ukraine conflict, in coordination with the Polish authorities, we have also given our members some guidance on how they could help either by donating clothes and items or money donations that will support charities here in Poland that take care of children and their mothers or families they have been welcoming.
The latest big fundraising project is the publishing of a cookbook with recipes from all over the world provided by the diplomatic community here in Poland. We are in the midst of its preparations and can count already on the participation of 30 embassies.
How do you feel in Poland? Do you even feel at home a little?
Yes absolutely. Polish people have shown themselves to be very welcoming and helpful.
What do you like best here and what would you like to change?
I must admit that I am impressed by the cultural programs, be it classical concerts or operas of great quality.
I like the fact that you have a lot of bicycle paths and whenever weather is permitting I take my bike and take a ride around Warsaw.
I have also the chance to live in a very nice area close to the beautiful Lazienki park where I walk as often as I can.
SHOM also joined in helping refugees from Ukraine – what does this help entail?
When the conflict broke out, we were of course all very concerned and wanted to help in any way we could.
We are all witnessing the incredibly sad reality developing in Ukraine.
We have encouraged our members and embassies for:
– donations of clothes (mainly for children, but not only), blankets, school supplies, toys, canned food, drugs/medication, sanitary items (soap, shower gel, toothpaste, diapers, baby wipes), first aid kits, portable chargers / power banks;
– volunteer work and assistance;
– cash donations;
and in order to support the refugee camps organized here in Poland, our host country, by:
– either accessing the official platform https://pomagamukrainie.gov.pl/
– or getting in touch with SHOM to help Pomoc Ukrainie w Raszynie, Al. Krakowska 47, tel. +48 799 930 390.
What do you think about the Poles’ attitude towards the war in Ukraine?
Poland has around one million and a half Ukrainians living and working here already.
I think it was natural for them to welcome their relatives and friends who left the country but the scope of the commitment and solidarity of the Polish population in the present difficult circumstances is quite impressive.
Poles have immediately set up shelters, welcoming structures and help by collecting clothes, basic needs items, finding host families and organizing transport.
Many Poles work in Luxembourg and do we also have Luxembourgers working in Poland?
Around 5,000 people with Polish passports live and work in Luxembourg. In Poland those with a Luxembourgish passport are far less, probably only a few dozen.
Is there any place in Poland that you would like to visit but you haven’t managed to get yet?
We have not been able to visit the Mazurian lakes for instance, or Zakopane and its surroundings.
It is definitely on our list and we are looking forward to discovering these places as well as some other beautiful regions here in Poland, like for example lower Silesia .