• Germany's news in English
 
Poles no longer the losers in Berlin
Photo: Darek Gontarski

Poles no longer the losers in Berlin

Published: 19 Apr 2013 07:24 GMT+02:00

Offering a tray of salmon and onion sandwiches and bottles of Żywiec beer, the bar could have been in any big city in Poland – but revellers were actually crammed onto a tiny dance floor in the capital of Germany.

"I come to Cafe Warschau because I love Warsaw. It may be better than Berlin but money's not going to make itself, especially not in Poland," said Magda Podkowinska, who came a bit of home on a Polish-Russian night at the venue.

But the Friday-night scene near Berlin’s scruffy Hermannplatz square is not unusual for the city's many Polish establishments. They are becoming increasingly popular with Germans, as interest towards their large eastern neighbour continues to grow.

Today the 44,000-strong Polish community in Berlin is second only to the city's Turkish population. Yet the city's Poles have largely shed themselves of the negative cheap-labour stereotype, with which some of their compatriots abroad are still sometimes branded.

"The Pole in Berlin is no longer the brick-layer toiling for minimum wage. Now he represents the Polish company which replaces your windows or the Polish doctor who takes the place of the retired German. Poles are now part of the city's professional community," said Adam Gusowski, co-founder of the Club of Polish Losers, which has been hosting cultural events in the capital since 2001.

Gusowski, who emigrated to West Berlin with his parents as a fifteen-year-old, said this successful integration into German society means it can be difficult to find places in the capital where Poles congregate. The venue he runs, despite its provocative name, is far from exclusive in its appeal.

“We host a wide range of events and rarely have the same crowd as the night before. We serve as a venue for all kinds of minorities,” Gusowski said.

The opening of the club was the culmination of a series of developments which saw Gusowski and his friends establish a presence in the capital’s underground scene. After a number of oddball schemes, they realised that nothing they tried was working out.

"We organised a concert for dogs for example. Everyone likes concerts, but no one thought of dogs. So we had a great marketing campaign, spread the word but in the end only two dogs came to the concert, of which one fell asleep and the other started barking and had to be taken out. After all, you've got to behave at a concert," he said with a detectable hint of sarcasm.

The club’s philosophy, Gusowski explained, is that everyone has the right to create art, regardless of their natural talent or ability. The inspiration came from a manifesto published in the 1990s in Kolano, a Polish-language newspaper issued by the self-named Organisation of Polish Losers.

Although the club's name is evocative of the kind of comic self-mockery more commonly associated with British than Polish humour, the message Gusowski and his friends sent out may have encouraged new arrivals from Poland to adapt to their surroundings with a pinch of salt.

While not taking yourself too seriously can be a useful method to cope outside your comfort zone, it is often not enough to integrate into a new culture. Much depends on the reception you are given.

Gusowski believes the change in Germans’ attitude towards Poles in recent years has played a great part in their fitting in.

“Germans have a pragmatic and practical approach to immigrants. Here they’re viewed on the basis of their contribution. If a nationality is presenting itself well and bringing something to German society, it is received well. This is what's happening with the Polish community,” he said.

And some have wasted no time in facilitating this cultural interaction.

Husband and wife Marcin Piekoszewski and Nina Müller, who run Polish-German bookshop Buchbund in the multicultural Neukölln district, said that the weekly Polish language classes held there are attended by 20 to 30 Germans, with diverse motivation.

“Professional, academic, romantic…various reasons. The same reason you might decide to learn French, for instance,” Marcin, a translator by profession, said.

He put increased interest in Polish language and culture down to a recent “healthy normalization of relations” between the Germany and Poland.

“Poland today is not seen as any different, and why should it be?” he said.

But Nina, a German who first came to Poland for a student exchange year in Kraków ten years ago and speaks fluent Polish, urged caution.

“We can live in a bit of a bubble in Berlin. We can forget that the city is not representative of Germany as a whole,” she said.

Nina’s parents in her native Franconia remain sceptical about her interest in Poland.

“They’re quite simply part of a different generation. Certain stereotypes are unfortunately still there, beneath the surface,” she said.

Matthew Luxmoore

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Networks scramble to patch mobile security
Chancellor Angela Merkel has herself been the victim of phone hacking. Photo: DPA

Networks scramble to patch mobile security

IT experts led by Berlin-based Karsten Nohl said on Thursday they had discovered security flaws in the mobile phone networks that would allow attackers to read users' messages. READ  

Turkish 'spies' arrested at Frankfurt airport
Photo: DPA

Turkish 'spies' arrested at Frankfurt airport

Three men suspected of being Turkish agents have been arrested by police, federal prosecutors said on Thursday. READ  

Tax take jumps 7.3 percent in November
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is having an excellent month. Photo: DPA

Tax take jumps 7.3 percent in November

Germany collected 7.3 percent more in tax in November 2014 than the same month last year thanks to the strengthening economy, the Finance Ministry said in its monthly report on Thursday, while pollsters found rising consumer confidence. READ  

Ramelow bunks off his first Bundesrat sitting
Bodo Ramelow looking low on energy at a sitting of the Thuringia state parliament. Photo: DPA

Ramelow bunks off his first Bundesrat sitting

Controversial new Thuringia minister-president Bodo Ramelow of the Left (Linke) party missed his first session of Germany's second house of parliament, the Bundesrat, to go on holiday with his family. READ  

'Wrong but legal' claims child porn case ex-MP
Edathy preparing to face questions in Berlin Photo: DPA

'Wrong but legal' claims child porn case ex-MP

A former rising star of German politics who resigned after pictures of naked children were allegedly found on his official laptop said Thursday what he did was "wrong, but legal." READ  

This week in history
A Brandt name to relaunch a country
Willy Brandt being sworn into office in 1972 Photo: DPA

A Brandt name to relaunch a country

We know him as Willy Brandt - but that was just a pseudonym the former chancellor took to avoid the Nazis. READ  

10,000 evacuated after WWII bomb find
A similar bomb defused in Potsdam in September 2013. Photo: DPA

10,000 evacuated after WWII bomb find

Local authorities evacuated some 10,000 people from central Potsdam after an unexploded Second World War bomb was found on a building site. READ  

Sunny outlook for business this winter
Photo: DPA

Sunny outlook for business this winter

German business confidence rose in December on the back of falling oil prices and a weak euro, the Ifo economic institute said Thursday, as the prospects for Europe's biggest economy grew sunnier. READ  

Merkel says Russia sanctions 'unavoidable'
Photo: DPA

Merkel says Russia sanctions 'unavoidable'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Thursday that sanctions against Russia remain "unavoidable" until Ukraine regains its sovereignty and independence. READ  

Reus fined €540k for no driving licence
Photo: DPA

Reus fined €540k for no driving licence

Germany and Dortmund football star Marco Reus was hit by a €540,000 fine Thursday, after state prosecutors in Dortmund confirmed he has been driving for years without a licence. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Willy Brandt at his inauguration in 1972. Photo: DPA
National
Willy Brandt: the man, the chancellor... the airport?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Sponsored Article
Why are these International Baccalaureate students cheering?
Germany's national football team lifts the World Cup trophy
Gallery
Germany's most-Googled words of 2014
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Stuff your face with these festive German cookies
Photo: DPA
Culture
What do beer, breakfast cereal and dildos have in common?
Culture
The Local's guide to German Christmas markets
Sponsored Article
Top five quirky Christmas jumpers
Photo: DPA
Culture
Get ready for Christmas like a German. We tell you how.
Photo: DPA
Munich
She did what with her dead mother?
Photo: DPA
National
Germany still paying for crisis fall out
Photo: DPA
Culture
Saxon wurst is the worst, Christmas market declares.
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,194
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd