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Eye on Poland

Your opinions on Poland

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  • CNN turns spotlight on Poland during week of special coverage starting Oct. 6
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(CNN) -- As part of its Eye on Poland coverage, CNN is asking its viewers -- including Poles living in Poland and abroad -- about what defines the nation today.

Your opinions on Poland

We are asking:

1. As the country pushes towards the future, what from Poland's past must not be forgotten?

2. What do you think most defines Poland's reputation around the world?

3. Since Poland joined the European Union in 2004, what "new" cultures is the country embracing?

4. Who are Poland's most influential people?

5. What do you think is unique or distinctive about the Poles?

E-mail your answers to poland@cnn.com, send photos and video to iReport.com and we will include the best responses in our coverage.

Here is a selection of your responses:

As a Colombian who's been living in Poland for 3 years I would like to share with you what I think about Poland:

1. In my opinion, Poles should not forget about the toughness that they showed over the years fighting against their invaders and maintaining the concept of the polish nation. This will help them now to develop the country towards the future. On the other hand, I think that poles have a "very good memory" and sometimes this fact doesn't let them keep going to find their future living still in a past that is gone.

2. I would say that Poland's reputation is defined mainly by personalities and stereotypes like John Paul II, Lech Walesa or vodka. That is why I find the "eye on Poland" initiative so great: People around the world will get to see a little bit of a wonderful country.

3. Mostly Europeans, but slowly we are getting to meet other groups here.

4. Politics are very important here (as everywhere), that is why I have to mention some of the politicians on duty like Donald Tusk or Lech Kaczynski. The catholic church and the clergy are also very influential and I am talking about the Father Director and radio Maryja phenomenon. And last but not least I would have to mention moral authorities and intellectuals who have been struggling for Poland's future for decades like Lech Walesa, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, Bronis?aw Geremek and Jan Nowak Jezioranski (unfortunately the last 2 passed away recently).

5. Positive: The way they proudly preserve their roots and traditions. During 150 years of occupation by Germans, Austrians and Russians the polish nation existed in their souls and hearts and after that they were able to reconstruct the country successfully. I think that is remarkably unique. Negative: I have the impression that they tend to see a glass of water half empty and I have not seen this kind of generalized behavior in any other country. But as I said before, that is just an impression. Maria Claudia Vasquez-Wychowaniec, Warsaw, Poland

What is most fascinating about Poles? In spite of all the obstacles on the way, we never gave up our sruggle for independence. It has always been of key importance for us because independence means freedom. And freedom means everything. What is most fascinating about Poles? In spite of all the obstacles on the way, we never gave up our sruggle for independence. It has always been of key importance for us because independence means freedom. And freedom means everything. Marta Dzido

I think that more and more people in Poland are becoming proud of being a Pole. For instance, in my hometown Krakow, the majority of inhabitants are local patriots -- we are aware of the fact that the city is precieved as a one of the most interresting, not to mention beautiful, in european continent. After joining the EU Poles understood that now we can also shape Europe. Low costs airlines made that almost every Pole travels a lot. We, Poles, love travelling. We' re keen on making new foreign friends, including peoploe from ''the West" and Eastern Europe, North Africa, arabic countries, as well. Poles are open to different cultures. That's why foreigners always want to come back to Krakow or to other places in Poland. Pawel du Vall

When visiting today's Poland, one is struck by the evidence of so many epic historical events. Unfortunately, there is such a dearth of knowledge about Poland's contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. By passing on two replicas of the Wehrmacht's Enigma Coding Machine to British and French intelligence in 1939, the Poles who had cracked the German code, planted the seed for Nazi Germany's eventual downfall. Poland also had the fourth largest allied armed force and the largest underground army in occupied Europe. The Polish squadrons fighting in the Battle of Britain had the highest percentage of downed Luftwaffe aircraft to their credit. We would ask CNN to help us spread the news of these and other accomplishments. Robert J. Dabrowski, New York

My families emigrated from Poland in 1896, but both have kept contact via mail since then...even through Nazis and Aparaczeks. In order to understand Poland and its history, you MUST interview a wide selection of the eldest (who remember Nazi occupation; the 80 year olds), middle generation (50ish), 30-somethings and youngest. There is an enormous chasm of differing experiences between even the early 30 year olds and the 20s. The young ones know only the prosperity, not the suffering and sacrifice that caused it, and are NOT being taught any truth of their history in their schools. Many of the Polish teachers served under the Communists and swore allegiance to them and even though the country is free, they refuse to teach the reality of Russian tanks rolling down the streets either from the historically precedented fear Russia will reassert itself or the new desire to put aside all unpleasantness of the past and focus on the future. As is the case everywhere else history has been whitewashed (China, for example) the young generation are taught to respect their elders but not to believe their "stories." Without an accurate history, the future Polish leaders will repeat the cycle that has always defeated Polands autonomy, from the "Golden Freedom" years to the forseeable future. It's a lesson and a warning...particularly in an election year...about the dangers of centralized government and the importance of UNBIASED education. Catherine Tomlinson, St Helens, Oregon, USA

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I am really happy to see such well-prepared and deeply engaged videos about Poland on CNN. Great job! Till this moment, many people in western Europe and US might think that Poland is only history, catholicism and long period behind iron courtin. I admire Your articles about new, modern Poland, fulfilled with well educated, optimistic young poles making their carriers, loving each other and having babys. Keep an eye on us in the next years. We will show You more! Arkadiusz Szwabowski, Warsaw, Poland

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I am very glad to hear that a program like the one mentioned above is part of the CNN lineup. I think Poland has been a very misundertood country that has been shallowly portrayed for a very long time by many different media. It is difficult to speak on behalf of all Poles since we are quite a diverse bunch, however, as a Pole I can speak about my take on my culture and country. As a Pole, I often feel compelled to correct misconceptions prevalent in the US i.e. "the Polak jokes", allegedly ubiquitous Polish convervatism, alleged anti-semitism, and alleged homofobia to name just a few. Of course, some Poles are antisemitic, homofobic, conservative (in a negative sense) and acting stupidly just like in any other ethnic group one could find examples of almost anything. However, majority of Poles are quite open minded, highly literate and cultured, appreciative of Jewish heritage that has been linked to Polsih culture for several hundred years (ever since Poland was one of a very few sancturaies for the European Jews), and many Poles excell in many fields of higher education worldwide ( I am aware of several Poles holding professorship possitions at USC, UCLA, UC Berkeley and others). I am proud to be Polish and am very grateful to CNN for providing this venue for correcting some misconceptions and forming new perceptions of Poland that correspond to its reality both historical and contemporary. Damian

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Eye on Poland
Fionnuala Sweeney reports from Warsaw Oct. 6-10: 0700, 0800, 0900, 1100, 1400 ALL TIMES GMT
Poland: Country at the Crossroads
Saturday Oct. 11: 1330, 1730; Sunday Oct. 12: 0130, 0630, 2330 ALL TIMES GMT

As a Polish person currently residing in the country's capital I felt a compelling need of sharing some of my thoughts with the CNN team in relation to the "Eye on Poland" series. As my country pushes forward towards the future I feel that what must not be forgotten are the laudable traditions of the opposition movement from the communist era, the eagerness of ordinary people to engage in political issues, a willingness to fight for their own rights and a steadfast belief in one's views. Nowadays, I fear that this trend may be in a decline and that high-profile media is further aggravating the situation by concentrating on issues of relatively little importance, worthy of a mention in tabloids at best. Although the turnout in the last parliamentary election, especially among young voters, was something to be extremely satisfied with, especially when compared with previous ballots, I do feel that both the media and ordinary citizens could benefit from reviving the tradition of political disputes and involvement.

As for Poland's reputation, I think that what might be considered a good determinant of the country's reputation outside its borders is Poland's unwillingness to compromise all to easily in matters regarding its relations with both the EU and the US. The seemingly ceaseless negotiations to broker a deal that would make Poland a EU member state ended with Poland eventually gaining the upper hand and joining the organization largely on its own favorable terms. Another example to illustrate this thesis, is the recent obstinate, and quite incomprehensible, stance of the Polish government in negotiating the missile shield agreement with their US counterparts, long after their Czech counterparts settled the issue despite the majority of citizens being against the deployment of the elements of the missile shield on the territory of the Czech Republic. Had it not been for Russia's invasion of Georgia, the deal between Poland and the US might have never been sealed. Consequently, Poland is sometimes seen as a 'trouble maker' both on the European political stage, as well as over the Atlantic.

Also, thanks to the involvement of both the previous and the present president in Eastern European matters, support for the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and for Ukraine's and Georgia's NATO bids, lend Poland an image of a country intensely involved in and deeply concerned about the unfolding of events in this region of Europe. I think that since Poland joined the EU in 2004 it has finally started to shed its image of the impoverished and hapless cousin of the West. Poles no longer feel inhibited to interact freely with Western Europeans, they no longer feel as if they were trailing behind their Western neighbors.

They are often multilingual, well educated and driven. This optimistic trend looks rather likely to continue. The person in Poland now in the limelight is definitely the Prime Minister Donald Tusk. The politician is not only a highly influential personage in his Civic Platform (PO) party but is considered as such by the bulk of the general public. Very often it seems as if the whole cabinet was only a background to the PM's figure. Tusk, who once used to champion a fight with corruption, bureaucracy and hindrances to the existence of the free market, and his ministers are doing relatively little or nothing at all to amend the situation in the country but still the incumbent PM is seen as a certain successor to Poland's President Lech Kaczynski. Poles are a nation of great contrasts. Though fiercely proud of their country when in contact with foreigners, they can often come up with the most caustic criticism of the developments in their homeland in conversation with a fellow countryman. They are considered to be a fun-loving nation fond of incessant fun, but on the other hand many Poles are simply thrilled to engage in complaining about the pettiest things, and indeed it is the favorite pastime of many work colleagues, etc. What can be said beyond any doubt, though, is that Poles are a very hospitable nation and the notion of "outstaying one's welcome" is alien to most Poles, especially those from the older generation, who would really go out of their way to make their guest feel like home. Thank you for the riveting "Eye on Poland" series. Monika Noniewicz

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I'm a Polish student living, and first and foremost studying in the UK, namely in Aberdeen, and would like to say a few things about my beautiful country for the use of your recent report about Poland on CNN. Firstly, if there is anything that you should include in the show concerning what the Poland is best famous for, you should indisputably say. The patriotism and national awarness. Despite the fact that I have lived 2 years abroad for now, and I have maybe seen lots of cities with better prospects for future, still I am so so proud of being Polish and I hope to get a good education in the UK so that I can later use is best in my country and contribite to Polish developement. Unfortunately, so many young people have left Poland, who don't want to come back because of low salaries and Polish government affairs, and therefore I think that CNN's program is of particular importance in this respect, to show that Poland has changed and has to be taken care of and developed mainly by young, vibrant and eductaed people. Secondly, every Polish citizen will surely say that what he or she misses desperately is our cuisine. Polish food is incredible, as it brings back all the most beautiful memories from childhood, and I must say that never in the whole world the tomatoes smell so nicely, as in Poland!!!! Also plays a vital role in Polish christmas and easter traditions. Moreover, Polish recipes are handed over from generations to generations, so constitute a distinctive part of Polish culture and way of living. Thirdly, and lastly, I must say that what has shaped me as a person, and has sculpted my views of the Polish history, which has been, unfortunately so fatal on many occassions. Thereby, we can never forget about the past, despite the new era of the EU and the Europeanization, we have to also remind the world about our roots and historical background, as that is what made us who we are now! Thank you. Dijak

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As an American living in Poland for the last 16 years, I can say Poland is a great country with great, sincere and hard-working people. In the business that I co-own we have trained more than 25,000 Polish managers to lead their companies to fight and win on the global competitive landscape. I am proud to support this. When people ask me what I think of working and living in Poland, I often explain my answer using a symbol of the country, the old town of Warsaw. The old town was completely and utterly destroyed in World War II. Yet despite significant resistance from the Russians, the old town and castle were rebuilt brick by brick from paintings. Much of the funding for this project was supported by Poles who lived abroad. The Poles are a fighting and industrious people with a difficult past but a tremendous future. John Guziak, Warsaw

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I`ve been living in Poland for 8 years and run a music foundation. Poland is, in many respects, a land without music: no music in schools except the specialist music schools. The myth of Chopin is a myth. The absence of the arts, especially the performing arts, and well-organised team sports in Polish schools is a disaster for Polish society and its economy. The narrow approach to education is crippling the minds of intelligent and capable people. The ability of Poles to rise above their education once they get abroad is remarkable. What is needed is that they do the same here. Richard Berkeley, Warsaw

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My name is Baton (sounds like english 'button'). I'm a 1.5-year-old Labrador Retriever, I was born near Poznan but currently I live in Krakow. I'm sending my feedback to our questions:

1. I'm quite a young dog so I don't know much of the past of my human friends. I think that most of them also don't get into the depth of those subjects unless it is brought up by the TV as a host news. It seems that for most of people growing up in 90s and in the XXI century first decase, those issues are not important and they claim that we should forget about it ang go forward. However sometimes when I see my human parents are getting nervous about higher education system, soccer association, biurocracy , helf care system - I know that those are parts from the past that were not cleaned up and are commonly felt by the society as a legacy from the previous regime.

2. As a dog I'm mostly not getting into international things however I can repeat after my human parents ;) In my opinion Poland is not self confident but sincere player of international politics. In my opinion Polish commitment to international peace-keeping missions and - in my opinion - hard work on emigration are things which define our reputation. The first one shows - still - ideological approach to international politics, the second is changing stereotypes of 'lazy, ugly, dirty Poles' in the Western world.

3. Unfortunately I have felt it on my own labrador skin, but Poles love to travel. They are feeling well if they don't go somewhere and this errupted after entering EU. From other stuff, things are rather sad, I see increasing consumptionism in big cities. People started to love shopping and 'brands', but this may be related to increasing level of life than to EU directly. I don't see much difference, sometimes during a walk in Krakow we meet a dog with a German or with English lady, this is something new.

4. As people are staring into TV all day long, media-TV people are very influential in the front of life. In the back-end there are large amounts of money. Some industries are still regulated, huge national companies with ideal conditions to earn money with limited competition.

5. In my opinion they are a little bit crazy but for sure hard workers. They tring to live life and feel life after years of greyness and sadness. Those people love gadgets, new technologies, internet and all the things which help them to feel already Western. Baton, Chocolate Labrador Retriever

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1. The fact that Poland was one of the most liberal nations in Europe prior to World War II (the 2nd Constitution worldwide after the US, safe haven for Europe's Jews, first Ministry of Education in the world) and despite always being on the line of conflict between East and West in Europe, has managed to show the world that democracy and freedom can be sought and won by generations. The great price paid by many in our past cannot be forgotten, for history matters and unfortunately tends to repeat itself.

2. I believe it is Poland's recognition of one of the most important human values and needs, that of human freedom. The freedom from oppression, the freedom to choose, the entrepreneurial freedom, which were so greatly sought for decades by the people of this country.

3. I believe they are the cultures of the British Isles due to the massive emigration and re-migration wave that has occurred there since 2004. In general Poland is embracing Western culture, as people's views and opinions are becoming more Euro-friendly, more tolerant, open and 'modern'.

4. Among the current living influential public figures are Lech Walesa, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, Leszek Balcerowicz. In business they are Leszek Czarnecki, Zygmunt Solorz, Jan Wejchert. Politicians are always influential due to the authority wielded by their position, and currently PM Donald Tusk is probably the most influential of all of them. John Paul II is unquestionably the most influential Pole ever to walk the earth.

5. Our ability for initiative and mass organization at certain important, sometimes critical, points in history - most recently the passing of John Paul II displayed how united Polish people can be. R. Kowal

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We are Poles living and working in Warsaw. Programme "Eyes on Poland" intrigued us so we decided to answer one of the questions: What do you think most defines Poland's reputation around the world? Poland's repution around the world is defined mostly through such symbols as John Paul II, Lech Walesa and Solidarity. Beside those symbols we as Poles would like to be seen through our culture, education, science, addaptability of our society to to the challenges of modern world. Of course we still have a lot to do to gain more reputation and respect in the eyes of foreigners. Anna Nowicka Jacek Jakubik

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My name is Jakub Aankiewicz. I'm a Polish student of civil engineering living on the south of Poland in postindustrial region -- Silesia and I'm 21 years old. I wish to answer this 5 questions.

1. It is the hardest question. For sure some parts of our great history. Poland in XVI and XVII as a great empire because it can make Poles proud of their own country, over 100 years of occupation of Prussia, Austria and Russia (XIX century) - to explain lot of differences between western and Eastern part of Poland and polish people, great polish leader Józef PiBsudski - to show what how to rule the country, polish army at the beginning of Second World War to show what true patriot means and how people were fighting for independence of our homeland, almost 50 years of Communism in Poland and political occupation of USSR to understand our nowadays problems. Those are the positive fact of polish identity but we should also remember (I have to write it) about alliance between Poland, Great Britain and France just before 2 WW and how the never helped us during attack of Germany and Russia (this is the reason why Poles don't believe in alliance with US and strategical antimissile base in Poland), remember that since X century Germany and Russia was our enemy and always wanted conquer us. But as addition to the second part we - as a Poles have to remember that facts but also forgive it.

2. First of all in my opinion I would say two things "Solidarity" Movement and Pope John Paul II because it was not so long time ago and those things are quite current. But this year I was in Africa, where - I thought - no one would know what is Poland and I was surprised because to this 2 reasons people said: Copernicus - as a great astronomer, the knowledge of facts from II World War witch involves Poland and Lech WaBsa (as a icon of Solidarity). But I would like to add some history about Poland in XVI and XVII century when was a great empire in the Europe.

3. It is not the date, "new" cultures appeared just after beat the Communist about 1989 people were fascinated of their freedom, after the 2004 their was not such a situation. But maybe I did not understand the question.

4. This question is a bit connected to the second one. Nowadays I'm not sure if there are Poles who have any influence in the world, but in the history for sure: John Paul II but not as a pope (I'm an atheist) but as a politician who helped destroy Communism, great polish writer Ryszard Kapu[ciDski (The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat, Imperium) as a person who opened eyes on the Third World problems,

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5. Possibility to understand western (capitalistic: west Europe, North America) and eastern (ex-communistic: old USSR) psyche, possibility to find our self in both environments. No, it is quite stupid, I do not know what is unique in Poles.

Sorry for language mistakes I hope I could help. Greetings Jakub Aankiewicz

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