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Interviews with migrants, no.1: Elina Rodowicz

From now we will are presenting some of interviews with migrants. We wanted to know their expectations and their histories according to the issue of changing their place to live.

Let's have a look on first one:

Elina Rodowicz

I am here in Poland since 1989, in two years it would be 30 years. I came during the political changes in East Europe. Two month after my departure from Bulgaria the communist leader Todor Zhivkov was dismissed. That was real shock.

First I thought to come to Poland just for a short time to finish my studies and than return home. In Bulgaria I had finished the Collage of Art at the facultety of textile and was applaing twice on the Univesitit of Fine Arts in Sofia, but I failled. Beceause of the new politicla stituation there was a possiblilty to apply for studing abroad and I used that oppartunity. From four different countries I choose Poland. My mother have had some friends who had studied once in Poland and still have very emotional conection to this country. I folowed their attitude. Besides this I had not have any relatives or friends in Poland. I also did not know the language. The only good news was that at the Academy of Fine Arts in Lodz there was a bulgarian lecturer. In fact she helped me a lot at that time. She was about my age now and she has lived in Poland since many years, she got here a family. That is beceause of her that I try to help many young students who arrived this days from Bulgaria. Although the ones who arrived now are much more self-confident, fearless and direct than we were. In early 90. Bulgaria was in terems of travelling rather a closed nation, hardly anyone was abroad before, we needed time to adope to new situation. I arrived to Poland by a train, with 70 other students. There in the train I learned first polish vocabularies from girls who were trading some products.

I came directly to Lodz beceause here was the collage of polish language and the whole group was first satying in Lodz for a few weeks before they went to other cities. In the first moths of my stay I had to pass exames to the academy. I met there an other Bulgarian girl - Wesselinę Mikołow with whom I am still a good friend, we both stayed in Poland. She already was in Poland for a year, studing, she was very helpful – she translated me a lot both language and life as well. Although polish language is similar to bulgarian (the same language familly, slavonic) there is no declination in bulgarian language and it was harder I thought to learn. After we met we moved together to a student hostel whcich was particulary a shared block apartment. Dormitory is definitly a good school of life. At once you lern all common words like: pillowcase, badsheet. People are from different cities, different countries so they naturally want to help to each other and they are also intersing to each other and they ask quastions. In english at the beginnig but that time only a Hindu people could speak english. The most important place for us was a kitchen were we all met and were talking about our countries whlie cooking. I was lucky beceause Bulgaria had a good associations to polish people: sun, paprika, holidays. I could only imagin who much harder it has to be for a person from a country which has not such good associations.

From the finacial point of view it was very difficult for me. First I did not get the solarship at the academy beceause it was not for foreingers. I was from Bulgaria so I smuggled cogniac, addidas and cigarettes and sold them on the market. It was not comfortable sittuation fro me but for the money I could effort a month stay at the student appartment. Finally I got a scholarship from bulgarian founds “Open Society”.

Later I got my first job offers. Early 90. was a crazy time, time of blowing capitalism, there were first illegal video shops opend for which with my friend we made first outdoor advertisment based on Charlie Chaplin model.

At the beginning I had to continue to prolonge my vista and make a regular appointments at the ambassy office to give a personal report. Even few days gap beetween visas could have terrible conseqences. There were long queues to the Department for Foreingners where I had to arrange all emigrant papers and I was more an artist and to follow the procedure was against my personal freedom. Afert the studies I have to had an employment and a person how would confirm each half an year that I have an acommodation. There were many people I had to ask. There were also moments of uncertainty when I did not know if I were abel to return to Poland. Today I still do not have polish citizenship but now it would be just a formality. Poland and Bulgaria are now in the European Union and then again I have a polish husband. I got a permanent residence card which gives my all civil rights exept I am not allowed to vote on persident.

At this moment I work in seven different places: I run my own buissness, I lead workshops, I train kraftmaga – the self-deffence system from Izrael, I teach it for children at the democratic school, I work with Chorea theater – I am an actor and a vocalist there and I am also a teacher of the stage movement at the Film School in Lodz. This activity joins all my passions together. Kraftmaga I first tried during the studies. With my boyfriend we invited first master of kraftmaga to Poland. Also then I started singing first just for friends, I was using traditional bulgarian folk songs. I graduated studies at the departure of grafic design and for many years I had been working for advertising agency in Warsaw. It was very intensvie time and people were squeezed like lemons. The same time kraftmaga was more and more popular, we trained police and army.

There were more and more points of attatment for me to stay here in Poland. In the meantime Bulgaria has also been changed – new born capitalism was omnipresent. People I know from childhood has moved away. When I was coming to Bulgaria there were only my family and the old house, which has not chaned. I had much stronger connection to people in Poland.

In 2001 I went to Gardzienice, a village close to Lublin to join the theater workshops. I met my husband there, Tomek Rodowicz. Before I was I avoiding theatre beceause I thought that in the theatre the main form of expresion was language. Suprisingly this theatre was focousing more on the body expresion, movment, emotions and songs than on words. I loved the spectacle I sow there, I enjoyed long discussions between actors and audience and songs we sang together in different languages. This all was so fascinating, inquiring and new to me. Beceause I was Bulgarian I was in a way atractive to them as well. Immedately I get an offer to join the company on they new project based on source of european music “An acient orchestra”. I stared to share my time beetween theater, training and agency. Slowly I had to emiminate activities and it happened that my previous hobby has become a profession. So the life goes. I borne a child and get married. I was settled down in Poland. In Bulgaria we even say that the women comes from the place where she born the child, in my case it was Poland. After 19 years of living in Poland I got to the point that I am longer living here than ever in Bulgaria. However you are always a part of place you were born in. It is stronger than you, this is our roots.

From my point of view every man who once emigrated from his or her place of birth is missing the some think, is missing the childhood. The memorries are alive. When you return and all has changed you may feel disappointed. Fortunately my familly house has not changed much. Still there is an old fig tree on backyard, pears and tomatoes grown in the ground. Although the whole environment is different, modern style. My parents are getting older but I do not want them to move I rather them to stay as they are.

When living abroad you are missing one other think which is couisin. I remembre when I first came to Poland there was no yoghurt or e.g. you could buy just one tomato instead of two kilos. Now all products you can easly buy in supermarket, but at the beginning I was bringing fete cheese and fillo cake in my suitcase from Bulgaria to do oryginal banica here.

I also miss nature and sun in Bulgaria. My brother for example who was living here for two years could not get used to the weather conditions in Poland, for him winter was too long. And one more think about Bulgarian people, in general they are much more distanced and reserved then polish. We never kiss greeting unless we have not seen for a very long time.

Last but not the least is folklore which is poetic and cleaned from all vulgar forms. I see that the tendency is that young bulgarian people return to the folk traditions and they also appreciate their origins. There are many Folk Festiwales in Bulgaria. I believe that the roots of our identity raises from folklore and local traditions. Especially in the age of unification. I still recognize my tradition but my doughter barly speaks bulgarian, she does not want to sing folk music either, but I hope soon she will. From my experience it is a great adventage to know traditional song 11/8 for two voices it makes you very inetresting person.

Some nations living on immigration are gathering into groups and keep together. In Lodz there is a group of Bulgarian who meet from time to time but it is rather informal. Bulgarian people asimmilate quickly and do not deepend much on others company.

In Chorea Theater we work mainly in the international groups, realising transcultrual projects like “Antic Greek”, “Gligamesz”, “Rythm of the words” we use sounds of languages and mix of cultures to talk about the human condition in general. Multicultural aspects are most inspiring, beceause we can easly communicate on the level of cultural understanding and fascination. Only on the level of politice and finances the differences arises. On the personal level the curiosity of an other person is stronger than hostility. Cousin and songs are two elements which awaken the curiosity. The more you know about other culture the more tolerant you become. I am lucky to be a part of this situation. I am very sorry for people how are so deeply immerse in one culture that they do not allow any influances from outside. This attitude grows hostilty and couse fear. Fear is always a consequence of lack of knowlagde.

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