Quo Vadis X: Leaders in Action
September 20-22, 2019 – Toronto, Canada
The three-day conference Quo Vadis X closed with the song “Winds of Change”. One could feel the enthusiastic flow of a wave of energy from everyone working with a common purpose as well as the gust of “the wind of change”, which could be the inspiration necessary for building a strong Polonia, everywhere it has been established.
But let us start at the beginning. “For many years, we are witnessing a decline in the activities of Polonia organizations in Canada. Many organizations are ceasing to exist, they are losing their members, it is more and more difficult to find leaders for community work in Polonia. There is no flow of new immigrants, who would fill the gaps. Involuntarily, the question comes to mind: Quo Vadis, Polonia? In 2009, a group of students, led by Kamil Mroz, initiated the Quo Vadis Conferences in Ottawa. Afterwards, there was a succession of other conferences, each of them unique, with its own guiding motto and programme, and in time they were duplicated in the United States and Australia. At the later conferences, it became apparent that an increasing number of participants was made up of young professionals. In this way, there came into being the phenomenon of a movement of young leaders of Polonia that systematically provided an answer to the question: Quo Vadis, Polonia?”
This is a fragment from my introduction to the beautifully presented book “Quo Vadis, the first ten years”, which participants and guests received at the conference Quo Vadis X. It was the year’s biggest, international forum of young Polonia and Poles beyond the borders of Poland, with the participation of representatives from eight countries. The conference was under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, with cofinancing from the Polish Senate and in collaboration with the Association “Polish Community”. More than 150 people took part in the opening ceremony at the Ontario Parliament and among the guests of honour were the Sec- retary of State of the Chancellory of the President of Poland, Minister Adam Kwiatkowski, the Polish Ambassador to Canada, Andrzej Kurnicki, the Consul General of Poland, Krzysztof Grzelczyk, Ontario MPPs of Polish heritage the Hon. Kinga Surma and Natalia Kusendova. Also present were the President of the CPC, Janusz Tomczak, with Vice President Krzysztof Lach- mański as well as Magdalena Rzepniewska, from the Association “Polish Community” (Stowarzyszenie “Wspolnota Polska”).
The conference programme gave very detailed directions: where, when and what will take place as well as information about obligatory attire and a map of the locations of events. Delegates participated with great interest in an absorbing programme, in which accom- plished professionals and Polonia leaders shared their experiences. Many times, they commented on the fact that their participation in the Quo Vadis conferences had helped them to gain better positions in their careers and in society. The panelists spoke about their problems and how these were overcome as well as how they reached their desired goals. They emphasized that their Polish roots and national values form a foundation that unites them. The APC led a discussion panel “Polonia of the XXI Century” linked with the vision of the I Conference of Young Polonia of the World, which is to take place in Poland, in 2020. The dynamics of the gathering demonstrated the need for networking.
Without a doubt, modern so- cial media have changed fun- damentally how we communi- cate. It is worth noting the great interest shown by the media; the following were pre- sent during the conference: TV Polonia from Warszawa, Polish Studio TV from Toron- to, Gazeta – the daily newspa- per of Polonia in Canada from Toronto – as well as the con- ference service of videos and photographs to document the events.
All the sponsors also had the possibility to take part in EXPO, representing their companies. Each of the participants in Quo Vadis X received a bag with the motto, “I remember [my] roots”, containing keepsakes from the Office of the Presi- dent of Poland, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the book “Flats for Rent”, by Sławek Muturi.
At the celebration gala, in thanks for their work, previous organizers and advisors for the Quo Vadis Conferences (2009-2019) received Sir C.S. Gzowski Leadership Award med- als, with the likeness of that leader, the most famous Canadian of Polish heritage. This also was an occasion for listening to valuable comments on how the Quo Vadis confer- ences had changed their lives. For many they were the forge for shaping the talents of leadership and they serve young Polonia well. Speaking of leaders, it is appropriate to note that young Polonia in Canada takes the helm on many different fronts. An example of this is the formation and active participation of organizations of young professionals in different cities for several years. On the Head Council of the Canadian Polish Congress in the current term there are six young leaders, including the General Secretary and the Fi- nancial Secretary. Recently, another young leader took the helm of the Polish Combat- ants Association, Toronto Branch. At long last, as of one year ago, we have two young MPPs of Polish heritage in the Province of Ontario. Young Polonia in Canada is active and increasingly visible. A pleasant surprise during the Gala was a draw for two airline tickets (Toronto-Warszawa-Toronto), funded by Polish Airline LOT.
During the conference, many videos and photographs were taken and immediately posted on social media, such as Fa- cebook and Instagram, getting a lot of attention from the recipients; for example, an interview on TV Polonia appeared on September 25 and in five days had been viewed by 2,000 people. It was no surprise that with the close of the event, there arose the need for further activity, maintaining contacts, a continuation of the Quo Vadis conference. There were also proposals of locations for future venues: Lithuania, Scotland, England and the United States. However, in the clos- ing part of the programme, Rajmund Klonowski from Vilnius announced publicly interest in holding Quo Vadis 2020. There is the hope that we all will meet again, this time in Vilnius and possibly also at the I Conference of Young Polonia of the World in Poland, planned for the same year, if it will be possible to synchronize the dates of the events.
Walter Perchal from the year 2009 is a motivating speaker at the Quo Vadis conferences and a favourite of young Polonia. This year, too, Walter did not disappoint anyone; his words reached the hearts of the delegates with the repeated exhortation contained in the words: “Remember and do.” His presentation ended with the song “Wind of Change.” All of those present in the hall gathered around Walter, singing the song together, their arms moving in time with the rhythm of the melody. Among the participants there was a tangible force, enthusiasm, as well as smiles and tears of happiness. Ania Barycka, Co -Chair of the Conference with Joanna Marks, officially brought the event to an end, thanking all of those, who had organized and sup- ported it and her words received a standing ovation. In this way, one of the most interesting Quo Vadis conferences of the past decade came to an end.
Translated by Frank Simpson, University of Windsor, September 30, 2019.
Quo Vadis X Photo Gallery:
Quo Vadis X Opening Ceremonies at Queens Park on September 20, 2019 (by Fotografia Boutique):
Quo Vadis X Panels & Lectures on Saturday, September 22, 2019 (by Fotografia Boutique):
Quo Vadis X Awards Gala on Saturday, September 22, 2019 (by Fotografia Boutique):
Quo Vadis X Lectures and Panels on Sunday, September 22, 2019 (by Piotr Sypek Photography):