community building

Krakow’s Wojtek The Soldier Bear statue – the road to the unveiling – summary and lessons learned

On 18th May 2014 a Wojtek The Soldier Bear statue was unveiled in Krakow’ Park Jordana.

Crowds admiring Wojtek for the first time 18th May 2014
Crowds admiring Wojtek for the first time 18th May 2014

I’ve never been associated with such a project in such an important location.  I want to pay tribute to many of the people who made this possible, and share a few lessons learned.  I’ve said on many previous occasions how much this project is the result of other people’s work. As the person responsible for gathering examples of good practice and distributing it far and wide I am often seen as carrying the work load on my shoulders – but it isn’t true. I am sure there are people who helped who either I don’t know about or who I’ve forgotten. As people who know me realise, I have mild prosopagnosia (face blindness) meaning that I may have forgotten people who I’ve met. Apologies in advance. I can edit this article if there are omissions.

In some places the tone of this article may seem a little resentful. The journey has been a long one, and I’ve had my share of repressed frustration and anger along the way. On the outside I tried to keep up a sunny optimism, while internally sometimes being upset at the lack of action to follow up declarations of  support.  Overall the experience of this project has been good, I’ve got to know some wonderful people, and I am very happy that we have a positive ending.  I know that my difficulties were trivial compared to the experiences of all the people whose terrible experiences at the hands of the Soviets and fighting the Nazis I wanted to publicise.  I hope sharing can be useful, even if the lessons are not always clear.

Back in April 2013 I wrote an account of what happened up to the City Council’s decision to approve the idea of a statue. This event was marked by Professor Norman Davies attending a press conference. The fact that figures of such internationally stature lend their name to the project is really something to appreciate.

At the unveiling I gave a speech in English (and not very good Polish) about the project. The English text is at the end of the article.

So what has happened since April 2013?  There were several types of activity going on, some things I did worked, others didn’t and were very frustrating.  The on line activity of promoting events on Facebook was easy and high profile. Finding people who would actually spend time doing things was not easy and because I didn’t have a team (other than Wojtek Narębski here in Kraków). Many of the things we tried were not at all successful in terms of fund raising.  I am not sure what the  lesson is.  It would have been possible to give up, or say, better not to start until you have a team.  An alternative view is that if you believe in a cause you just keep going.

The Statue – Design and Build

The scale of the work connected to  statue design and build,the planning permission, construction permits is hard to put into words.  This was led by Kazimierz Cholewa, with some input from Wojtek Narębski and myself.  They did so much work towards getting the statue built. It would have been very difficult for anyone else to have managed the complexity of such a project.

The planning, the casting, the paperwork, the labour, are hard to adequately communicate. This video of the transportation perhaps gives a sense of the work involved.

The team at the end of the road
Wojtek Batko and his model of the Statue
Wojtek Batko and his model of the Statue

The budget of 55,000 zloty was somewhat over GBP11,000, and included a lot of people working for free or at cost.  We decided we wanted a high quality bronze that would last for generations.  As I discovered, raising so much money was almost beyond me.

Fundraising This effort can be compared to a leaflet drop or direct mailing. We made many tries, most of them ineffective and had a lucky break.  I told friends that fund raising is not my strength, and I lacked someone to support me in doing the work needed, other than the tireless Wojtek Narębski. The first major donation of GBP 1000 (about 5000 złoty) was from Krystyna Ivell who herself organised Wojtek events in London and published an album about Wojtek.

Wojtek N admiring Krystyna's album1464729_10151786961396828_1889637333_n
Wojtek N admiring Krystyna Ivell’s album

Mariusz Szymański  the producer of The KTP Last Night of the Proms in Krakow concert and a friend allowed me, Wojciech Narębski  my children and their friends to try collecting money.

The Last Night of the Proms in Krakow 2013
the 905 zloty we collected
Daniel Lucas and his collecting tin
Natalia Ungar, Helena Lucas, Oliwia Żmijewska, Julia Setkowicz and Mariusz Szymanski at Filharmonia im. Karola Szymanowskiego w Krakowie.

Wojtek Narebski giving money 999204_10151617164056828_1167270290_n

Doing the event did help spread the word about the Wojtek history. However, my business brain told me that the amount of time and trouble we spent to raise such funds was irrational.  We got 905 złoty and I had the strong realisation that this was not an effective use of Wojtek’s energy and time, not to mention mine and the other people involved. When I saw Wojtek putting his own money in the tin I felt positively uneasy. We didn’t have other ideas at this stage, and were getting lots of verbal as opposed to financial support.

Krystyna Sadowska from Krakow Technology Park suggested that she could get us in front of a group of the most successful business people in the region at their Annual  Business in Małopolska gala event.   Barbara Wityńska also helped. Things ran late and Wojtek Narębski and I spent a long time waiting to go on stage for three minutes to talk about the statue, received warm applause and about 420 złoty over the next few days.  If it had been possible to send people to  the tables with collecting tins, I think we could have raise much more.  There are formats involving auctions where donors are visible. But I didn’t have the time or people to help me do that kind of thing.  After taking Wojtek Narębski home, I gave a presentation at the Talking Dog festival on the same evening, which didn’t raise a single złoty.

People suggested that we do a Kickstarter, Indiegogo or Polak Potrafi campaign and with Wojtek Narębski and Kazimierz Cholewa we recorded a number of videos. Here is Wojtek in English and Polish  I did a recording with him here  with filmed ourselves together here and Kazimierz Cholewa here  Ewa Spohn offered to be the UK Fundraising vehicle (you needed to be a resident in the UK to use Kickstarter). However I had heard from many sources that you shouldn’t start a campaign unless there is a PR initiative prepared, and I didn’t find a volunteer to do this. Maybe the video appeals helped, but I don’t know. One of Krakow’s most successful companies Integer SA Inpost posted links to our project on their Facebook page.

There was work on the web page and leaflets  (thanks to Agata Dziekan, Piotr Synowiec and Józef Wieczorek). The page didn’t really work.   Józef Wieczorek’s blog did. This was mainly my fault as I struggled with WordPress, The webpage did enable people to give money from foreign countries. If you want to give a donation to the Park even now, you can here though if you have a  Polish bank account it lis better to do it direct via the Park’s website here

The Żagań  Wojtek statue

Wioletta Sosnowska and her school in Żagań organised the first Polish Wojtek statue, and has worked tirelessly to promote the history. This was unveiled on 3rd June 2013 and Katy Carr, Agata Dziekan, Dorota Kulawiak, Wojciech Narębski  a delegation from the UK, attended.

Wojtek Statue in Żagań
Wojtek Statue in Żagań

This triumph helped mobilise us all, with the knowledge that a Wojtek statue really was possible, and gave us a renewed sense of shared purpose.

Educational events about Wojtek’s history

Marek Wisniewski, Sławomir Ptaszkiewicz  helped organised a workshop with Wojtek Narębski and Ewelina Olaszek about the Wojtek history for youth groups in Maly Rynek in Krakow. A report on local TV here  covered the event ( 7.49).   We raised  20 złoty.

Saturday workshop at cultural centre in Krakow old town 11th November 2013
Saturday workshop at cultural centre in Krakow old town 11th November 2013

At the National Army Museum in Krakow, at an event in which  I was not involved Robert Garcarzyk read the Wojtek story in Silesian Language and Wojtek Narębski told the Wojtek history. Wojtek AK talk 1234660_10151935126826828_1900943754_n

It was here that the breakthrough happened when a friend Andrew Targosz – a local businessman –  who was there with his children –  heard how we were struggling to raise the money we needed.  A couple more conversations led us to agree that we would cover the remaining costs between the two of us.  While I always intended to make up any shortfall  had never wanted the funding of the project to be covered by me alone.  I realised that thanks to Andrzej Targosz we had a chance to have the project completed by the 18th May Monte Cassino anniversary.

The future

I want Wojtek’s statue in Park Jordana to be a catalyst for further propagating information about the history surrounding Wojtek –  and fund raising for the Park. I hope that  authorised miniatures of the Statue can be sold with profits going to the Park; that  some self financing programme of guides and information can be developed so that the increased awareness of Wojtek   leads to increased knowledge of the history.

 I very much hope that other Wojtek projects  – including the Scottish one that inspired me in the first place – are successfully completed.  If other people want to lead they can count on my support. If people reading this want to help take this project forward, they can contact me and I will suggest things that they can do.  I hope someone else will lobby for a Postage Stamp of Wojtek. Additional statues in other places where people might not know the story  would be fantastic.  And I hope teachers the world over will use Wojtek to help inspired their pupils to learn, think and be aware of what history means,

The most enduring personal benefits for me of this entire project has been the privilege of getting to know so many wonderful people, and none is more inspiring that Professor Wojtek Narębski.  If I ever feel tired, demotivated or down, I remind myself that there are people like him and he – like Wojtek –  motivates me to keep going. Enabling Wojtek to tell his life story on the TEDxKazimierz stage – as can be viewed here – is something that I will always be proud of.

Long list of helpers – in  alphabetical order 

Ryszard Antolak, Vic Baczor, Wojciech Batko, John Beauchamp,   Joanna Berdyn,  Mark/Marta Bradshaw , Christine Bojen,  Marusia Bucknall-Kowalyszyn , Katy Carr, Katy Carr Simon Daley, Professor Norman Davies, Agata Dziekan,  Brendan Foley Agnieszka Gis,   Vivian Glenn, Nick Hodge,  Will Hood,   Adam Irski, Krystyna Ivell,   Anna Kret  Dorota Kulawiak,  Mike Levy,  Edward Lucas, David McGirr, Kat Mansoor, Wojtek Narebski, Jonathan Ornstein,  Garry Paulin, Katarzyna Pętlak-Długosz, Patryk Polec.,  Angela Riccomi,  Raymond  Ross, Wioletta Sosnowska, Andrzej Targosz,   Billy Stewart, Krzysztof Strzałka, Piotr Synowiec,  Kamil Tchorek, Simon Thompson, Andy Traverse (Szawlugo)  Łukasz Wierzbicki,    Aleksandra Wojcik,  Michalina Ziemba.

Richard Lucas

Wojtek unveiling speech (not quite what I delivered but more or less what I wanted to say)

When I had the idea of building a Wojtek Statue in Krakow back in 2008, I didn’t imagine such a wonderful statue in such a perfect location.  I am very proud to be associated with the rediscovering and publicising of this part of Poland’s history. but I do not want to focus on this. There are three important things that we should focus on today.

The Wojtek story, the story of this statue,  is not about me, my generation, or even young people. Wojtek is a Polish hero who is associated with the fight for freedom. Poland needs popular and attractive symbols and through Wojtek the whole world can hear, learn and identify with Poland’s history.  In Putin’s Moscow people are daring to say positive things about the USSR was something positive. Through Wojtek we remember what the Soviet Union really stood for. Children love to hear about Wojtek. Wojtek’s journey teaches them history.

I want to say thank you. thank you to many generous people who gave their time and money to make this happen. This statue was build with private funds, not your taxes. I will mention Professor Wojtek Narebski –  today in Monte Cassino  – who remembers Wojtek the Soldier bear.  Krystyna Ivell who flew from London and was the first major donor. Both survived the Anders Trek. Prezes Kazimierz Cholewa of Park Jordana, and those who worked with him and Andrzej Targosz whose generosity means that the statue stands here today,  Some are here today, others are far away. Please with me, now show your appreciation owe them all.  We are united by promoting the memory of Wojtek and those who fought and died with him.

Lastly, I want to tell everyone here that I hope this statue is not the end of Wojtek’s journey.  it’s the end of a chapter in the book of Krakow and Poland’s history.  I hope there will be other statues, and other Wojtek projects. around Poland and the world.   Wojtek belongs in the hearts and minds of people around the world.  If teachers, parents, children, patriots everywhere can be inspired by this statue to launch their own projects in schools, to paint, sing, act – then surely this Statue is something we can be very proud of.

More tourists will surely visit this beautiful Park. More people will know about Wojtek, More people will know about the heroism of General Anders and his army.  More people will know about the crimes of Stalin.  Surely that is something we can all be proud of. Thank you very much for bringing Wojtek to Krakow.

Kiedy w 2008 roku przyszedł mi do głowy pomysł by w Krakowie zbudować pomnik niedźwiedzia Wojtka, nawet nie wyobrażałem sobie tak wspaniałego dzieła w tak doskonałej lokalizacji .

Rozpiera mnie duma, że jestem zaangażowany w odkrycie na nowo i promocję tej części historii Polski, ale nie chcę skupiać się wyłącznie na tym. Są trzy bardzo ważne kwestie, których istotę powinniśmy dziś podkreślać.

W historii Wojtka i w historii tego pomnika nie chodzi o mnie, moje pokolenie, czy też nawet pokolenie młodych ludzi . Wojtek jest przede wszystkim polskim bohaterem, który jest związany z walką o wolność. Polska potrzebuje popularnych i interesujących symboli i dlatego właśnie dzięki Wojtkowi cały świat będzie mógł usłyszeć, poznać i identyfikować się z historią Polski. Through Wojtek we remember what the Soviet Union really stood for.

Dzieci uwielbiają słuchać o Wojtku, a podróż sympatycznego niedźwiadka uczy ich historii .

Dziś przede wszystkim chciałbym podziękować wielu ludziom dobrej woli, którzy poświęcili swój czas i pieniądze by doprowadzić do tego wydarzenia. Bo warto pamiętać, że pomnik ten został zbudowany ze środków prywatnych, a nie z pieniędzy podatników. Chciałbym wspomnieć właśnie dziś, w rocznicę bitwy o Monte Cassino, profesora Wojtka Narębskiego, który pamięta Wojtka żołnierza niedźwiedzia. Chciałbym wspomnieć o Krystynie Ivell, która przyleciała z Londynu i była pierwszą z głównych darczyńców. Oboje przeżyli Anders Trek . Dziękuję prezesowi Towarzystwa Parku Jordana, Kazimierzowi Cholewie oraz jego współpracownikom. Dziękuję także Andrzejowi Targoszowi, którego szczodrość spowodowała , że dziś możemy oglądać ten pomnik. Niektórzy z wymienionych są tu dzisiaj z nami, niektórzy nie mogli nam towarzyszyć. Proszę, pokażmy im dziś wszystkim nasze uznanie i wdzięczność. Połączyła nas chęć rozpowszechniania pamięci o Wojtku oraz tych, którzy walczyli i zginęli wraz z nim .

Podsumowując moją wypowiedź, chciałbym wyrazić nadzieję na to, że pomnik nie będzie końcem podróży Wojtka . To koniec jedynie pewnego rozdziału na kartach Krakowa i historii Polski.

Mam także nadzieję, że zarówno w Polsce jak i na świecie powstaną inne pomniki i projekty dotyczące niedźwiedzia Wojtka.

Wojtek jest w sercach naszych i umysłach ludzi na całym świecie. I myślę, że z pewnością będziemy mogli być bardzo dumni jeśli nauczyciele, rodzice, dzieci i patrioci będący w różnych zakątkach świata zainspirują się naszym pomnikiem i uruchomią w szkołach własne projekty, za pomocą plastyki, śpiewu czy innego rodzaju artystycznych występów.

Więcej turystów z pewnością odwiedzi ten piękny park. Więcej osób będzie wiedzieć o Wojtku , więcej ludzi będzie wiedzieć o bohaterstwie gen. Andersa i jego armii. Więcej osób będzie wiedzieć także o zbrodniach Stalina.

I ten efekt to na pewno coś z czego wszyscy możemy być bardzo dumni.

Bardzo dziękuję za sprowadzenie Wojtka do Krakowa .


community building

An interview with Kinga Skorupska – of the Open Translation Project and more

Richard Lucas May 2014

Introduction Kinga Skorupska is part of the TED and TEDx Community  – and through the OTP is one of those people who make TED talks available to those would would struggle with English. It’s a pleasure to share info about what she is up to with a wider audience

Kinga Skorupska
Kinga Skorupska


Please introduce yourself, who are you, what do you do and where are you from ?  My name is Kinga Skorupska, I am a Polish Language Coordinator at TED Open Translation Project and a member of TEDxWarsaw team.

Were you supported by family and friends or did they think you are crazy? My family liked that I was doing something that made me happy and that I was learning at the same time, but a lot of my friends thought I was crazy! Back then hardly anyone except for hardcore nerds and people in the industry heard about TED and it was common for me to hear „You work for free! Why?” 

Can you describe what you do for OTP, and what the point is?  As TED and TEDx stand right now in many parts of Europe they are quite English-centric, because they want to be attractive to international guests. So without translations TEDx and TED remain inaccessible to a large part of the local community – especially to older people and children. I hope this will change, if not through direct participation, then thanks to localized websites and translated talks. This is why Language Coordinators like me devote their time to oversee the quality of translations, recruit and mentor volunteers, write translation manuals and organize training workshops.

You’ve been active in both TED/ OTP, TEDx, and I’ve heard other projects What and who inspires and motivates you? Why did you decide to get involved?  I became a member of the OTP right after the project was announced, as I was studying English Philology at that time and I wanted practice in translation. I had already been a fan of TED for a few years at that point and as I translated more I realized that is the best way to appreciate and really understand the talks.  Then I started sharing them with my family and friends, I exchanged emails with other translators and we became friends. I met Krystian at TEDxWarsaw, TEDxKraków and then he invited me to be a remote member of TEDxYouth@Kraków core team – after I learned more about TEDx it was natural to reach out to the TEDxWarsaw team..I am active in the OTP because I want our translators to feel like they are part of a community – it’s easy to forget when you stare at pixels for hours. Contributing to TEDx is a bit different, because there are more team meetings, phone calls, direct discussion and then the grand event. The OTP also attracts more introverted people who like TED and TEDx and just want to translate the talks. It’s great motivation to see your translation appreciated, but it’s not always enough to keep interest in the project – the knowledge, connections and friendships you form on the way ultimately are why you stay.

What did you find most challenging, stressful?  That was the very beginning, back in late 2009. As there was no imposed time limit for translating talks the first task took me well over two months to complete – I wanted my first translation to be perfect. Of course I was clueless at that point, so a few months later, after getting pointers from Krystian Aparta (thank you!) I asked TED staff to reassign it to me and changed it again. Then finally, Rysia Wand did the review and still changed so many things…I had a lot to learn!

What are the biggest elements of the workload that are not visible to outsiders? There tens of thousands of TEDx talks available for transcription and translation, alongside TED-Ed and TED talks. A 15-minute talk means about 20 hours of work in total, with 6 steps to complete on the way: transcription (original language subtitles), review of the transcription, approval of the transcription and then translation, the review and the approval again. Each of these tasks requires a certain set of skills, so a knowledge transfer has to occur ideally for every new member – for this we use OTPedia, social media and comments in Amara, our translation platform. Giving good feedback on tasks is crucial and then there is the research, terms, and my nemesis: punctuation – why can’t we just do away with these teeny scribbles?

What would you describe as your key roles and contribution? I am a Polish Language Coordinator and as such I approve translated talks and give feedback to volunteers. Other than that I write English and Polish content for OTPedia: and last year I started organizing a community of OTP translators around TEDxWarsaw, with increasingly more regular meetings and training workshops. I hope our example will inspire more cooperation between TEDx and OTP around the world and spark a sense of belonging for OTP members– the TEDxWarsaw team has been incredibly supportive in these goals. Thank you!

What was the most unexpected, funniest and strangest TEDx experiences and what are you most proud of? We organized an international OTP workshop after this year’s TEDxWarsaw and meeting other OTP translators has been a blast! After the workshop we had a sightseeing tour of Warsaw – we fed animals in Łazienki Park, and saw a live deer there – when does that ever happen?! Sure it rained a bit when we got to the Old Town, but it really didn’t matter. I have heard that we are leading the world in TEDx and OTP cooperation, and that makes me proud, grateful and happy – is there one word for these emotions combined? Sure could use it now.

What do you say when you meet someone who hasn’t heard of or TEDx, does it happen often. Lately more often people have heard about TEDx but haven’t heard about TED, which just shows how big of an impact TEDx has on our society – Kudos! When that happens I explain the concept, show them a talk they may like and tell them to ask me later how they can contribute.

How did you come into contact with TED?  I always wanted to know a bit about everything. First it’s great for creative writing. Second, it’s great for connecting with people. It helps you see and understand how what they love and do is interesting. So in my quest for understanding I browsed a private educational tracker for free lectures, and found the first bundle of TED talks – that got me hooked.

Which are your favorite TED talks and why? I absolutely loved John Hodgman’s “Aliens, love – where are they?” – it was heartwarming, lyrical and quite geeky. Other than that I love talks about life sciences, physics and astronomy, for example Brian Greene’s talk “Why is our universe fine-tuned for life?”.(in Polish here:


What advice would you give to anyone who is considering getting involved in TEDx or the OTP, or starting a new project? Don’t try to do it all by yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are plenty of enthusiastic and reliable people who are actually happy to help. Krystian and Rysia helped me learn to be a better translator and encouraged me to try things out. Magdalena Daniel has been an awesome help when it comes to organizing the TEDxWarsaw OTP sub-team. TEDxWarsaw team, Mateusz, Milada, Adam, Ralph all supported our efforts to bring the translators together, as part of the bigger community and make them feel appreciated.

What interesting and/or strange facts can you tell us about yourself than most people don’t know about? I love games: board games, competitive computer games and pen&paper RPGs. My hobby led me from being a Game Master for Warhammer and WOD to becoming a Deputy Commander on the World of Tanks battlefields. I coded a bit for a MUD. I am also learning freestyle rollerskating.

What are you working on at the moment, what’s next and what will you think of as a success in 5-10 years from now.  I translate movies, games and work part-time as a small business assistant and teacher, but I love sf and creative writing, so in 5 years I expect I will have published my book set in the HQ of a post-SETI group operating covertly in a dystopian society.

What is the biggest impact TED and TEDx has had on your life? Because of TED I met smart, open-minded and fun people and I stopped worrying about fitting in. As my friend put it, I became awkwardly social, more self-confident and as a result – happier. TED and TEDx celebrate human connection and curiousity and when these two meet innovation and knowledge are born, but you have to have the courage to admit you that you want and need to learn. I am trying to contribute to the community in such a way as to create a similar experience for others.

Anything else you’d like to tell us:

Sure! Join us, it’s easy:

Soon, we are organizing another TEDxWarsaw/OTP Translatathon so if you are free on the 1st of June show up and we will show you the ropes.

Find out more here:



community building

An interview with Ewa Spohn – Curator of TEDxKrakow

Richard Lucas  -May 2014


This is the next interview in a series where I talk to people who are making contributions to the community life in Poland and elsewhere. Ewa is the Curator of TEDxKrakow, and is active in other community, social and business initiatives. She has lived in Krakow for many years, and I appreciate that she took the time and trouble to answer my questions.


Please introduce yourself, who are you, what do you do and where are you from?

Ewa Spohn –I’m originally from London but have a Polish background. I have been the curator of TEDxKrakow since December 2011. On an everyday basis, I work for a company that sets up supply chains of organic fruit from Poland and the Ukraine for large food processors.


When did you first hear about TED and TEDx?

I first heard about TED in 2008 when a friend emailed me a talk –I was hooked immediately. I found out about TEDx when I found out that TEDxWarsaw was being organised so I decided to nominate Jonathan Ornstein of the JCC in Krakow as a speaker. He was accepted and I went up to Warsaw to see him talk. I left the event totally inspired and I knew then that TEDx was an idea worth getting involved with. The first TEDxKraków happened a few months later.


Why did you decide to get involved and apply for a license?

I was part of the team that organised the first TEDxKraków at the Auditorium Maximum in October 2011. I saw real potential in what we’d started and when Paul Klipp, the first licensee decided not to carry on, I consulted with the rest of the team and applied for it myself.


What was the most unexpected outcome?

The thing that’s most surprised me is the reach that TEDx offers. When you become a TEDx organiser you become part of a group of amazing people around the world who are passionate about their communities. There are now 6 TEDx events happening every day around the world, each led by people who want to make a difference in their community. Our cultures may be very different, but our goals are the same and I’ve made some lifelong friends among the TEDx organiser community, both here in Poland and abroad. I wasn’t expecting that.


In terms of what we’ve achieved as a team in Kraków, I also didn’t expect the reach that a talk given at a TEDx event in a small city like ours can achieve. Seeing Tal Golesworthy’s talk from TEDxKraków 2011 make it on to and clock up over 1,000,000 views is amazing. Tal suffers from a genetic disorder and he spoke about a revolutionary treatment that he developed and for which he was the first patient. He had been promoting his approach to the medical community for years, but as a result of the exposure he got on, his idea has reached far more people than he could ever have done alone. Now it looks as though many more people will have their lives transformed as a result. And had I not persuaded him to come and talk at TEDxKraków, it would never have happened.


What are you most proud of?

The TEDxKraków team decided that our goal is ‘to inspire people who are up to something’and I am frequently touched and inspired by our strong team of amazing people who give their time and energy for free, who work together to achieve this goal for our common good.


What did you find most challenging?

There are two things that are quite challenging. The first is keeping what we do fresh and relevant. Our community in Krakow is smart and aware, and we want to bring them speakers and ideas that challenge and stimulate and are relevant. It’s a tough call and we’re learning as we go.


Secondly, organising TEDxKraków takes up as much time as you allow it. It’s a strong brand and it starts a lot of conversations –it’s fascinating and it can quite easily become a full time job! This can be quite a challenge to manage as everyone on the team has a full time job already and none of us are paid for the time we put into organising TEDxKraków.


How would you describe your role?

Keeping the wheels on the bus, keeping the show on the road and keeping calm and carrying on (this last one doesn’t always work out as well as I would like).


What tips would you give about speaker selection?

(a) Remember that your role is to make celebrities of your speakers –not to put celebrities on stage, (b) Choose speakers with ideas that make you see things in a different light –a more interesting, accurate or useful model of reality and (c) Make sure that the speaker is the only person who could be giving this talk – that this is the talk of THEIR life.


What sort of practical support do you get from TED?

The resources available to organisers are pretty comprehensive. Once you get your license you gain access to a great forum that is open to all licensees from around the world, where you can ask for advice and suggestions. I think it’s important to underline the fact that the TEDx community is very much self-generating –it’s not being driven by TED (in fact, I think that we are often as much a source of inspiration for them as they are to us…). The small TEDx team at TED HQ is always there if we need advice, but the fact is that with 6 events happening every day around the world and over 30,000 TEDx talks now online, there is only so much they can physically do to keep it all under some sort of control.


What’s the most stressful thing that happened?

Our major sponsor announcing that they were cutting their sponsorship by 60% a month before the main conference (and our budget in half) is something I won’t forget in a hurry. And then there was the time when the venue we booked in January told us 2 months before the event that they were installing an exhibition that would take up practically the entire building (it didn’t), so we had to find a new place at short notice.


What do you say when you meet someone who hasn’t heard of or TEDx?

I suggest they watch Derek Sivers’talk about how to start a movement and tell them that this is the kind of thing we do in Krakow.


How do you persuade people to speak? 

Most of the people we approach have heard of TED (if not TEDxKraków) and are willing to speak. Often they’re quite nervous and apprehensive, but we spend a lot of time talking through their presentations and practicing. And we always underline the fact that no matter what happens on stage, we will edit the talk to make them look amazing!


What do you say when people tell you they want to speak on

We suggest that they contact the folks at TED, as that’s the website is their baby.


Which are your favourite TED talks and why?

It depends on my mood, but most recently I’ve been really moved by Norman Spack’s amazing talk on helping transgender teens. I also find myself going back to Michael Sandel’s talk on why we shouldn’t trust markets with our civic life, and Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s talk on watching clouds.


How did you feel when you woke up the morning of your first event/and when it was all over?

Excited/nervous and then excited, proud, satisfied and exhausted.


What would you say to anyone who is considering getting involved in TED or TEDx?

Just do it. What’s the worst that could happen?


What funny interesting and/or strange facts can you tell us about yourself than most people don’t know about?

I love ironing. It’s one of those rare activities in life where I can see immediate results. I also bake a mean Pavlova (ask Marek Wierzbicki).

community building

An interview with Julka Święch – teenage entrepreneur from Kraków

Richard Lucas May 2014


I heard about Julka’s business ventures from her father Grzegorz.. As someone who has been promoting entrepreneurship projects in Schools  in Poland for more than 20 years. (see end of article for examples, links), I was impressed and requested an interview

Please introduce yourself, who are you, what do you do and where are you from ? 

My name is Julka, I’m from Cracow. I’m pupil from First Middle School in Cracow, near Wawel. I’m fourteen and I’ve got two small companies.

Julka Święch
Julka Święch

The first  is EBC (Everything Best Company), which was founded by my and my best friend.. EBC helps you with housework, gardening and babysitting. We can do everything you want. We makes cakes & candies too. Second is I started it two months and it produces friendly antismog masks. This is my first big project. Now, there are three models of masks, each other with different colour and concept. If you want to know more about , just visit our webpage.


how did you find customers?

In EBC our customers are our neighbours. We increase sales by finding more, further from us, people and expatriates In I target mostly young people, who have their own style, perhaps hipsters and artists.

how did you decide how much to charge?

In I have a three pack, where are 3 masks, each one with other colour. The threepack costs 20 PLN. In EBC we have a price-list. If the potential order is new, and not on our standard list, we write a proposal, or  ask a potential customer what price they propose.

What were the biggest challenges

The biggest challenge for us in EBC was the beginning. We didn’t know how to start, we did some paperwork, created an e-mail and named our company (first we called White Group :-). We started with special offers, helping out our parents. Then we made some cakes and helped different people with housework, gardening and more. I think, that the biggest challenge is in creating a company is the beginning. In it was different, because I was on my own.  I told my parents about the idea  and they helped me a little. I was a bit scared on my first interview, too.

How did you persuade people that it was ok to do business with someone who was not adult

People were attracted to our young age. They know, that we are young and they are saying something like„Oh, you are fourteen!! When I was fourteen I was…”. Of course we have some customers who are  outraged by our age, but we don’t care about that.

Were you supported by family and friends or did they think you are crazy

My family is thinking out of box. My friends’ reaction was very cool, because they weren’t jealous. They were very surprised and they supported me in my problems.

What did you school think of what you were doing 

Well, my school doesn’t know about my company yet. I presented idea at a  Chemistry lesson and my teacher was very surprised. My Geology teacher’s reaction was similar.

were you alone or did you have a team

In EBC I am the founder with my best friend Pola. We are supporting each other. We have got some volunteers, younger than us, our little neighbours. We had one employee, but we released her. (RL Comment-  it’s valuable to get such tough experiences young)

In I am alone, but my parents help me with important decisions.

What was the most unexpected, funniest and strangest experience you had as a result  and what are you most proud of?

The most unexpected thing was, when I was texting with some women. I thought she was in her twenties or thirties, and I wrote to her like to my friend, but when I met her I saw, she was in my mum age! Shame!  I am proud of, that there are not so many people surround me, who are as much active as me :-).

What advice would you give to anyone who is considering starting a business before leaving school.

My advice is to don’t care about weaknesses, keep calm all day and all night and have fun! If your business as teenager won’t be good, take it easy and try again. You will be stressing later!

What are you working on at the moment, what’s next and what will you think of as a success in 5-10 years from now. 

Now I am thinking how to sell 1000 masks! Probably I will sell them near Cracow monuments, to tourists ;-)!

Congratulations and good luck

Closing comments  

It’s never to early, and it’s never too late to start a business. The things that you learn with your own business, about motivation, communication, organisation and responsibility, and the connection between hard work and achieving success, are hard to teach. “Learning by doing” has much to recommend it. An interesting TED talk about raising kids to be entrepreneurs is Cameron Herold’s here . When I asked Alex Schey 24 year old CEO of Vantage Power how he got the confidence he said that his father let him go to business meetings when it was possible, and since then I’ve invited my kids to come with me and they sometimes do. See Alex’s amazing TEDx talk here 

Enterprise projects targeting young people

(FMP , Global Entrepreneurship Week, “My Two Minutes” (also here in Polish) Entrepreneurs from my school,  Best School Enterprise competition,   “Open Company”