GG x Diversity Champions in Krakow
When we were asked by the University of Manchester to be a part of a new programme they had set up named The Diversity Champions, it didn’t take long for us to respond with a resounding “YES” once we had heard what they were hoping to achieve through the project!
The Diversity Champions are made up from a group of young people, selected from secondary schools around Manchester. The young people receive training from different organisations, to develop the skills necessary to be able to spread diversity and awareness throughout their schools around Greater Manchester. The project was formed in response to a significant rise in hate crimes around Manchester following the tragic bombing that took place at the Ariana Grande concert in May of last year, which of course had a huge impact on the city.
The Diversity Champions trip to Krakow in Poland was a chance for the group to gain a really powerful understanding of how hate crimes can, and have devastated communities in the past, and the heroic roles played by many active bystanders who risked their own lives to save others during these times.
Our official ‘job role’ as Team GG whilst in Poland with the Diversity Champions was to capture the trip through images and video, however we could feel from the outset that the experience would mean so much more to us than just being the media team following the group around.
We were given the opportunity to get to know the whole team involved with the project on a few occasions prior to the trip, so arriving at the airport felt like a sort of family reunion. Flying to another country is always exciting and particularly when you are 13/14 years old, so the energy from the young people was infectious from the off. The GoPro was trusted in their safe hands, which was a running theme throughout the trip, and as you can probably imagine provided us with some golden footage!
On arriving in Poland we were greeted by our tour guide for the three days, a lady named Jola who was full of charisma an charm, and more importantly appeared to know absolutely everything there was to know about Krakow.
Our first afternoon was spent taking a tour of Krakow Old Town, and with it being our first time in Poland we were slightly taken aback by the beauty of the gothic architecture all around us. We tried to take in what we could of the history lesson being given by Jola whilst capturing the mesmerised faces of the Diversity Champions, who clearly like ourselves hadn’t quite expected Krakow to be so beautiful!
Day one had been a great introduction to Poland and seeing the enthusiasm of the Diversity Champions as they embraced every aspect of being immersed in a new culture was something really special. Day two was set to be far more intense for everybody involved as we took a trip out to Auschwitz, which of course was the scene of such atrocities towards the Jewish community throughout the second World War.
The photographing and filming of the group as they took in their surroundings at Auschwitz and listened to the guide was strangely compelling. It was obviously an emotional, and quite a difficult experience at times for everybody involved, but capturing these moments felt so significant. We knew how powerful this type footage would be when trying to showcase what the Diversity Champions project really stands for.
The level of emotional maturity shown by the young people throughout the Auschwitz tour was incredible to see, and they should be proud of the way they represented themselves and the project as a whole.
It almost feels wrong to say out loud, but from a personal perspective we found the experience to be very interesting, thanks in large part to the way our excellent tour guide was able to articulate how certain events played out. Every so often though, the reality of what had taken place on the very grounds in which you are walking around hits you full on in the stomach, and in truth it’s difficult to describe the emotions that takeover during these moments.
After a tough morning, the afternoon following the Auschwitz tour was spent discussing each of the Diversity Champions aspirations and what steps they would need to take to move closer to achieving these. We were totally inspired by their hopes and dreams, and it was during this time we felt as though the group (including ourselves) grew closer and created a bond that ultimately made the trip such a powerful experience for us.
The evening of the same day was spent at Morskie Oko restaurant which we have to give a shout out to as we all had such a great time there. The restaurant aims to give its customers an authentic Polish highland experience, starting with the amazing decor lined throughout, to the traditional live music and dancing that takes place during the evening. Some were more willing than others, however eventually we all had the opportunity to get involved in some highlander dance which was for sure a lot of fun!
Our last full day in Poland began at the Wieliczka Salt Mines which truly is a Global Gem in our eyes. Running down to a depth of 327m, this majestic underground world consists of what appears to be endless tunnels, shafts and caverns, as well as a lake (yes an underground lake!) and huge chambers with spectacular chandeliers hanging from the ceilings, crafted purely from the rock salts that surround you. We most definitely recommend you visit here, however in the summer months you will need to arrive as early as possible to avoid the mass tourist invasion which is inevitable at this time of year.
Our final afternoon was spent exploring Kraków’s Jewish Quarter whilst on route to Schindler’s factory museum. This area of the city is full of history, and although it is not as pretty as the gothic buildings in the old town, it oozes character and cultural relevance.
During the time of World War Two, The Krakow Ghetto was created for the horrific purpose of exploitation and persecution of local Polish Jews. The main square now known as ‘The Ghetto Heroes Square’ commemorates the lives of these people with a memorial consisting of 33 chairs made from iron and bronze. The chairs signify those who lost their lives, and although this is a site that deserves huge respect, it is also now a place what people should try to enjoy, just as The Diversity Champions were able to.
Schindler’s factory museum felt like a very appropriate ending for a trip that had ultimately been centred around the heroic actions of active bystanders in Poland throughout the second World War. The Museum itself is a very interactive experience and really does a great job of resembling what it must have been like to work in the factory as well as what life was like for those living in the surrounding ghetto.
At Team GG we feel so grateful to have been a part of The Diversity Champions team, and genuinely cannot wait to catch up with all the guys again very soon. Experiencing this group of young people, the next generation, embracing travel and a new culture in such an enthusiastic way, is something we feel extremely passionate about being involved with going forward. With this in mind, we very much hope to continue to be a part of the project for the foreseeable future…
watch this space!
Team GG :)
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