Christopher Mazur is a Canadian teacher of Polish ancestry working in the Edison Primary School in Warsaw. He has been living in Poland for 10 years now and isn’t planning on going back to Canada in the foreseeable future.
You have a Polish surname…
That’s because both my parents are Polish. I am Polish-Canadian, born and raised in Brampton city, near Toronto.
Is that why you decided to come to Poland? Because of your origins?
Yes. I visited Poland a few times before – I spent summer time here when I was little and then twice as a teenager. I wanted to try to live in Poland and also, even though all my family lives in Canada, I still have one cousin here. Having a relative in Poland was important for me while making the decision about moving. After completing my education back in Canada, I found a job at school in Warsaw and just blindly took the leap of faith. /laugh/ 10 years later I’m still here.
So, you are happy?
I’m very happy. When I was coming here, I didn’t have any concrete expectations. I was quite young and I could afford to take a gamble – if it hadn’t worked out, I would have simply focused on something else. But happily, it was such a right step to take. I can’t really picture myself living anywhere else at this point of my life, to be honest. I totally fell in love with Warsaw and with Poland.
What is it about Poland that makes it so right for you?
I’ve built an entire life here that is just simply very satisfying for me. I’m really happy with my job and the general quality of life in Poland. Canada used to be a great place to live – a relaxed and balanced one. It’s very different these days. People are busy working two jobs with a 40-hour work week, there’s no such thing as bank holidays, no Sundays, if you know what I mean. Stores are open 24/7. It’s always: go, go, go! And in terms of traffic and rush hour, Toronto is really hard to navigate. Poland and Warsaw are very different – much easier, more relaxed. You can work, be able to afford your life and actually live it. /laugh/ It’s just comfortable and affordable. Back in Canada, with the costs of living, taxes or even apartment prices, I would have to sacrifice a whole lot more just to get by.
Aside from work, how do you spend your time in Warsaw?
There’s always something to do, somewhere to go and some nice new place to eat in Warsaw and that’s what I really enjoy about this city. I’ve established a lot of fun things to do here and developed a lot of new hobbies. First and foremost, I do standup comedy in English. I perform quite a bit all throughout Poland and throughout Europe as well. I started it in Poland, about 7 years ago. I am also an avid golfer and there are some really nice golf courses just around Warsaw, which I take full advantage of. I’ve built a group of great friends here as well.
How do you find the comedy audience in Poland? Do we have a sense of humor?
It’s hard to determine – every comedian has had good nights full of successful jokes and satisfied crowd, and the bad ones – when their performances got little or no response whatsoever. /laugh/
There has been a lot of talk recently around comedy and crossing lines in jokes. Do you feel there is a particular line you shouldn’t cross while making jokes in Poland?
No more than anywhere else, I think. I do a lot of gigs for private companies and very often I get a list of subjects I should not joke about. It’s never specifically Polish. Those general rules are supposed to protect people from feeling offended. Of course, they affect the freedom of expression, which is never good for a comedy, but I understand they have a point. My opinion is that you can make whatever joke you want as long as it’s funny. When people aren’t laughing, this isn’t the effect you were hoping for, is it? Then, you’re just a guy who told a really bad joke. /laugh/
And how about golfing spots – which ones would you recommend?
I’m a member at Sobienie Królewskie Golf & Country Club, but there’s also the beautiful Rajszew and Lisia Polana. And I have a great driving range at Wilanów, about half kilometer from home, so I’m there quite often as well.
How did you go about meeting new people, when you first came to Warsaw?
I’m a sports person and I’ve always been part of some kinds of teams. I’ve played pretty much every sport in the book – football, American football, golf, rugby and even cricket. I found that engaging in sports is also the best way to meet new people and make friends. And that’s what I did when I moved to Poland – I looked for sport groups on Facebook and I just signed up for a bunch of teams. /laugh/ I made friends, and my friends introduced me to their friends, and eventually I was surrounded by lots of fun and great people. I also met some of my good friends through the expat community.
Do you find Polish people to be as serious about any sport, as Canadians are about hockey?
Canadians are definitely die hard hockey fans – especially Toronto Maple Leafs fans eternally supporting the team, even though they may not be successful. They live and breathe hockey. If I would have to choose the sport equally important to Poles, it would have to be football. A lot of people take it very seriously here, which I totally get. I am a big fan of the Polish national football team myself, even though unfortunately, we haven’t had too much success.
What would you say was or is the biggest challenge for you here?
When I first came to Poland and started working, I found it difficult to communicate with children. I was used to being around kids whose primary language was English and normally in the situation where it’s not the case, you try and find other ways to understand each other. But in school, in order to submerge young students in the English-speaking environment, I wasn’t allowed to speak any Polish. That was definitely something to overcome, especially that I started off in kindergarten, so with very small children having zero English skills and no tools whatsoever to communicate yet. It’s not a challenge for me anymore, but that was a difficult and very valuable lesson.
What do you miss the most about Canada?
Not much, really. /laugh/ Just my family and oldest friends, who thankfully I get to see once in a while, even though the plane tickets to Canada are quite expensive. Other than that, I’m really good and settled. And also – I am engaged to be married here, so my life and future are in Poland and that’s what I focus on.