Dan Gebski’s Interview With Joanna Olszowy – From Zero To Hero.
I would like to present today a person called Joanna Olszowy. She is a Polish woman with a string heart, probably the strongest I know. She is a mother and wife who is living in Newry and positively contributing to our community. Let us find out more about Joanna?
DG: Joanna could you tell me about yourself? Where are you coming from? What were you doing in Poland before came over here? Have you family in Northern Ireland ?
JO: I do come from Poland from a city called Stalowa Wola. It is in the south west and has a population of over 64,000. I was a voluntary worker in a primary school for disabled children, and I was working also as a cashier in a grocery shop. I have a husband Jozef and two lovely children.
DG: How long have you been in Newry? Do you like living in Newry?
JO: I’ve been here over thirteen years. Yes, I think this city is lovely but mostly the people are really amazing. You can meet so many different people and make new friends. For example, my special thanks goes to SRG and organisations such as CRJ Newry which can help you make really good changes in life.
DG: I know you are involved in community work a lot? Also I am aware you are one of the committee members of Polish Families Community Association? Could you explain what exactly the group does? And what is your role in the group?
JO: Yes, with my friend Malgorzata and many other people from CRJ, we took part in a ‘digging deeper’ project. I have found people who would like to take part in this project and that way we created Polish Families Community Association in Newry. Then we got a big help from the development manager from Ballybot House. I was the chairperson for two years and right now I’m vice chair.
Our group was created to connect people, to get them together and do something together, for example, to show our children our Polish traditions and Irish traditions as well. But the main reason was to help people in difficult situations. I was helping with applications to help people find a job, helping homeless people and single mothers and many others; just like the rest of the girls and boys from PFC.
Once I delivered a baby with a mum I barely knew. It was amazing. We are still in contact. And I did cook diners for homeless people in Newry too, thanks to my friend Larry who delivers huge amounts of food to these homeless people in Newry.
We do organize different activities for children and adults. From swimming pools, dancing, to first aid course, and Polish traditional nights. My aim while I was the chair person of the Polish Families Association was to improve the skills of every possible person I knew.\
Our most successful event we did and one we are very proud of to this day was the charity picnic in Kilbroney Park for a Polish boy with the brain tumour.We fundraised on that day approximately £1500 to help his treatment.
DG: Do you think Polish people are working more collectively together in Newry? Do polish people engaging with local community groups?
JO: Definitely yes. People in Newry are amazing, they can stand up together to help others. Since we established our group I can see people engaging more in community work and helping others.
DG: What do you think about my project ‘From Zero to Hero’? Do you think it’s good to show the public more about people who do something good for their environment or others around us?
JO: I think is absolutely brilliant. This makes people see that we are not that different. And we have so many good Polish people in Newry and we have a lot in common with local people in the city we are living in and this provides a better future for our children.
DG: What are your plans for the future? Are you and your family thinking of staying in Newry or considering moving back to Poland?
JO: I would like to go to University it is my big dream in life. I will definitely stay in Newry. For my children it is their home and for for me as well, but my heart stays always in Poland.
DG: How can you encourage Polish people to work together with the local people? Do you think this is possible?
JO: Well, we have different cultures. As far I’m aware some of my Irish friends keep saying at the start when we arrived to Newry, that we Polish are loud while talking and we don’t seem to be strong assimilators by nature. I was once with a couple of people on an intergenerational workshop and the meeting went very well. It was for children and adults and the event itself showed them there is no big differences between the older and younger people. We need to organise these kind of events more often. It is very important to participate and connect with the local people and vice versa.
DG: Thank you so much for the interview Joanna and I wish you good health.