Richard Lucas March 2021
I recently listened to an excellent podcast interview with Jonathan Ornstein, leader of the Jewish Community Centre in Krakow, on a podcast called “The Krakcast”. Hear it here. It’s from Passover 2020 when Poland was doing relatively well in its Covid-19 response (those were the days). Congratulations to The Krakcast team – Dave, Josh, John, Gabi, and ‘Dr. Michael’. https://www.krakcast.pl/
It doesn’t seem like a one off either. Today I heard another interesting interview with Max and Michał of Yolk Coworking who are doing a better job of building a community focussed co-working space that I and a number of others did with Colab a few years ago. They certainly help with hosting an the first Open Coffee High School meetup which has now spread to many cities and three countries even during lockdown
This podcast got me asking myself, “How many other excellent resources are there about life in this amazing city?” I decided to share English language resources for those in or planning to come to the place I’ve lived for over 30 years.
Some Disclaimers. This list is not complete or designed to be “perfect”. If you don’t understand why I included “link X” or left out “website Y”, it’s because that’s the decision I took. I am no oracle. This list will not be complete. I am ready to make updates as a public service from time to time. If you don’t understand why I decided to use a Facebook group in one case, and a webpage in another, neither do I, I did what was most convenient for me. If you find my generalisations glib or offensive, sorry. If you don’t like my sense of humour – you are not alone.
All Poland resources To get by in Krakow, there are some “all Poland” books and websites that will be very helpful. If you want to be happy in Poland, get to know Polish history. Read Norman Davies’s Heart of Europe. It will really help. There are some excellent “all Poland” websites Notes from Poland, https://notesfrompoland.com Daniel Tilles and Stanley Bill have done a superb job with their army of well educated and informed contributors. There are Youtube channels, notably, Paddy Ney’s here and his Heart of Poland. If you like his style check out his great TEDxKazimierz talk here .Going to Quora and asking What is is like living in Poland leads to a string of thoughtful answers. My Quora answer about Poland got over 100,000 views :-). I came across this Youtube diary made by Natalie who was in an MBA class I teach Moving To Poland and Youtube suggested I moved from LOS ANGELES to KRAKOW, Poland. Which do I prefer? which anyone might find interesting. A big list of English language news about Poland is here .
Krakow Focussed Resources There are some historic news sites like the Krakow Post which used to be a printed newspaper. It’s connected to an excellent tourism orientated site Localife.com – Listen to the founder of Local Life Mark Bradshaw on the Entrepreneurship and Leadership Channel of the New Books Network here – It’s an interview I did with Sam Cook back in 2015. There are a number of other tourism sites like Krakow in your Pocket which are easy to find and useful.
There are many on and off line groups for foreigners. The melting pot of Krakow is quite complicated so you have to realise that not everyone will be exactly like you. Read through the list of below and see how soon you recognise yourself:
rich “expats” living in expensive, expensed houses who ask “where can I rent a private jet, hire a cook and gardener ?”
moaners and angry types, always grumpy, often on social media, asking “Why don’t underpaid shop assistants speak English?”
“Party” people who are here to well… party
Trust-a-farians (rich kids living off trust funds)
Artists & creatives
People with regular jobs (called “Corpo” jobs in Krakow)
Digital nomads and freelancers (that covers many others on this list)
retirees whose western pension goes further here
Sleazy, creepy types and influencers
Hardcore gangsters, ex-terrorists (top tip – never ask “what did you used to do?”)
Refugees – this is very real, Poland has given visas to 100,000s of people from countries to the East of Poland who have been through great hardships.
Student and academics
Diplomats and spies – There are not many
Entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs
‘normal’ people and others
Krakowians migrate from one group to another, rotate between them, and sometimes wear multiple hats. I realised when I finished this list that I should have put it in alphabetical order. Please imagine that I did this for
Krakow Business Community The Krakow Startup Community has deep roots way back: as far as Jan Thurzo of Fugger/Thurzo fame in 1477 through to Base (which exited to Zendesk), to Brainly and Inpost, Poland’s Unicorns (companies valued at over a US$1 billion) . Fugger monopolised the copper market, financed the Hapsburgs and was the richest man the the world – way richer than the GAFAs in relative terms.
See Cisco’s Ramon Tancinco Krakow: Europe’s Silicon Valley? Why not! TEDxKrakow talk on Krakow’s Silicon Valley potential. We’ve a way to go yet. There aren’t entrepreneurial business schools, angel funds, and community centres where internationally minded Krakow entrepreneurs hang out and rub shoulders but there are a number of initiatives. I hope the guys at Yolk can be instrumental in fixing things.
Professionals in Krakow – The international community of Krakow https://www.facebook.com/groups/professionalsinkrakow
Aspire is the large foreign companies club – hat tip to Andrew Hallam who has been running this for decades. Smaller businesses are welcome there too.
Non Business Groups
There are a lot of more general resources for foreigners in Krakow, especially in Facebook groups, and I am sure I have left some out.. Krakow Expats has more than 30,000 members hat tip to David McGirr for the work he puts in to moderating this and many other expat resources. He also runs this web site Krakow Expats http://krakowexpats.pl/listings/foreigners-in-krakow
Real Krakow Expats https://www.facebook.com/groups/krakowexpats unmoderated FB group is active and lively.
International Women’s Association of Krakow (I managed to be a member of this organisation as a divorced dad and “honorary woman”). In Krakow many things are possible.
Krakow Standup Comedy has brought some big names to Krakow and I can’t wait for live comedy to restart.
Couchsurfing Krakow meetups and Language Exchange Krakow were great places to meet all kinds of people.
Massolit the English Language Bookshop & Cafe founded by David Miller is almost a cultural institution. It’s normal to make friends there.
Jewish Life if you don’t know why this matters read Norman Davies as mentioned above. The Jewish Community Centre has become world famous . Great credit to Jonathan Ornstein – and the team – for this magical place. To understand why listen to KrakCast, who interviewed him very well here and here Part 2. See Jonathan with Robert Desmond on the TEDxKazimierz stage talking about the Ride For The Living & The JCC here.
Also listen to Janusz Makuch, founder of the Jewish Culture Festival at TEDxKrakow (talking in Polish)
To get a sense of the positive undercurrents of Polish Jewish relations listen to Rabbi Michael Schudrich at TEDxWarsaw Jewish descent on the rise:
Observant readers will notice I’ve been referencing TEDx talks. TEDx can have had important community building roles as they search for the most interesting ideas and people to put on their stage. I’ve been deeply involved in TEDx since 2009, leading, until earlier this year, TEDxKazimierz. I’m going to end with a few more Poland related TEDx talks that are definitely worth watching.
In conclusion.. thanks again to The Krakcast team for the work you have been doing. Once bars re-open I’m offering to buy you a piwo, vodka, meal or whatever. If any readers feel that I should have mentioned their organisation or web page in this blog post, let me know, I’ll almost certainly add it, next time I update.