Convincing the Germans that “Bella Bologna” begins across the Oder River – DW – November 28, 2023

– The goal is for more Polish children in Germany to learn the Polish language – says Dr. Kamila Scholl-Mazurek from European University Viadrina About the conference on the image of Poland and the Polish language in Germany, which she attended in St. Peter’s Monastery. Marienthal in Lusatian Upper Osterwijk (Ostritz). – And they will learn it when this picture is attractive. “Beautifully drawn, in beautiful colours,” he adds with a smile.


The conference was organized by the KoKoPol Center for Polish Language Proficiency and Coordination based at the monastery. This institution has been operating for only three years, but is rapidly gaining importance in the field of teaching the Polish language in Germany. It began by sending diplomats on missions to Poland, but soon also included children from nearby kindergartens and more.

Both the “inherited” language, i.e. the language spoken by children from families where one parent comes from Poland, and the foreign language that Germans wish to master without any familial connotations with Poland are discussed.

Recently, at the beginning of the year, KoKoPol was entrusted with the task of dividing the first part of the five million euros allocated By the Bundestag to learn Polish in Germany.

“Beautiful Poland”

But the head of KoKoPol, Gunnar Hill, sees further and wants to work not only in the field of language, but also to advertise Poland. Or rather, to persuade as many of his countrymen as possible to do so, even though, as he himself asserts, there is no one from Poland in his family.

– This idea did not come from me, but from Alfred Theissen of the Snuffkorn publishing house in Görlitz, who published an 80-page booklet with beautiful photographs showing Polish hotels, often located in palaces or castles, of which there is no shortage, for example, in Nearby Jelenia Gora valley – he says. – There is no need to go to Italy, as “Bella Bologna” is right next door, as Thyssen called it, and added in the subtitle: “Auf dem Weg zum neuen Italien” (which can be translated as “Journey to the New Italy” – (ed. ed.) – This was emphasized by Gunnar Healy in an interview with DW.

Gunnar HillPhotography: Aurelius Marek Bedziol/DW

You don’t have to look for this beautiful brochure, just visit There you can see castles and palaces in Karpniki, Kliczków, Łomnica, Wojanów, Łagów and Kamieniec, to name a few. – I personally support this clear and friendly image of Poland – adds the President of KoKoPol.

Of course, Poland is not only four and five-star hotels with beautiful historical interiors surrounded by parks and gardens dating back centuries. But anyone who remembers what these places looked like 30 years ago is in no doubt how much has happened for Germans today to be able to promote the country across the river with those clearly evocative words “Bella Bologna.”

It was different in the past

Although it may not be very noticeable, or if so, rather noticeable, something similar is also starting to happen with the Polish language. – This picture has many layers and you must penetrate them – says Dr. Scholl Mazurek. – The position of the Polish language is weak. But this is starting to change. He confirms that Poles now speak Polish freely in the city, just as in London. Today they are neither afraid of it nor ashamed of it.

Saint Marienthal MonasteryPhoto: DW/AM Pedziwol

A political scientist from the Polish-German University in Frankfurt (Oder and Sobiece) points out in an interview with DW that in the past, when Polish children spoke Polish to each other in German schools, they were often discriminated against or ridiculed. – Through peers. But the research also revealed examples when the teacher clearly forbade speaking Polish. There were also examples when children were accused of stealing only because the teacher knew they were from Poland.

Polish as a tool

Today, in her opinion, things are different. Polish children were no longer punished for their Polish language, and even for them its attractiveness increased. – But not because they are of Polish nationality and Mickiewicz was Polish, but because they treat this language as it is An additional tool in your skills basket And competencies. Dr. Scholl Mazurek says they use Polish as a secret language when they want to talk to their mother about something important. Because, he claims, in mixed families in Germany, the mother is from Poland. The Polish father is an exception.

– Boys learn Polish when they go to discos where there are Polish girls – he laughs.

Beautiful, fashionable and interesting

This change in treatment of the Polish language was already evident in the results of the research conducted by the professor in Regensburg. Hannah Pułaczewska from the local university about ten years ago. In all, she interviewed 598 students from three middle schools and four lower-level schools. In their assessments, the Poles did not perform particularly well. Conversely, all scores were worse than the neutral “three.” Not beautiful, not fashionable, not interesting, not important in Germany, Europe, and even less in the world. The idea of ​​meeting him didn’t arouse any enthusiasm either.

But in the group studied, there were 44 students of Polish origins. They rated the Polish language much better than all participants, especially in the first three categories: beautiful, modern, interesting. Especially those who grew up with Polish.

Research needs

We don’t know yet what it looks like today. We should find out soon what his needs are regarding learning the Polish language Brandenburgia, for which the Landtag (Land Parliament) decided to be strongly involved in promoting the language of its neighbours, which was expressed in a special resolution of 2021. Relevant research, socio-demographic analysis and mapping of needs related to the teaching of Polish as an indigenous language, a heritage language and a foreign language were carried out, By Dr. Dorothea Orson from the University of Greifswald. But at the moment, the results cannot be revealed yet. However, he hopes that other countries will follow Brandenburg’s example and also conduct such needs analyses.

KoKoPol conference participantsPhotography: Aurelius Marek Bedziol/DW

In a conference at the Monastery of St. Dr. Marienthal Orson said something surprising. Well, in German, “mother tongue” is “Muttersprache”, which when literally translated into Polish, means “mother tongue” or “mother tongue”. As we already know, in Polish-German families in Germany, the mothers are from Poland. However, as Dr. Orson claims, the “native” language of the children of these mothers is German more often than Polish. For them, Polish is a “inherited language”, a “language of origin”. In German “Herkunftssprache”, in English “Heritage Language”.

Another proof that there is no logical language.

“In Poland it tastes like grandma.”

One special aspect of teaching a language is giving students your own point of view, your own stereotypes. Judith Maria Roche d German Institute for Polish Affairs in Darmstadt I have just started a project to look for stereotypes in Polish language textbooks. In one of them, I came across the sentence: “In Polen schmeckt es wie bei Großmuttern,” or “In Poland it tastes like grandma.”

-I see something problematic about this. There is some warmth in this sentence, which is generally not a bad thing. But because of this combination, when talking about grandmothers, this saying seems to be directed towards the past. People are now cooking vegetarian food in Poland, Roche says. He acknowledges that stereotypes help us understand the world, but it is important to place such statements correctly in context. -Why does a person learn a language? Because he wants to use it? Because he wants to read books in the first place? – He asks and explains that this should determine how the textbook is written.

The beginning of the journey

The KoKoPolu Conference on the Image of Poland and the Polish Language is actually the beginning of the path leading to understanding many difficult issues. For example, who are the people with a Polish immigrant background living in Germany (of which there are about two million) and what are their needs related to the language and culture of the country to which they belong.

On the other hand, it is also about being able to show the German majority what the country they belong to stands for. German belief that “Bella Bologna” actually begins across the Oder River. It’s not a bad joke at all. Poland may appear to them as one of Germany’s most important economic partners, and ranked fifth among all countries in the world. Although “Polish economy” is no longer an adjective used in Germany, awareness of the importance of mutual relations remains elusive.

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