We have just finished accepting workshop proposals from people and institutions that will participate in our conference – we now know, that are going to have inspiring meetings.
You have sent forty different proposals for discussions and presentations. The Conference Committee has now selected 36 topics that will be part of our conference. We are all very excited, as our presenters and panellists will be joining us from 13 countries and 5 continents. We will have an opportunity to meet speakers from the US, Canada, Chile, United Kingdon, Ireland, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, India, Australia, Iceland and Croatia. We will soon publish a detailed list of topics on our webpage.
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Respite care comes in many shapes and forms. So do the needs of people who may benefit from it, as well as the entities who provide it. One of such providers is the Foundation Wroclaw Hospice for Children, which for the last three years, since 2020, has been developing the only facility in westernmost part of Poland that is capable of providing temporary, professional and free stays for children with terminal, chronic and incurable diseases.
The "KOKOSZKA" Respite Care Home features beautiful rooms designed by students and lecturers from the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław, and will soon open in the city. The centre will also include rooms with en-suite bathrooms, kitchen facilities, training and educational spaces (including a conference room), a section designed for rehabilitation sessions, and integration spaces. The centre surface is approximately 1,500 square metres.
It is important to note that the visual communication design, as well as the arrangement of individual rooms, including some furnishing elements, which take into account specific needs of children living with diseases, have been developed by the students and lecturers at the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław. The photographs present the final outlook of the centre facilities.
This is where art combines with goodness – a topic we will also discuss during our conference in Wrocław. Please save the dates! Click the link below to learn about the conference fee: https://isba.me/registration/
Non-residential summer camp for children and youth with disabilities.
Non-residential summer camp for children and youth with disabilities is yet another form of respite care services, much needed and eagerly awaited by carers. In the city of Wrocław, such services are provided e.g., by „Potrafię Pomóc” Foundation and IMAGO Foundation.
Summer holidays tend to be a difficult time for carers of children and young people with disabilities. In Poland, the school year ends towards the end of June, and the school doors only open again more than two months later - on the 1st of September. Kindergartens and other facilities for children and young people usually also close for the holiday period. Yet, people who have full-time jobs can only take an average of 26 days off per year. This means that parents of children and young people with disabilities are faced with a difficult situation, especially those raising their child on their own. Parents cannot really afford to skip work for the whole duration of school holidays, and grandparents or relatives are not always able to provide specialist care, which sometimes requires constant supervision and a lot of expert knowledge. Hiring a qualified carer is very expensive, and mostly out of reach for parents of children with disabilities who also need to pay for rehabilitation, therapy, specialised equipment, and are often struggling financially. Thus, finding adequate care options for the summer holiday period tends to be crucial for both parents and permanent carers.
The „Potrafię Pomóc” foundation has been organizing non-residential supper camps for many years. Since 2019, the camp curriculum and schedules have been designed in line with the requirements of children and youth with severe and coexisting disabilities who require the highest level of care. During the enrolment process working parents are given priority.
A distinctive feature of the non-residential summer camp organized by the foundation involves activities designed for small groups, with one caregiver per two children. The activities and groups are tailored to the participants' abilities and needs, and designed in a way to be as fun as possible!
The summer camp staff includes special educators, therapists and a nurse with ICU qualifications. The Rehabilitation and Education Centre for Exceptional Children in Wrocław, which hosts summer camp activities, is fully adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. The centre has a nurse's office equipped with e.g., an oxygen concentrator, pulse oximeter, BMV resuscitator, suction machine and other specialised equipment.
Zosia, who was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, has been participating in the non-residential summer camp activities for many years. Her mother, Agnieszka, is an independent, working parent. In 2019, she talked about the summer camp to a journalist from Wroclaw.pl:
It is an invaluable support for all of us. Zosia is having a great time, participating in special activities such as music therapy, and I have the opportunity to work, run my errands and even have a bit of rest during the holiday season.
Crucially, due to generous support from local authorities, the summer camp activities are offered to participants free of charge, since the project is part of a public task run by the Wrocław City Hall. The camp is open to children and young people aged 2,5 - 24 years, who have a disability certificate/ruling stating their level of disability, and who live or study in Wrocław. In 2022, there were 42 participants in each of two two-week summer camps.
In the summer of 2022, with funding from the Municipality of Wrocław, the Imago Foundation organised its first non-residential summer camp and tested a new formula of such activities, to see how it is received by beneficiaries. It soon turned out that the idea was indeed a success, and the summer camp was fully booked within days.
The non-residential summer camp organised by the Imago Foundation was quite unique, as a large part of activities planned for each day was based on the Adventure Therapy method and taking place outdoors, in the green areas of Wrocław. Adventure Therapy is a method of supporting people with disabilities in their development, which the Imago Foundation has been implementing through transnational cooperation with specialists from Spain and the Czech Republic. The method involves nature-based activities to facilitate the process of creating positive change and personal development for the participants. The activities offered during the non-residential summer camp in Wroclaw's parks and green spaces included elements of social skills training and sociotherapy, but above all else, they challenged participants to exercise their independence, discover their strengths and build their sense of agency.
Over the summer, The Imago Foundation organized three 5-day camps for 30 young people with disabilities aged between 7 and 26. The camps focused on different themes: two of them combined Adventure Therapy with animal-assisted therapy, and one camp offered both outdoor activities and indoor climbing. Both summer camp formulas met with enthusiastic welcome from both participants and their carers, with the latter having the possibility to work or simply enjoy a short break. Here is what a mother of a teenage participant, Michał, had to say about the climbing camp:
My son learned that he is able to do more that he expected. He is now more willing to take up new challenges. And group activities motivate people to want to do more - if others can do it, so can I.
As the activities on offer involved specialized skills, the summer camp staff included experts professionally involved in animal-assisted therapy (i.e., equine-, dog, alpaca-assisted therapy), therapeutic climbing instructors and Adventure Therapy facilitators with psychological, sociotherapeutic or coaching competences (the so-called Social Skills Training). Summer camp assistants and volunteers also played a vital role, as their company and smiles encouraged the participants to get more involved in the activities.
The last year's edition may have been the first non-residential summer camp organized by the Imago Foundation, but certainly not the last - even now, in the middle of winter, we are thinking about the coming summer and planning 2023 summer camp activities.
Conference venue and registration fee
It's already known! Proven and one of a kind. The place of our meeting during the ISBA conference. It is Concordia Design building located on the picturesque Malt Island in the vicinity of the historic Ostrow Tumski and a few steps from the Wroclaw Market Square. The building itself is a business and cultural center. Interesting architecture and lots of greenery around. On site, in addition to participating in the conference, you will be able to relax both inside and outside, and from there you will easily get to many attractive points in Wroclaw. We will tell you more about Concordia in the near future. In the meantime, it's worth checking: https://www.concordiadesign.pl/konferencje-wroclaw/ It is also worth knowing and saving in the calendar that registration for the ISBA 2023 conference starts on April 1. However, only for a month, i.e. from April 1 to April 30, 2023, the conference fee is available at a promotional price. The sooner you decide to participate, the better. Click the link below to learn about the conference fee: https://isba.me/registration/
Warto też wiedzieć i zapisać w kalendarzu, że 1 kwietnia rusza rejestracja na konferencję ISBA 2023. Jednak tylko przez miesiąc, czyli od 1 do 30 kwietnia 2023 opłata konferencyjna dostępna jest w promocyjnej cenie. Im wcześniej podejmiesz decyzję o udziale, tym lepiej. Kliknij link poniżej, aby zapoznać się z informacją nt. opłaty konferencyjnej. https://isba.me/pl/rejestracja/
Interview with Thomas Stoch - Senior Manager at the German Red Cross.
ISBA conferences are a great place to meet new people and establish contacts that can bear fruit in the future. One of the participants of the previous editions of the conference was Thomas Stoch - Senior Manager at the German Red Cross. Check out what their veteran thinks about ISBA conferences.
What do you think about ISBA conferences? What one need to know about ISBA conferences?
These bi-annual ISBA conferences are great to share ideas about your own work, to learn how other organizations face the challenges in their countries. The host organization, which is this year from Poland, has always a great opportunity to inform about specific national themes and initiate new networks between national institutions and international guests. ISBA conferences are great to meet other people, discuss and have fun together.
Please say a few words what is your experience with respite care. How important is this topic in your organization?
Unfortunately, respite care is not common in Germany. The support system in our country is still quite exclusive and institutionalized. Of course, the topic `inclusion´ is discussed in Germany today, legal rights are created. But in real life we are far away to live inclusive. Reality is that big organizations run specialized workshops and disabled homes. So, offering respite care is very important for my organization to fill the gap – to give people with disabilities and their families a chance for a break, to make possible an individual support and claim their rights.
ISBA conferences are probably a big injection of knowledge. Is it anything else?
Besides the great amount of knowledge and information you obtain during the conference you also get inspired and encouraged to new ideas to take back to your home country. You connect with exciting people from around the world who work on the same subject – supporting people with disabilities and their families. You bring back home a lot of inspiration and the certainty that its worth to face the challenges in your own organization.
Will we also meet you in Wroclaw? Maybe together we will convince those who are hesitating whether it is worth coming?
Of course, I am excited and looking forward to attend. Wroclaw is a wonderful and vibrant city and I am sure that this conference 2023 will be a blast! If anybody is hesitating to take part in the conference, I can say from my experiences during the many ISBA conferences I have participated in – it is always worthwhile. Meet great people, get inspired and at the end you will be infected by the ISBA virus.
The heart of the city – The Market Square in Wrocław
When you come to the ISBA Conference in September, start your journey around Wrocław with the heart of the city – the vibrant Market Square. It is one of the oldest and largest historical markets in Poland. Its foundation dates back to 1214 -1232.
In the center of the market there is a huge Town Hall of Wrocław, consisting of two parts (old, late Gothic and new one), with a beautiful clock face. This is one of the best well-preserved town halls in Poland – a true architectural gem.
Inside of the old part of the town hall there is the Museum of Bourgeois Art, which specializes in collecting and presenting objects related to Wrocław craft workshops and artists, from the earliest times to the present days. In the oldest part of the town hall – the Burghers' Hall, marble busts of outstanding personalities associated with Wrocław are exhibited. The most important meetings of the city council are held in the main hall of the building.
If we go a little bit underground, in the basement of the town hall we will find the oldest restaurant in Europe - Piwnica Świdnicka, with a short break, has been opened to customers since 1273! Among the celebrities dining here, we can mention Chopin, Słowacki or Goethe. During our conference, you must go there for a dinner or a dessert.
Continuing our stroll around the market square, it is worth stopping for a moment at the monument of the literary man Aleksander Fredro – a Polish comedy writer, memorialist and poet who produced his masterpieces in the era of Romanticism. An interesting fact is the origin of the monument: after the war in 1956 it was moved to Wrocław from Lviv and placed where the pedestal commemorating the king of Prussia was. The poet knew the city very well, but the monument was intended, above all, to commemorate the fact that many repatriates from Lviv had settled in Wrocław.
The market square is also surrounded by beautiful and colorful tenement houses. The most characteristic of them are named sonorously: “Hansel and Gretel” (“Jaś I Małgosia”), "Under the Golden Dog" or "Under the Seven Electors".
In the tenement house called "Under the Golden Sun" there is another museum – the Pan Tadeusz Museum, which was established in 2016. Of course, you will find there all the information and curiosities about "Pan Tadeusz" and its author – Adam Mickiewicz, but also interesting things about another poet – Tadeusz Różewicz.
In front of the town hall (almost in the same place as before) a historic pillory’s replica from 1492 was erected. It is worth paying attention to, especially before entering the council building, because it used to be associated with punishing the guilty ones judged in the courthouse. Legends say that the famous German sculptor Wit Stwosz was lashed under it because he was proven to have forged a bill of exchange.
Going further, we will see the famous fountains – a motive often found on Wrocław's postcards. The "Zdrój" fountain is a favorite (because of its very distinctive shape) meeting point for the residents. It consists of 29 sheets of insulated glass, each of them weighs 450 kg! Another well-known fountain, dated back to 1904, is located in the square near the University of Wrocław and presents a naked swordsman. Legend says that the man depicted on the fountain is the sculptor himself, who after arriving in Wrocław to study, drunk by other students, pledged not only all his possessions, but also his clothes while playing cards. The loser was only left with a sword – a symbol of his noble status and honor.
The Wrocław market square borders with Plac Solny, which used to be a subsidiary market square and a marketplace. The name of this place – Plac Solny (Salt Square) - comes, as you can guess, from the goods sold here: mainly salt from Wieliczka, but also honey, wax and leather goods. In the Middle Ages, local gold prospectors met up at the square. Currently, flower stalls reign here, several of them are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Anyways – come and see it by yourself!
We invite you to the capital of Lower Silesia. See you soon in September.
Environmental Self-Care House – Respite Care Center
Institutional forms of help are significant in societies where more and more people need support. But what happens if there is a group of enthusiasts eager to cooperate? Perhaps a house with various forms of respite care might come into being. So what is the point of the campfire here?
It all started at the evening campfire during the children's camping trip, and - as it often is at the fire - conversations about life and plans, what to do next - what about the children when they finish school. As they are children with disabilities, after they finish school, it is difficult to find care for them. Indeed, there are some workshops and nursing homes, but not only do you have to wait a long time, but there is always something to be improved in the offer of existing facilities. Exactly... So instead of changing, why not build from scratch? These were the beginnings of the BONITUM - an association created by parents of children with disabilities and their friends. Thank's to its genesis story, the association can adapt to the needs of its charges - it was from these needs that the BONITUM – the Environmental Self-Care House (pol. Środowiskowy Dom Samopomocy - ŚDS) was born. It was 2018.
How to start?
The beginnings were not really optimistic. The building, which was rented from MOPS (Polish Social Welfare Centre), required a thorough renovation. Hard work, an endowment from the European Union and friends made it possible. And now you can see it. It is located in Wrocław on Komuny Paryskiej Street. You can drop by, for example, when you come to Wrocław for a conference. Yet the building is only the starting point. More important than that are people, relationships, and projects…. At the moment, it is a great team of therapists, staff, and volunteers, as well as 30 charges: adults with various, sometimes multiple, disabilities. And the projects? There are quite a few. Here are some of them:
This is the title of a film about tourism for people with disabilities and what it means to them. The film tells the story of the Pieniaki family and their joint expeditions. It is an interesting, moving, and uplifting story. Today, it has already won several awards at film festivals. For BONITUM, the film has also become an inspiration for regular trips to the mountains and being together in the bosom of nature. Easy routes, efficient organization, and a lot of optimism allowed participation also for people with physical disabilities. This movie is worth seeing. Here it is:
Tourism is not everything. There is also swimming, badminton, and athletics. Sport is great for achieving success, building plans and accomplishing them. It is a passion that can be also shared among people with disabilities. This is what happens in the Environmental Self-Care House. The charges regularly exercise in a specially equipped gym, participate in classes at the swimming pool, and take part in competitions. Sports activities improve physical functioning, condition and immunity. They also give a sense of agency - it is worth going out, training, and participating in competitions. Thanks to the Special Olympics Poland, international competition is also possible. Everything in the fight to improve well-being and respite from limitations is invaluable.
Assistant services are becoming more and more popular. People after appropriate training become assistants and, in fact, friends of families. The role of the Environmental Self-Care House is to coordinate projects, as well as to train and recruit participants and keep project documentation. Depending on the medical condition of the person with disabilities, the assistant supports everyday functioning or provides care. Going to the store together, riding public transport, or visiting libraries are also highly important. Thanks to this, social skills training is carried out.
Many people with disabilities can perform simple activities demanded in the job market. What's more, the current law rewards employers who hire people with disabilities. The challenge, however, is getting ready to start work, which comes with certain responsibilities. To enter this market efficiently, work coaches help people with disabilities. The Environmental Self-Care House is the coordinator of these types of projects and the place where related activities are carried out.
Every day is important - thanks to the described activities, a lot is happening in the Environmental Self-Care House. Nevertheless, we also remember about days important for those under our care. Birthdays and holidays are celebrated together. Being together on special days and joint activities make the idea of the Environmental Self-Care House, i.e. inspiring and creating mutual support in the environment in which we live, come true. For many people, it is a very important place that gives respite.
RESPITE IN NATURE
The Activity Center – BAZA*, run by Foundation Imago, is an institution that supports people with disabilities and their carers through contact with nature and outdoor activities. The center is located in Wrocław, yet it is often empty, as the people engaged in the institution spend more time outside the building.
BAZA is base-camp
The name of the center refers directly to the word “base camp” which means a safe camping place in the high mountains from which the climbers begin their journey to create succeeding – higher-based camps and to which they return to take a rest before another summit push.
From the outset, we try to make our institution a safe space for development for our participants. The place from which everyone could begin climbing on their own Everest, as is the case of mountain climbing, not alone but in a team, experiencing strength got from being in a group. That is why BAZA is also, or maybe primarily, a community. It is constituted of young people with disabilities, their parents and carers, and also assistants and volunteers. Currently, from the offer of BAZA Center benefit around 80 people with disabilities from the age of 15 to 40. They are people with physical disabilities, as well as sensory, intellectual, and youth with developmental disorders.
Nature that cures
Activities organized by BAZA Center are based on the methods derived from the current of therapy based on contact with nature, Adventure & Wilderness Therapy. Its essential assumption is that contact with nature strengthens healing processes and emotional development. What is important, these changes are made simultaneously on two levels: physical and emotional. Because of spending time in the wilderness (Wilderness Therapy) and undertaking viable challenges (Adventure Therapy), the participants learn more about themselves, gain new abilities, overcome their fears and practice their social competencies. They often are unaware that these activities are also a form of physical rehabilitation: they strengthen respective parts of muscles, stabilization of the whole body, or sense of equilibrium.
The mission that motivates the actions of BAZA Center is to gradually increase the availability of outdoor activities for people with disabilities. To make it happen, it is necessary to diagnose the psychophysical abilities of the participants, including their level of functioning, potential, difficulties experienced by them, and psycho-developmental needs. The more accurate the diagnosis is, of course, the easier it is to plan later activities in nature, which on the one hand, are ambitious - they are a real challenge for the participants, and on the other hand, through the adaptation of the necessary elements and the support of assistants, possible to do. Importantly, the activities to which we invite participants are always planned together with them, and the level of difficulty of the challenges they face increases only when they are ready for it.
And so, we started with several-hour trips to the nearby forest, located within the borders of Wrocław, field games and cooking on a fire, and one-day trips on kayaks and rafts. The next stage was summer expeditions to ever-higher mountain peaks. Finally, we moved on to winter expeditions to the mountains, learning how to survive in winter conditions, climbing rocks, and sleeping in tents.
The peak of the impossible...
Therapy through adventure is a process in which contact with nature and experiencing real challenges allow you to overcome your own limitations, gain new competencies and get to know yourself better in social situations.
It was like that in the case of Maja, whose participation in Adventure Therapy programs helped her regain faith in her abilities:
“Since I can remember, I often have been physically active - I swam, played table tennis, and competed in competitions. Unfortunately, when I left for college, it turned out that I suffered from systemic lupus erythematosus, which was slowly destroying my body. As time flew, I felt it more and more. First, epilepsy appeared, and in 2016 I sat in a wheelchair due to paresis of the lower limbs and left hand. All the time, I was training intensively at home, and a friend even persuaded me to go to the gym. Nevertheless, after another operation, the long-lasting healing time, the worsening of the disease, and the lockdown, I withdrew from activities outside the home. I could not find myself; I thought it was impossible.
Then I discovered the Adventure Therapy method and classes organized by the Foundation Imago. After discussing my difficulties, I was invited to participate in... kayaking! Suddenly, what might have seemed like a complete abstraction was at your fingertips. It worked, my love for water also returned, and kayaking became my new way to relax. When it seemed that the peak of the impossible had already been reached, there appeared an opportunity to participate in classes on the climbing wall. It is impossible, I thought. And yet! During the meetings, I not only met new fantastic people, gained self-confidence, but also significantly improved my functioning and acquired skills useful in everyday life - stabilization, body awareness, strength.”
…and even higher
In addition to trips to nature, Center BAZA also offers weekly therapeutic climbing classes. Even though the classes are mostly held on an artificial wall, the participants meet the conditions of Adventure Therapy. Climbing is a challenge and stimulates both at the physical, mental and emotional levels. It is a partnership activity; it requires building a relationship based on trust. It teaches perseverance in pursuing a goal, overcoming difficulties, and enjoying the success achieved. It allows you to train social skills in safe "laboratory" conditions. However, the greatest advantage of therapeutic climbing is that instead of the tedious repetition of exercises, the participant has a great time, not feeling that he is taking part in therapy.
It is what Szymon's mother, a 16-year-old participant, says about therapeutic climbing classes:
“We have been looking for a suitable sports activity for Szymon for a long time. There was a ball, running, kayaking, and swimming, but something still did not feel right; either it was too difficult, or health did not allow for the chosen activity. The climb turned out to be a stroke of genius. At first, a little timidly, but with small steps, Szymon began to reach the top. Great trust in the teachers led to the moment when the initial fun turned into a great sports activity. Besides, this is the best rehabilitation for Szymon. All muscles were involved in the work, and his motor coordination improved. Competition between friends is also important, which is why I believe that group classes are an additional mobilization. Moreover, new extracurricular acquaintances are also very valuable for people with disabilities, whose circle of friends is limited. Sports activity gives people with disabilities the feeling that they can do more than just sit at home, constantly absorbing their parents, who also play the role of their friends.”
Mikołaj's father also shares similar thoughts:
“Mikołaj and climbing? When I heard about this offer, I thought it was a waste of time. Even after the initial classes, I did not fully believe that Miki would ever climb even on the first level. Seeing what height Mikołaj climbed on during the last classes, I am glad I was so wrong. I saw Mikołaj's joy on Thursday evenings when we go to the climbing wall. I think that it (the wall) builds Mikołaj's self-confidence and allows him to integrate with friends who experience similar difficulties.”
Respite in nature
Although the activities of the BAZA Center are created for people with disabilities, they also have another goal, equally important - providing a respite break for their carers.
While their charges participate in the Adventure therapy program, parents of people with disabilities gain time that they miss on a daily basis. You can take care of postponed matters or just do something for yourself. The mother of autistic teenage Marcel, while her son was spending time in the mountains, had time to go to the theatre for the first time in a long time; Mikołaj's dad, when his son climbs the next meters of the wall, reads and relaxes after a whole day of work.
And although sometimes parents also take part in trips into nature, thanks to the support of committed assistants who take care of their children at that time, it is a time of respite for them.
This is what the mother of severely disabled Paweł says about it: “For me and my son, Adventure Therapy trips were a fantastic experience. Spending the whole day in the bosom of nature was a good time to break away from the hustle and bustle of the city and catch your breath.”
Adventure therapy, active recreation, and social tourism will be one of the topics of workshops and plenary sessions during the ISBA Conference 2023.
*The project "Adventure Base - Center for Activity and Integration" is financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway from the EEA Funds under the Active Citizens - Regional Fund Program
CHRISTMAS IN POLAND
In every country, Christmas is celebrated differently. Depending on the tradition or religion, time, place and customs are different. In this article, we will shortly tell you how we celebrate Christmas in Poland.
Poles are seen as a religious nation but the way we look at religion and religious customs these days has slightly changed. For some people Christmas and what precedes it – Advent and Christmas Eve – is the time of prayer, awaiting Christ, joy and cultivating the customs. For others it’s time for family meetings, long talks, giving gifts and wrapping up the year.
Before Christmas, we celebrate Advent which lasts four Sundays and ends on December 24. During all this time, in catholic and evangelical churches there’s plenty of joy and symbols that remind us that someone important is coming. Among children, Advent calendars are very popular, which are boxes filled with sweets and other small gifts hidden behind 24 doors, each for one day before Christmas.
Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas. According to tradition, the celebration should begin when the first star appears in the sky. This is why some people call Christmas "Gwiazdka," which means "little star." In some houses, depending on the tradition, people decorate the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, in others – it’s been there since the beginning of Advent. We’ve borrowed the custom from Germany. The Christmas tree is decorated with all types of colorful Christmas baubles, chains, lights and other homemade ornaments.
On the Christmas Eve table, we put a white tablecloth. Under the tablecloth, there’s a little bit of hay which is a symbol of the poverty in which Christ was born. For the host, the hay is supposed to bring happiness and wealth in the upcoming year. On the table, there are 12 dishes, each symbolizing one of the apostles. These dishes vary depending on the region of Poland but here are some examples: red borscht with dumplings, mushroom soup, pierogi with cabbage and mushrooms, kutia (wheatberries, poppy seeds, honey, nuts and raisins), dried fruit compote, Greek-style fish (fish in vegetable sauce) and carp which along borscht opens the feast. The supper begins with mutual wishes and sharing a special Christmas wafer, "opłatek", which symbolizes forgiveness. Additionally, Poles prepare an extra seat in case of a visit of an unexpected guest – a lost wanderer on a journey to welcome the newborn Jesus.
The supper is often accompanied by Christmas carols and songs, both Polish and of foreign origin. The tradition says that one has to taste all the dishes to be happy and successful in the upcoming year. After the supper, the time for unwrapping the gifts finally comes. In some houses, it begins with the oldest family member, and in others – with the youngest one. But who brings the gifts? It all depends on the region, culture and beliefs. Some people believe it’s the Santa Clause and others say that it’s the Baby Jesus, an Angel, or a Star-man. Some even think that it’s Grandfather Frost.
At midnight people go to the church for Pasterka, a special Christmas midnight mass in the name of the Christ being born, in a joyful atmosphere with singing Christmas carols.
On the 25th and 25th of December, the actual Christmas begins. People spend time together with their families, on winter walks or visiting the graves of their closest ones.
Years ago there were other traditions that were supposed to bring peace to the household, fertility in orchards and on fields, harmony within the family and to keep bad spirits and misfortune away. Some of them are still celebrated in some of our houses. For example, in the corner of a house people would keep decorated hay bales. Others would decorate the room with Christmas tree branches with ornaments, which was supposed to bring happiness and scare evil souls and demons off. People would shake fruit trees in orchards to foretell a good harvest and share a special pink wafer with animals which hid the souls of the dead ones that deserved respect. People also believe that at midnight animals talk with human voices and when two people meet under a mistletoe branch, they have to kiss.
CHRISTMAS MARKET IN WROCŁAW
In Wrocław, the capital of the Dolnośląskie Voivodeship, as in many other cities, the Christmas market is organized. The tradition began back in the 16th century and now for more than 10 years it’s annually celebrated again. The market is similar to the ones in Germany and this is where many of those wooden cabins come from. The wooden constructions which can be found both in the center of the market, as well as on Plac Solny, are modeled after traditional Bavarian houses.
Vendors offer here products from various regions of Poland and the world, such as food, alcohol, sweets, toys, clothes, leather and fur goods and Christmas ornaments. You can also stop for a warm dish and mulled wine, and if you are looking for adventures, you can’t miss the mini-amusement park and fairytale garden.
On the occasion of Christmas, the Organizers of the ISBA International Conference would like to wish you:
Peace of mind, rest from all responsibilities, a break from work and everyday struggles, a respite from worries and stress, family warmth and time spend with the closest ones.
We wish you many enjoyable meetings, good health and strength for your future actions, and after the rest – success and endurance in achieving your goals.
And for the New Year, we wish to meet at the conference in a wide circle so that we can create even better and even more universal respite services.
Fundacja Potrafię Pomóc
On the Trail through Wrocław’s Bridges
They connect two banks of the river, the islands with the land, but also – metaphorically – make a bond between people. Bridges, the main characters of this article, are the distinguishing marks of Wrocław, which, for this reason, is often called ‘Venice of the North.’
Wroclaw has more bridges than any other city in Poland – as many as 101! And above that, it has 33 little footbridges which connect banks of numerous canals. The walking trail through Wrocław’s bridges is a great pleasure for the guests of our ISBA Conference 2033 – it is one of many options for leisure time during the afternoon. Therefore, we would like to serve a few suggestions as to what places you should focus on during the stroll.
Wrocław is the city of bridges... because it started from the bridge! Ostrów Tumski - the oldest and one of the most beautiful parts of Wrocław – today is a complex of historic tenement houses, sacral buildings, gardens, and quaint cafes. Until the XIX century, Ostrów Tumski was an island. It is the place of the origins of Wrocław: people who wanted to get to the island or leave it had to cross the river by swimming or… building a bridge. That was ages ago… today Ostrów Tumski and the nearest islands are fringed by many colourful bridges.
The bridges connect not only places but also people…. For a long time, on the Tumski Bridge, the so-called love bridge, citizens of Wroclaw being in love have been hanging locks on the bridge as a symbol of their affection. Unfortunately, because of their weight during the renovation of the bridge, the locks were removed and hanging them again became forbidden. However, love is stronger than any prohibitions… The tradition of hanging locks has moved then to the railing of the nearest boulevard.
The oldest bridge in Wrocław is the historic Sand Bridge (Most Piaskowy), built in the XVI century. The title of the most beautiful, however, could be given either to Zwierzyniecki Bridge, located near the Zoo, or Grunwaldzki Bridge, located near Grunwaldzki Square.
Walking around Ostrów Tumski, especially crossing the Sand Bridge, you should strain your eyes looking for another symbol of Wrocław – the dwarf Oder Washer (Pracz Odrzański). Made of bronze, a little figure round about above the surface of water is “washing” its clothes. But we have already talked about dwarves, so let’s go back to the bridges.
Some bridges connect the banks of rivers, but in Wrocław, we also have a bridge in the air. The Penitent Bridge is a construction built 45 meters aboveground. The footbridge connects two towers of Mary Magdalene Cathedral, located near the market square. It is one of the most favoured viewpoints visited by tourists, from where they can admire the panorama of Wrocław. There is also a legend related to the footbridge.
It tells about a reckless young woman who rather than working and marriage, preferred games and plays. Because of that, her own father cast a curse upon her. As penance, the girl must sweep the floor on the top of the tower all days and nights for ages. The story goes that some people have heard her moaning and the sounds of sweeping…
But that is only the legend. What about bridges nowadays? Today Wrocław also has its reasons to be proud. In the capital of Lower Silesia is located the longest reinforced concrete underslung bridge in Poland. It is Rędziński Bridge, which is 612 meters long, and if we measure it with elevated highways, it reaches 1742 meters. It is the highest construction of that type in Poland, and - last but by no means least – the Rędziński Bridge is very photogenic…
Therefore nobody should have any doubts that Wrocław is the city of bridges… Nevertheless, as it was mentioned at the beginning, the bridge is not only physical construction. “Wrocław – the meeting place” is the official slogan of Lower Silesia; it tells how the city and its habitants are perceived in Poland and abroad. The citizens of Wroclaw are characterised by open-mindedness, leading up to the meeting and creating common ground – the metaphorical bridge. ISBA Conference 2023 perfectly fits in this context, connecting people open to cooperation and sharing their experiences – people worth meeting to create bridges connecting ideas from different countries and continents.