Newry.ie

"Adults can learn a lot from children about integration," says Ewa Gorzelak-Deska.

"Children have a skill that many adults don't have; we see how they integrate and connect with each other and I think we can learn a lot from children."
A journalist by trade, Ewa works at the weekly Polish Supplementary School in Newry each Saturday.

She said it's important children to Polish parents learn the language and culture of their parents and grandparents.

It's also very important, she adds, that children integrate and form strong and lasting friendships with children from different cultures and backgrounds.
She sees that happening amongst young people in her new home of Newry.

Ewa Gorzelak-Deska at the Polish Language School held at St Joseph's High School in Newry. Photograph: NewRayPics.com
Ewa Gorzelak-Deska at the Polish Language School held at St Joseph's High School in Newry. Photograph: NewRayPics.com

But she believes more can and should be done to encourage and promote greater friendships amongst the city's adult population.

"I think adults should learn from the children because if you look at the children from different backgrounds, they are together and they connect very well," says Ewa. "That's what we should learn.

For us, Newry is our home, so we should work towards integration with the local people and with everybody in the neighbourhood.

"We should actually meet each other as a community and discover each other's culture, talk about our culture more and show our culture more because some local people don't know our culture.

"The way we should do this is through education, arts and language. Have more meetings and display our culture more. This is about assimilating more with the neighbourhood and the local people."

Ewa arrived in Newry in 2016. Along with her cats, she  followed husband Grzegorz and son Igor to Newry from her home in the southern Polish city of Zawiercie.

The 46-year-old said she immediately felt welcome when she arrived.

"My first impression of here was very, very good and I was very happy to be here, but on the other hand, I was sad because I had left my home country of Poland," said Ewa.

"I find the people very nice. They have a good manner, they have smiles on their faces and the welcome was very good.

"Because of the people of Newry, I like it here. I was very surprised in a nice way, I had heard about Irish people before. I heard a lot of good things about them, but I discovered for myself that that they are very, very good people.and was surprised in such a nice way."

Ewa, however, has struggled with one aspect of life here. While she is slowly picking up English, she believes the language barrier remains a problem for many older people in the Polish community. "I like languages and I love speaking my Polish language and I would love to speak to people in English the way I speak to people in Polish," she said.

Ewa Gorzelak-Deska  at home with her son Igor Photograph: NewrRayPics.com
Ewa Gorzelak-Deska at home with her son Igor Photograph: NewrRayPics.com

"The problem is I have a language barrier and I would like to speak English more than I do at the moment. I think because I am an older person, the younger people are learning languages quicker than I am.

"I think the problem is I don't have enough Irish friends; if I had more Irish friends, I could speak English to them and learn the language quicker and faster and the barrier would be gone forever.

  Ella Pawlowska  and Ewa Gorzelak-Deska at the Polish Language School. Photograph:Newraypics.com
Ella Pawlowska and Ewa Gorzelak-Deska at the Polish Language School. Photograph:Newraypics.com

"I think I need to spend more time with my neighbourhood and with Irish people and then practice and practice makes the language perfect. School wouldn't be as good as practice because school is school, but if you speak the language with Irish friends, then you practice and learn quicker."

Ewa still has family in Poland and is in regular contact with them. In recent months, much of those conversations have been about Brexit and the possible implications it may bring. 

"I speak to my family on a daily basis about what is happening here and how I am going here," she said.
"I am very happy to speak to them about that. I am still missing my country and still 50 per cent of myself is in Poland, but I love here also. I speak a lot to my family about Newry and the adventures where we go and how I spend my free time. When I speak to them on the phone I tell them when they come over here they will see for themselves.

"We talk a lot about Brexit which is the main subject at the moment, but we are a little bit tired of the subject because nobody knows what is coming. We don't know what the future is yet. We are worried, but I don't think it's going to be as bad as people make out it's going to be. We have to wait and see what happens and I don't think we, as a minority, will be affected by it very badly."

Ewa's not too concerned about what may unfold over the coming weeks as the March 29 deadline draws closer.

Instead, she remains focused on her work with the growing number of children at the Polish school close to her Armagh Road home.

"I'm very happy to do this job," she adds.

"What makes me happy about working at the school is seeing children coming and learning the Polish language, learning the Polish culture. They are very happy and are good listeners. That makes me happy about my job. That makes me happy here."

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