Dan Gebski Interviews Joanna Olszowy for his "From Zero to Hero" Project

I would like to present today a person called Joanna Olszowy. She is one of the strongest Polish females I know. I don’t mean it only in a physical way, she is also a mother and wife who is living in Newry and positively contributing to our community. Let us find out more about Joanna?

DG: Joanna could you tell me about yourself? Where are you coming from? What were you doing in Poland before? Have you got any family?

JO: I do come from Poland from city Stalowa Wola. I was a voluntary worker in a primary school for disabled children and I was working as a cashier in a grocery shop. I have a husband Jozef and two lovely children.

Joanna Olszowy with Dan Gebski
Joanna Olszowy with Dan Gebski

DG: How long have you been in Newry? Do you like living in Newry? Why?

JO: I'm here over 13 years. Yes, I think this city is lovely but mostly the people are really amazing. You can meet so many different people and make new friends, for an example my special thanks goes to SRG and organizations like CRJ Newry - you can make really good changes in life.

DG: I know you are involved in community work a lot? Also I am aware you are one of the committee members of Polish Families Community Association? Could you explain what exactly the group does? And what is your role in the group?

JO: Yes with my friend Malgorzata  and many other people from CRJ we took part in a "digging deeper" project.

I have found people who would like to take part in this project and we created Polish Families Community Association in Newry. Then we got a big help from development manager from Ballybot House. I was the chairperson for 2 years and right now I’m vice chair. Our group was created to connect people, to get them together and do something together, for example, to show our children our Polish traditions and Irish traditions as well. But the main reason was to help people in difficult situations.

I was helping with applications, to find a job, helping homeless and single mothers and many others; just like the rest of the girls and boys from PFC. One time I delivered a baby with a person I barely knew. It was amazing. We are still in contact. I cooked diners for homeless in Newry, thanks to my friend Larry who delivers huge amounts of food to homeless in Newry. We organize different activities for children and adults. From swimming pools, dancing, to first aid course, and Polish traditional nights. My aim while I was the chair person of Polish families association was to improve  the skills of every person I knew.The most successful event we have ever done and we are very proud of until this day was the charity picnic in Kilbroney Park for a Polish boy with a brain tumour.We fundraised on that day approximately £1500 for treatment to help him.

DG: Do you think Polish people are working more collectively together in Newry? Do polish people engaging with local community groups?

JO: Definitely yes. People in Newry are amazing, they can stand up together to help others.Since we established our group I can see people engaging more in community work and helping others.

DG: What do you think about my project “From zero to Hero”? Do you think it’s good to show the public more about people who do something good for their environment or others around us?

JO: I think is absolutely brilliant. This makes people see that we are not that different. And we have so many good people in Newry and a lot in common. The city we living in and better future for our children.

DG: What are your plans for the future? Are you and your family thinking to stay in Newry or considering moving back to Poland?

JO: I would like to go to University it is my big dream. I will definitely stay in Newry. For my children it is their home. For me as well but my heart stay always in Poland.

DG: How can you encourage Polish people to work together with the local people? Do you think is this possible?

JO: Well we have different cultures. As far I'm aware some of my Irish friends keep saying at the start when we arrived to Newry, that We Polish are loud while talking and we don’t seems to be strong assimilators  by nature. I was once with a couple of people on an integrational workshop and the meeting went very well. It was for children and adults and the event showed them there is no big differences between them. We need to organize these kind of events more often. It is important to participate and connecting  with the local people and vice versa.

DG: Thank you so much for the interview Joanna and wish you good health.

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