Does anyone read on the internet about Polish ventures abroad? The portal Link to Poland argues ‘yes’, citing readers who return time and again.

„The idea was to create a place showing the interesting things our compatriots are doing outside the country,” Link to Poland founder Mariusz Soltanifar told the Polish Press Agency.

Soltanifar left Poland five years ago, travelling first to Malaysia, and then after a year moving to live in the Netherlands. There, two years ago, he came up with the idea of a portal addressed to Polonia and Poles abroad, as well as foreigners interested in Poland. He convinced a few friends of his idea, the initiative caught the attention of former Polish president and Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa, who took on honorary patronage of the portal.

And so, after a few months of preparation, Link to Poland appeared on the web.

At the outset, Soltanifar found a far from flattering image of Poles in the Netherlands.

He said: „It was very skewed. In part due to the impact of media coverage, which showed Poles mainly as a people unwilling to integrate.

„It was often emphasised that we were increasing in number”, he stressed.

In fact, some time ago the Dutch media showed no mercy to Poles. The tabloids were writing about Polish seasonal workers, accepting poorer working conditions [in comparison to the native Dutch] in exchange for fast earnings and the prospect of a swift return home. This stereotypical image of Polish immigrants was perpetuated by politicians too.

The portal of the Dutch right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV) caused a media storm in 2012, when it encouraged complaints about economic migrants from Central and Eastern Europe.

The Dutch government refused to close down the portal, arguing that it was solely a PVV issue. But ambassadors from ten countries – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia  and Hungary – wrote an open letter identifying the portal as “a deplorable, clearly discriminatory initiative.” The PVV was also condemned by a resolution of the European Parliament.

Link to Poland does not dabble in politics, but wants to show the active and creative side of the Poles.

Soltanifar said: „ I am glad that, through the portal, we can change this misleading image, instead presenting Poles who are open-minded and entrepreneurial. We want to show that, living in different areas of the world, Poles are trying to bring a lot of positive value to their local communities.”

According to him, the negative image of Poles tends to be shaped too by selectively carried out statistical surveys, which show, for example, that Poles in the Netherlands do not want to learn the Dutch language.

„However,” says Soltanifar, „these polls are often carried out among seasonal workers living in the Netherlands for only a few months, who do not need to know the language. And so, through the prism of one group, the whole of society is assessed.

Soltanifar added: „ Of course, they also partly earned  this negative opinion. sometimes by their behaviour, sometimes by putting up with the disgraceful working conditions. However, if we focus only on these examples, our image abroad will be incorrect. We cannot ignore the enterprising Poles, responsible for their own work and able to stand on their own two feet.”

„I was trying to show with this project that Poles are also open-minded, creative, and usually easy going.”

So on Link to Poland, visitors can read, but also write articles, share experiences, and in so doing inspire others.

The portal is aimed primarily at Polonia and Poles living abroad. Soltanifar doesn’t regard Polish migration within the European Union as ‘Polonia’, because he associates that word more with the descendants of Polish emigrants living abroad for generations.

„Now we are dealing with a new type of Pole abroad,” he said, „those who left the country a few years ago, often on the move, and maybe one day they will return to Poland.

„I would not necessarily call such a person cosmopolitan, but rather someone open to the world, mobile, acting as a Polish satellite, who appreciates both his Polish roots and the local community, who is visible in the region and who integrates with native inhabitants of the country in which his life coincides,” stressed Soltanifar.

The portal is also used by foreigners interested in Polish and the Poles,  who wish to visit ,our country, study or do business here. From the beginning Link to Poland has therefore been available in English, and as it develops the portal will include more languages. the development of the portal will be run more languages.

„It is our role to ensure that information reaches the widest possible audience, including those not familiar with the Polish language. Many worthwhile initiatives are simply not available to them, because they are presented or taught entirely in Polish, and thus do not present Poles to the outside world,” noted Soltanifar.

Link to Poland has recorded by far the most hits coming from Poland, which, explained Soltanifar, „may be due to the fact that more and more foreigners live among us, entrepreneurs and students.”

Next after Poland is the Netherlands, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Canada (based on data for the previous calendar year). The ranking of countries in terms of hits reflects roughly the statistics for clusters of Poles abroad.


Author: Magdalena Cedro, Polish Press Agency

Photo © PAP/Andrzej Wiktor, Archive


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