- POSK temporarily closed
Review by Richard Williams
London Jazz News preview
"strongly performed Polish opera"
as part of the Insiders /Outsiders festival
Opera Now magazine, May issue
Review in Opera Now magazine
Proposed new constitution for POSK
Dominic Williams for London Jazz News
You've been involved with POSK for a while...
Joanna Młudzińska: I was part of the group that founded and built the youth club – which used to be where the Jazz Café is now. Although we didn't lay the bricks, we painted and finished the interior. For a while, my husband was the youth club's president.
I was also involved with POSK through the theatre; I danced with the Tatra folk-dance troupe and perfomed in the Pro Arte and Syrena theatre groups. I took over Syrena and remained its director for 17 years. I've been with POSK since the beginning.
That's quite a personal relationship. Is your vision for POSK influenced by your previous roles at the centre?
JM: I have been on the Council of POSK for a very long time. Of course, I was not as strongly involved with the centre until I became a member of the Executive Committee two years ago.
My father was on the committee during POSK's big crisis – when it really needed saving. So I've been aware of the financial situation here at the centre for a long time. But I don't think so. The current situation is in many ways different...
Is POSK facing another crisis?
JM: Now there is no crisis – but we're in a situation that we need to get out of. And there is a way out. Currently, we're developing a way for POSK to be self-sufficient. We have very clear plans that were started by my predecessor, Dr. Lalko. And these plans, if they come to fruition – and I see no reason why they will not – will help us achieve our goal.
We want to reduce, even eradicate, our deficit so we can continue providing the cultural and educational activities for which POSK was established. For me, personally, this is very important.
What would you change?
JM: We already have plans for the eastern part of the centre and have permission to rebuild it as flats for rent. This is a non-integral part of POSK – an old building that was connected to the main centre. It is a completely separate structure from which there will be no way to access the main centre [and] will not have any impact on POSK's day-to-day business, so it seems to us a very good way of raising finances for the type of organisation we want to lead.
The second project is the construction of flats on the west side of the centre, where there is an empty, unused space. This project is in its early stages - we do not have permission yet.
What kind of amounts are we talking about? And how long before there is a return on your investment?
JM: The projects will require a significant investment – perhaps even up to £1 million. The success of our plans depends on POSK's ability to mobilise funds from the sale of bequeathed real estate, the continued generosity of the community and public, and other bequests.
Our investments will provide returns of up to 15% - which is more profitable that depositing the money in a bank and a lot less risky than investing in the stock market.
You've become the chair of POSK during a difficult time for the organisation. Not only regarding financial matters, but also in terms of its image and the opinion of many in the community. Local Polish-language newspapers are merciless in their criticism. And your opponent for the position of chair, Mr Laskiewicz, in his pre-election speech, didn't hold back his views on the centre and how it is being managed. How do you plan to fight back?
JM: Dr Laskiewicz is a member of the Council, and I hope he'll share with us his ideas on how to attract younger people to POSK. In any case, a number of younger members were elected to the Council recently, which is great and we're very happy with that. The authorities here at POSK have been asking themselves how to attract younger people to the centre since the beginning of its existence.
Now, of course, after 2004, the situation has changed - there are many more Poles. There have been several waves of immigration: one took place in the 70s and 80s, thanks to which our Youth Club and theatre developed - strengthened by young people arriving from the country.
However, at the beginning they did not understand the principles of voluntary work, as in communist Poland, voluntary work was understood as a "social act," or forced labour for the state. Only after some time they began to understand what it meant and joined in with the voluntary activities.
It seems that communism was very effective in twisting the idea of social work in the minds of Poles, which lingers to this day.
JM: Absolutely. It is extremely difficult to involve people in voluntary work. But this is slowly changing. In addition, many young Poles come here for purely economic reasons. They neither have the time nor the strength to get involved – although sometimes they will come if there is an interesting Polish performance. They feel more connected with Poland - that's their home. They don't feel POSK belongs to them. Conditions have changed, the distance is not what it used to be – they don't feel the division into “homeland’ and “émigrés”.
Once, when Poles began settling here, they were in a sense cutting themselves off from Poland, so they needed to keep the spirit of Polish culture. Now there is no need, because you can get to Poland in two hours, you can watch Polish television at home. Many people have no spiritual need to give something back to POSK.
Some think that POSK is closed to the younger generation...
JM: For me it's important to work with young people. The Polish Psychologists' Association is active in POSK and we're in regular contact with other organisations such as the Polish City Club. I don't want young people thinking that POSK is pushing them away.
But there are those who say that if something is for everybody, it's for nobody...
JM: I absolutely disagree. In a family there are many generations who live together very effectively. Not only that, multi-generational families function better. Often in a family, grandparents have more contact with their grandchildren than with their children. It sees to me that there is nothing stopping that from happening in POSK. There are lots of older people here who have extraordinary stories to tell.
Justyna Daniluk was speaking with Joanna Młudzińska. This is an edited version of an article that appeared in Dziennik Polski on 2 August 2012. For the full version, click here.