Continent Warsaw


A new portal has been launched to communicate the 'multicultural' nature of the capital.

Report by Danusia Szafraniec


Warsaw-based "The Other Space Foundation" has come up with an idea to launch a cultural portal called "Kontynent Warszawa" or "Continent Warsaw" with information about multicultural events in the city. Its creators say they want to go back to the pre-war times when Poland's capital was a vibrant multicultural and multinational center.

Although the sight of a foreigner doing the shopping in a local grocery store or asking for directions in English does not surprise Poles that much any more many Varsovians are still not aware of the fact that every 100th inhabitant of Poland's capital is Vietnamese; or that there is a Buddhist temple near the Warsaw stadium. Before the war Warsaw used to be the place where many cultures coexisted and now the creators of the new website called "Kontynent Warszawa" or "Continent Warsaw" want to refer to that richness. The website is directed to Warsaw citizens but it should also be useful to minorities living here as well as to tourists. Witek Hebanowski of the Other Space Foundation which is the driving force behind the website explains.

The idea of this website was to show Warsaw that is uknown. Not only to foreigners or tourists but also to Warsaw citizens. The main goal of this website is also to start thinking about Warsaw as it used to be before the WWII. Poland was never one nation country. Because of wars and communism we have a mono nation here but now we are starting again to be a multicultural country inhabited by people coming from different parts of the world. The most important is also to make some order in this. To show how the African Warsaw looks - where you can go to the gallery, club or African workshop. Or if you want to see the Jewish Warsaw you can also go to our website and check it. You can see all those colours of Warsaw that are sometimes more to discover than given at the beginning.
The website is put together by volunteers and in cooperation with "Panorama of Cultures - the Europe Less Known" - a web magazine about cultural and intellectual life and traditions in Central Eastern Europe. According to Hebanowski, such initiatives help change the perception of foreigners in this country.

We have two kinds of volutneers. Some of them are young people, esopecially students of ethnology who are mainly interetsed in this Warsaw that is not only Polish Warsaw. The other kind are people who are ambassadors of those cultures. In the early 90s we were scared of other nations, especially there was big antiSemitism. Now it is changing. There are still many people who do not trust that people of other nations can be like us. But more and more people see that foreigners who are here are the big chance for the development of Warsaw.
And so these are foreigners who have been living and working in Warsaw who are the "foundation" of the website. One of them is Ngo Van Tuong from Vietnam who has been residing here for the last 15 years. Like many of his fellow countrymen at the beginning he learnt Polish and was engaged in petty trade. Now he works as a journalist for ethnic magazine "Dan Chim Viet" published in Warsaw and cooperates with many NGOs including the "Other Space Foundation" and its project "Continent Warsaw".

Why did we launch "Continent Warsaw"? For one simple reason - because there are more and more nationalities visible here and so the city is changing its character. It is becoming multicultural. And so with friends from other countries we came up with the idea to start such a cultural website in order to inform Varsovians of not only our existence but also of the things that we do here including cultural events. In this way we can engage not only foreigners but also inhabitants of this city.

Apart from the website there will be a monthly publication whose aim will be to make the lives of foreigners livign here known to a broader audience. The inaugural issue has been already published with its copies to be found in Warsaw's clubs, restaurants and galleries. As for "Continent Warsaw" more info - so far only in Polish - can be found at.