Moreover, most Palestinians are well educated and enterprising people, often holding key positions in the countries they live. We are proud of having the highest percentage of people with university education among the Arabs and we are among the world leaders when it comes to the number of doctors and engineers. In addition, many Palestinians hold high stands in their present countries of residence, especially in South America (e.g. Carlos Fakos, former president of Honduras; Antonio Sacca, former president of Salvador; Sergio Bitar, former vice-president of Chile).
There are about 800 people of Palestinian origin in Poland. They are mainly doctors (about 250), entrepreneurs, engineers and technicians, most often living in big cities, but also small company owners, bar and restaurant owners as well as office workers.
The Palestinians’ first encounters with Poland started in the 1950s. The delegation of the Palestinian students led by Yasser Arafat, later Palestinian president, arrived then to take part in the International Youth Congress in Warsaw.
Two Palestinians studied in Poland at that time. One of them was “our patriarch of a family,” now 82, who got married and lives in Poland until today with his children and grandchildren.
However, the greatest number of the Palestinians have stayed in Poland after finishing higher education in the 1980s. There are 200 of them in Warsaw and its neighbourhood itself. Most of them have started up mixed families there and now bring up the second generation of the Polish-Palestinian children.
There is the Socio-Cultural Association of the Polish Palestinians in Poland, established in 2009. Although it is registered in the Cracow court, most of its members of the board are from Warsaw, where the meetings and main cultural events take place.
Each year, members of the Palestinian community in Warsaw organize a number of events and meetings with the participation of the Poles and solely for the Palestinians. Two Muslim and two Christian holidays are celebrated. For some people it may seem strange, but our community in Poland consists of the followers of both religions, and just like in our homeland, we all observe „Id Al- Fiter,” determining the end of the Ramadan; „Id Al-Adha,” (offering or pilgrimage), commemorating Abraham’s offering of his son Ismael to God and, of course, Easter and Christmas.
The main item of the celebrations are meetings organized by the Socio-Cultural Association of the Polish Palestinians, during which we give one another our best wishes and, according to our tradition, gorge on holiday sweets, sipping the legendary sour Bedouins’ coffee. We also often visit our close friends and eat a common meal at home or at the restaurant.
What is of equal importance in the Palestinian community’s life in Warsaw is the Polish-Palestinian Friendship Society. Thanks to this institution, public meetings with the Poles are often organized to propagate the knowledge of Palestine, especially during such national events as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, established by the UN, or “Al-Nakba” Day (the day of the catastrophe, commemorating the loss of the Palestine in 1948). We present at those meetings part of our cultural heritage and folklore.
Palestinians, like most southern nations, are outgoing, like music and dance, singing about love and have the ability to make the most out of life. One of our colleagues in Warsaw is a professional dance instructor and teaches the oriental dance. Thanks to his effort, the Palestinian folklore dance group is being formed in Warsaw. The group, consisting of young Poles and Palestinians presented their dancing abilities on 17th December 2009, during the Polish celebration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
A few times a year other cultural events connected with Palestine take place. Some of them are organized by the Palestinians, the other by our friends. One of the most important events is the Palestinian Film Day, until recently accompanying the KOLNOA Israeli Film Festival at the Warsaw Kinoteka cinema. It is organized by the Foundation for the Development of Jewish Culture in Poland with the cooperation of the Palestinian Embassy in Warsaw. Usually, this day the best Palestinian documentary and feature films are showed. They are often Palestine’s Oscar candidates („Paradise Now”, „Salt of this See”, etc.). The event is a good opportunity to meet film directors and participate in the Palestinian-Israeli discussions.
In 2008-2009 in Warsaw itself, there were a few prestigious concerts (e.g. at the National Philharmonic), dance and music evenings, exhibitions of paintings and craftwork, etc.
We present part of the real Palestine through our activity in Warsaw. We show a special cultural aspect, as our music and dance feature the history of our nation and its dreams of freedom and independence.
Text by Maged Sahly
Translated by Anna Piątek