Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ivan Kupala Day or Noc Świętojańska

Ivan Kupala Day is celebrated in Poland, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and other Slavic countries on the night of 23rd June which is the day of summer solstice. In Lithuania it is a day free out of work and in Latvia it is a national holiday. Early mythology scholars claim that the holiday was originally a pagan fertility rite later accepted into the Orthodox Christian calendar. Many of the rites related to this holiday within Slavic religious belief are connected with the role of water in fertility and ritual purification.

Some of those rites were for example: youths jumping over the flames of bonfires, girls making garlands of flowers and floating them on rivers trying to read their relationship fortunes from the patterns of the floating flowers while men attempted to capture the garlands, in the hope of capturing the interest of the woman who created the garlands.

In old Kupala belief, that eve of Ivan Kupala is the only time of the year when ferns bloom. Prosperity, luck, discernment and power would befall on whoever finds a fern flower. Therefore, on that night village folks would roam through the forests in search of magical herbs and especially the elusive fern flower. Traditionally, unmarried women with garlands on their hair, would be the first to enter the forests. They were followed by young men. Therefore, the blooming of relationships between pairs of men and women often resulted from the quest in finding herbs and the fern flower within the forest.

These days in Kraków we have every year a celebration on the banks of the Vistula river, there are numerous exhibitions, fairs, firework displays, competitions and concerts (last year we could listen to Lenny Kravitz!).

This year due to flooding the celebration did not take place as usual near the Wawel castle but more in the centre of Kraków. It took a form of a big fair that lasted five days. We could watch unusual performances, concerts and demonstrations by craftsmen of making the traditional arts and crafts.

On top of that we could taste some traditional foods, admire old amber jewelry, see traditional costumes and all sorts of other things on the fair stalls. There were also some competitions and games for children. And most importantly as usual a competition for the most beautiful garland!

By Beniamin Palider-Traczyk and Julia Federska

Monday, July 5, 2010

Polish presidential election - Komorowski wins!!

After a dramatic night for Polish democracy, Bronisław Komorowski of the ruling liberal-conservative Civic Platform (PO) emerged as the winner in the presidential election run-off, held on Sunday (4 July).

The election proved to be tighter than opinion polls had suggested. According to the state electoral commission Komorowski won 53% of the vote and Kaczynski 47%. Kaczynski's supporters were heartened because their candidate did far better than expected weeks ago. The tragedy of Kaczynski’s brother's death in the Smolensk catastrophe reshaped the public image of Kaczynski, who only months ago was one of the country's least popular politicians due to his combative and divisive style. Many Poles remember the chaotic government he led from 2006-07 and his zealousness in trying to eliminate former communists from public life – an approach that critics described as a witch-hunt.

Both presidential candidates were former anti-communist activists, but Kaczynski is a nationalist who has worked to promote patriotic and conservative Catholic values, making him popular among rural Poles and older voters. Thus he received the church’s support during his campaign and church still holds a lot of power in Poland. Komorowski, the scion of an aristocratic family, has a traditional Catholic background but he favours a greater separation of church and state and has stressed the need to modernise Poland, the largest of the ex-communist countries to join the European Union in recent years.

Pointing to the relatively high turnout (more than 54%), in his first comments Komorowski claimed that his victory was not personal but that "democracy [had] won". More than 23 million Poles had the right to participate in the election. A father of five and a politician known for his calm temper, Komorowski will become Poland's fourth democratically-elected head of state since the fall of communism in 1989. Poland's president has many ceremonial duties, but can also veto laws, and as commander-in-chief has influence over foreign military operations.

Komorowski's victory will be a huge boost to the pro-EU and pro-business government of the prime minister, Donald Tusk. He is a key member of Tusk's Civic Platform party and will not be expected to veto any new legislation it proposes, including plans to trim the welfare state. Komorowski wants to smooth the way for the government to continue privatising state-run companies. Komorowski will also support the government's efforts to heal old wounds with Germany and Russia. The Civic Platform will have the comfort of power and no more excuse not to reform the state.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

So there will be a runoff

June 20 after people voted in presidential election it became clear that a runoff will be held during vacation on July 4 because no candidate scored more than 50%. The runoff will be held between Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a former Prime Minister, leader of the of the populist party PIS and twin brother of the late President Lech Kaczynskia and Bronislaw Komorowski of the right wing PO. While PIS believes itself to be a right wing/center party, PO states that they are liberal party.

The results after first part were as follows:
Komorowski in first place with 41.2%, Kaczyński with 36.7%. Grzegorz Napieralski in third place with suprising 13.4% for the social-democratic SLD, 2.5% for Janusz Korwin - Mikke, 1.8% for Waldemar Pawlak, 1.4% for both Andrzej Lepper i Andrzej Olechowski. Only 55% of people eligible to vote went to the voting boxes.

Both Kaczynski and Komorowski will be fighting for the voters and seeking the support of the electorate of Grzegorz Napieralski, although it seems to me that Bronislaw Komorowski is more likely to gain support of his voters.

If Kaczynski wins we will find ourselves in a fight between the president and the parliament which is ruled by PO. I would like Bronislaw Komorowski to win as I believe he would bring in a more peaceful and quiet cadency.
by Beniamin Palider-Traczyk, pre-IB

Acting president, and presidential candidate Bronislaw Komorowski greets his supporters after acknowledging exit polls on Sunday.

Two-round system
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The two-round system (also known as the second ballot, runoff voting or ballotage) is a voting system used to elect a single winner. Under runoff voting, the voter casts a single vote for their chosen candidate. However, if no candidate receives an absolute majority of votes, then those candidates having less than a certain proportion of the votes, or all but the two candidates receiving the most votes, are eliminated, and a second round of voting occurs.

Runoff voting is used around the world for the election of legislative bodies and directly elected presidents.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Comenius Project Meeting Latvia & Lithuania 2010

Students` opinion on understanding of Comenius project`s title THE IMAGE OF THE OTHER
* * *
On 23th of April 2010 we set out, in the name of Comenius Project for 8-day trip to Latvia and Lithuania. We were visiting museums, see sighting many places, learning culture and even we were hosted in Latvian families. Despite the fact that I spent great time in there, I also noticed many similarities and varieties between countries that had participated in Project.
Firstly we arrived to Riga in Latvia, where we were about to stay for 2 nights. As always I tried to catch some words from new language, to compare it with these that I know. It was different – a bit Russian mixed with German. Next day I focused on city itself. It shocked me with its beauty. The architectural style of building, wonderful streets and amazing chapels create, especially in night, magical atmosphere. It was really hard to leave it behind.
After Riga we went to Preiļi – town in southeast part of Latvia. Preiļi was the place where we were hosted in families – that’s the thing I’ve never experienced before. I have been welcomed warmly with honest smiles. Then I started to talk with Edgars, my host, in English. It was incredible – totally different then writing. We both knew that it isn’t our language and that it’s not an exercise. But suddenly we realized that thanks to English we can communicate! I think Edgars and I had resisted it somehow before. But that was like a trigger. After these two days he told me how much he was surprised about what happened and believe me. I was too!
Then we visited Kaunas and Vilnius in Lithuania. One thing really stuck in my head. I noticed how many historical connections have countries that participated in Comenius Project. When we were see sighting Latvian castle we got to know that it was ruled by Lithuanian King who gave it to Polish knight who hired Italian painter and architect who settled down near that castle. Such situations were very common before which ensured me that we were always together, like brothers and sisters.
When I gathered up everything I had experienced in Comenius Project, I really understood that I am a part of great European society. Now I know that however diverse we are , we feel strong need for communication and identifying ourselves. Despite many problems we still want to build bounding which we can truly call – Friendship. Mateusz Dendura

Between 24th of April and 1st of May me and other people from European College (mainly form my class) visited two beautiful countries, Lithuania and Latvia, to participate in meeting of Comenius Project “Image of the others”, ran by our school and its partners- schools from Preili (Latvia), Sicily (Alcamo), Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Lekėčiai (Lithuania) in last two years. This meeting was special, because it was the final one- our project came to an end.
I could write here thousands of words about places we visited or things we’ve done. Because we have done a lot- we were in Riga, capital city of Latvia; we spent some time with of Latvian friends in Preili, where we were presenting our countries, dancing traditional dances and lots more; then in Lithuania, delighted by the warm welcome, we were participating in all attraction they prepared for us and saw lots of great places in Vilnius and Kaunas.
Of course sightseeing was very important part of our trip, but there was something more, which was, in my opinion, the main aim of this project Meeting people. And they all were just amazing. We could feel their friendliness, openness. They were completely engaged in all they were doing. Thanks to their enthusiasm I spent one of the best weeks in my life there.
A great idea to me was us at families homes in Preili, not in a hotel. Because of this we could spend more time with our friends and got to know them better. For me there was an additional advantage- I was living with Edvin, guy whom I was hosting during meeting in Krakow. We really got on with together and I wanted to find out more about him, his family and interests. Even my classmates, first skeptical, after two days were astonished.
We were all sad that project came to an end. But it really doesn’t matter. Projects lasts two years, friendships- forever. Jakub Bieda


Every trip that I go on is a new experience and an exciting adventure, and this trip was no exception. I had a few expectations beforehand such as to return happy, satisfied, to have seen a lot of different sights and to have met a few interesting people. This trip easily met, or rather exceeded, my expectations leaving me with fondling memories and memorable photos that have captured images of things that I cannot describe with words but are worth seeing.

The Comenius Project trip to Lithuanian and Latvia was a first for me but I enjoyed every second of it. The only downside that I could find was the fact that we stayed there for only a very short amount of time which most definitely prohibited us from seeing everything that each city had to offer. Nonetheless, we managed to see some rather peculiar attractions such as The House of Blackhead and the Motor Museum in Riga, Latvia. These two places stood out to me the most because not only is the city, Riga, itself unique in its architecture and open space but also because the Motor Museum showed off some of the most impressive cars in history included the world’s fastest car which reached speeds greater than the speed of sound. The House of Blackhead was very special because it was an open, public museum, where at the time of our arrival, a couple was having a wedding which later on involved a fireworks show and a beautiful presentation where the building itself was being lit up and had music playing in the background.

I would also like to mention the warm and dear families that hosted us in their homes in Preili, Latvia. I was kindly surprised by their genuine hospitality, enthusiasm, and thoughtfulness in sharing what they had with us. I felt like I was at home and was told the entire time that their door was always open and that I could visit again anytime.

For all of those who wish to follow in our footsteps and visit everything that we got a chance to, I highly recommend that they do so. These places are worth the long trip that lasts hours and hours because nowhere else would you be able to see what we saw and experience what we experienced, not even in Cracow.

-Dabrowka Zarska


Last month, along with several other people from my school, I went on a weekly trip to Latvia and Lithuania. To get there we had to travel by bus for about 12 hours, it was exhausting. On the first day after our arrival we had the opportunity to see Riga, the capital of Latvia. It was something amazing for me, like the mixture of Warsaw and Cracow. Tall buildings and old architecture blend in quite nicely. I really liked the fact that we went to see a motor museum, I have never been in one and it was the biggest in Europe. We spent there 2 days and were soon of to a small town called Preili. I really didn’t want to leave. In Preili we were all met to sleep in families. I was really scared but excited at the same time. I have never been hosted before and i was quite curious how it is. Traveling there my mind keep on asking the same nervous questions if my host will be nice, will we be able to communicate, will she like me, and so on. At the end it wasn’t as scary as I thought, it was fun. If someone asked me if I would do it again I would say, yes, why not. One day we all went to visit there school, they had prepared for us lots of lovely presentations and performances. We were prepared as well of course. I had to play the piano. Oh no, it was a tragedy. I never felt so embarrassed in my life. Anyway everything turned out fine. The next few days we spent with our new friends in Lithuania. It was amazing again, all the preparations. I really enjoyed the trip, I learned many interesting things about these beautiful countries. I saw many interesting places and monuments. I am sure that I will never forget this trip to the end of my life and certainly I want to go back. Alexandra Bittner


I first learned about Comenius project and came into contact with different cultures and people from overboard In Cracow when the Comenius took place In Poland. I never before that time saw a foreign exchange or had chance to take part in one, so Comenius Project opened my eyes to the cultural differences and the amazing feeling of being where I am belonging to certain culture and being different than others. For the first time in my life I felt proud to be Polish to represent a group of people, a country, a culture. In Cracow I met with exchange students and especially Edwin who stayed with a friend from class Kuba Bieda. Then later that same year we went to Latvia and Lithuania and visited them in their own country were we stayed in Riga and Preili. I stayed with a girl Baiba Upienice and had a great time. We stayed with the locals in Preili 2 days and 2 nights. Very first day we went home and socialized with our hosts, we learned a bit of their culture, their interest and lives and on the second day we had a group meeting in the school and lunch later. In the meeting there were shown presentations 2 from our country and many more from others. Our presentations were on Chopin and the tragedy in Smolensk. Later we had a meeting with the mayor and learned about business situation of Preili as well as tour of the city. On the 3 day in the very morning we went to Lithuania. We stayed and visited Kovno, and visited partner school in the country were we were most welcomed. They also showed us traditional dances a bit of their culture and history of the country as well as few famous English songs. The stay was very enjoyable in both countries and we learned about different people and their life views, as well as their daily struggles and communities. We learned that we aren’t the only ones in the world and that there are much different cultures and people that are important. Ben Pailder-Traczyk

Close presidential election expected as polls open in Poland

Polish presidential candidate Bronislaw Komorowski casts his vote.

Polls have opened in the presidential election in Poland. After President Lech Kaczyński was killed along with 95 others in a plane crash in Russia on 10th April 2010, the Constitution required the speaker of the parliament to declare the date within two weeks, with the election to take place on a weekend within the following 60 days, i.e. 20th June at the latest. The Sunday vote in the Polish presidential election isn’t expected to make anyone president-elect yet, with a runoff likely on 4th July. But a recent opinion poll suggests center-right candidate and acting president and speaker of the parliament Bronislaw Komorowski could scrape by with 51 percent of the vote, the minimum needed to avoid a run-off against right-wing candidate Jaroslaw Kaczynski who has vowed to pick up where his brother left off.

Polish presidential right-wing candidate Jaroslaw Kaczynski

The President of Poland is elected directly by the people to serve for 5 years and can be reelected only once. The President is elected by an absolute majority of valid votes. If no candidate succeeds in passing this threshold, a second round of voting is held with the participation of the two candidates who received the largest and second largest number of votes respectively.In order to be registered as a candidate in the presidential election, one must be a Polish citizen, be at least 35 years old on the day of the first round of the election and collect at least 100,000 signatures of voters.

In Poland, the president is not just a ceremonial figure. He may hold less power than the prime minister but can still veto laws. The country's next president could play a role in the debate over adopting the euro and when to withdraw the country's troops from NATO's mission in Afghanistan or in shaping the welfare reform. Poland is the only European Union country to have avoided recession during the global economic downturn. The election will also determine how it reacts to the new debt crisis.

Both Komorowski and Kaczynski are conservative Catholics, but take a dramatically different approach to the euro and Poland's foreign relationships. Kaczynski, who was prime minister from 2006 to 2007, could put the breaks on parliament as it takes steps toward the adoption of the euro. Kaczynski's right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) is known for nationalistic stance, putting up a frosty front both to the European Union and to Russia, it is conservative on moral and social issues but swings left on the economy and favors more state spending. Komorowski is a pro-EU, moderate member of the governing Civic Platform party (PO) who has pledged to work closely with the prime minister, Donald Tusk, to adopt the euro in about five years, end the unpopular military mission in Afghanistan and promote pro-market reforms. If Komorowski wins PO will control the office of the prime minister and president.

Nation in a state of mourning after the plane crash in Russia on 10th April 2010

The death of Lech Kaczynski cast a shadow on the election, compounded by two consecutive waves of flooding that left 24 people dead in recent weeks. Thus the campaign mood was sedate, even with topics like euro adoption and Afghanistan up for debate.

It is worth mentioning here that Poland observes the so-called election silence to allow a "cooling-off" period for voters to reflect on events before casting their votes. It is used in order to balance out the campaigning and maintain a free voting environment. During this period no active campaigning by the candidates and their parties is allowed. Polling is also banned. The silence is legally enforced.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A normal school day in European College

In European College everyday starts in the cafeteria, we as a class meet here and talk, buy something to drink for the day and venture into classes. Every day we have different classes with different teachers sometimes we have double classes in a day for example two histories. One class is 3 quarters of an hour followed by 5, 10, or 15 minutes break. When we have breaks we talk with our friends and socialize. We set up meetings after school, talk about parties in the city and new movies and interesting clubs in Cracow. English classes are very easy for most students as nearly everyone in our school speaks English fluently, however, the rest of subjects is a little more challenging. We have great problems with maths, physics, chemistry and computer programming. We are more of a humanistic class. The life in our school concentrates in cafeteria, most talking is done there as well as meetings with friends over a cup of coffee, most presentations and group projects for classes are prepared there, too.

History is one of our favorite lessons because of the amazing history teacher Grzegorz Ciemała who teaches us about both Polish history in our native language Polish as well as the world history in English.
Most of subjects in our school are taught in English as a pre-taste of International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme that we will follow next year. In Poland, we have “matura” which is a final exam before university, however, in our school we can take International Baccalaureate exams, they are an international exam which makes it easier for us to study in any university in the world! In IB system there are two years of continuous projects and assignments which also determine the grade from 1 to 7 where 7 is the best grade you can acquire. Because of 6 different subjects each person chooses there are many different time tables and sometimes people have free periods before another class. In their free time they socialize in cafeteria. We are a year before IB 1 and thus are called Pre-IB class. At the end of this school year we were choosing our subjects for the IB programme. Each of us has a different timetable so we will be working in different groups and when we see each other will depend on the time tables we have.

Our teachers most of the times don’t go easy on us making us work hard and study each day. Internet sites like facebook play an important role in our life as they allow contact between people who in our classes sometimes live far away from each other. On facebook we remind ourselves about tests, quizzes and oral tests. Hope you can now picture better the daily life in our school.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A trip down memory lane...

As the holidays are approaching, it's a time to reflect. To remember back to the good and the bad times of this school year.

As students of Pre-IB, we are happy to say, that this was a year that we will never forget. One of our first memories together, was the school trip to Krynica. There we built our friendships, formed amazing memories together and had so much fun. Those five unforgettable days went by so quickly as we had a great time together.

After those few days of getting to know each other, we returned to school, as one big happy family. It was time to get to work. That is when all the testing, studying, homework and projects started. It was
stressful at times, but we got through it with positive results. In October we participated and hosted guests from Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Italy, as part of the Comenius Project. This project opened a lot of opportunities for us and we realised that we are able to have friends all over the world. We thoroughly enjoyed their stay in Krakow. We prepared a special performance for them about the legend of the Wawel dragon. It was rewarding for us and it was entertaining for them.

During Christmas, we had our first Christmas lunch together as a class. A week later we had Christmas break which lasted till the New Year. We returned back to school fresh-minded and relaxed, however it wasn't too long before winter break started. In the second semester our school week cycle began once again. There was nothing interesting about this intensive learning time.

Finally, in April we set out on our long awaited journey to Latvia and Lithuania, the last trip of the Comenius Project. We spent ten days travelling, site seeing, meeting new people and learning about these two countries. It was an amazing experience and we had so much fun! We met so many interesting people and made friends from different countries. We returned back to Poland with a new perspective on life and a feeling of achievement.

Now all we are thinking about is the summer time. Some of us are still improving our marks, but in our school there is such a relaxed atmosphere, that we can feel that summer holidays are just around the corner. This year has been one to remember! by pre-IB students