Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Heritage is something we are proud of, we have passion for and something that we want to pass onto our off-springs. Even if an interest in a certain culture has nothing to do with our roots – we surely want to share this interest with our children. However, in the world of computer games and all the other kid and youth fashions, gaining knowledge on Polish culture might not seem such a cool idea anymore. How to make children interested in a country and its culture then? That might be a question that many Poles living abroad ask themselves now. Although they still feel a strong bound with the country they come from, their children make everything not to differ from their peers at school or in the neighbourhood. They often resist from speaking Polish, even at home, they try to adjust by accepting the culture of the country they live in. Can we somehow influence it?
First of all, Learning Polish culture and language should not be treated as an order or demand – children should feel that it is a pleasure, fun and privilage to gain knowledge on the country. There are couple of ways children can learn Polish culture, without even noticing that they are taught.
Time to tell a story
Telling stories is one of the ways of spending time together with the child. But it is also an important mean of teaching basics of Polish culture, especially through legends. They are defined very often as historically based folktales. Although they include miraculous plots (that are usually interesting for kids) they explain historical events, origin of customs or beginnings of countries and cities. Legends were initially created for uneducated people or to explain facts for which the scholars could not find the explenation. Above all, legends were very often telling the stories of knights, heroes and noble people who brought pride to the country and therefore should not be neglected by history. Maybe the explanations mentioned in the legends are not in accordance with the truth, but the history itself mentions many true facts.
You can find various Polish legends that will make it easier to remember that the Russians and Czechs are in the same ethnic group as Poles, that white eagle is incorporated in the emblem of Poland (legend on Lech, Czech and Rus), what is the sound that resounds from the tower in Krakow and what tribe used to invade the city (legend about Krakow heynal), that marmaid is a symbol of the capital of Poland – Warsaw (legend about Wars and Sawa).
The legends are especially popular in Poland. There are numerous publishings that offer colourful books with stories that give overview on Polish history and culture.
Nowadays many teenagers gather comics. They get inspired by heroes such as batman or spiderman. There have been also published series of comics covering 3 very popular Polish legends. Its authors are Barbara Seidler and Grzegorz Rosinski.
Singing Polish songs
Who does not remember songs from childhood? Here in Poland one of the most popular bands for children in 80s was called ‘Fasolki’ (‘Little Beans’) – their songs are still sung and cherished by kids nowadays. Famous songs about cucumber, vitamines or haircut ‘a la onion’ are some of the everlasting Polish music hits. Another, among many, artist acclaimed by children was Majka Jezowska singing for example about ‘love to mum’. Introducing children to Polish music might be treated as a play and at the same time an important lesson of Polish language.
Tales and films
Many of the most acclaimed Polish tales or short stories were screened. Reading the books or watching the movies may teach us a lot about history of the country, reality of life in Poland or it can get us interested in Polish writers. One, of actually few, historical movies for children is ‘History of a yellow slipper’ that tells the story of a Medieval altar – carved by Veit Stoss for Krakow church of St Mary’s. But there are also many works written by Polish writers such as Kornel Makuszynski, Jan Korczak or Jan Brzechwa. There is almost no child in Poland who does not know ‘Mr Inkblot’ (created by the latter one) who founded his magical academy for children.
Getting to know culture, that we do not necessarily live in, enriches our experience and knowledge. However, we absorb information much easier and quicker when we are younger, therefore it is the best to start as soon as possible. What is more, culture is a gathering of our experience, things we saw and remembered, things we do or even the way we think. All this is shaped through our everyday life. So can you really say that you were brought up as a Pole, even though you have never heard of ‘Mr Inkblot’, Krakow heynal or you never sang ‘Cucumber has a green suite’? Isn’t it all a part of Polish experience?