Where are you from and what brought you to Antwerp?
I’m from Poland and I came to Antwerp in 1996 as an au pair. I was learning languages (English and Dutch). I fell in love with Belgium and so I didn’t go back to Poland!
I stayed and I met my present husband, and also found a job with Colruyt: I started as a saleswoman and went on to become a department head.
After 12 years I stopped. I experienced depression and burn-out so I decided to do something else. I opened my own shop selling leather bags in the centre of Antwerp (on the Nationalestraat). It was a struggle to work there at the time when the city was rebuilding that area.
I was always working with people and for people, so when one day I opened email and workshop /certification for life coach popped up, it felt like a calling.
What work do you do here in Antwerp?
I’m a certified life coach which means helping clients with personal development. I assist with work /life /business balance. I have experience in business management and in helping my clients to find different pathways to success and happiness. Some clients want to find balance, and to have more quality time for themselves and family .
What do you feel are the challenges of adapting to life in Antwerp?
For me was the language!
What do you like best about living here?
I love the possibility to develop a mindset of growth and travel. What I mean by this is to just be grateful and live now: not later – enjoying the moment and not being overly-preoccupied by the future.
Tell us about something typically Polish that you miss.
Family- mainly I miss my mother, especially since my father passed away a couple of months ago. Poles are very family-orientated, especially at Christmas
Poles have a rich culture of dance, music, history . We also have very beautiful cities: Krakow is one of them
Our food is different: we eat a lot of soup, and a special cheese cake .”Ogorki kiszone” (pickled cucumbers) is another Polish specialty.
I really recommend Poland as a place to visit or for a holiday.
You have a lot of contact with Antwerp’s Polish community. Can you tell us a little more about the community and its contribution to Antwerp?
Yes, I work with a lot of Polish people. They are talented and they are hard workers.They are not afraid of effort and commitment. Polish people are not only to be associated with the cleaning sector or construction, but make important cultural contributions too: as musicians and entrepreneurs, for example. There are more than 20,000 Polish people in Antwerp.
Our community is very rich in culture and talent. We are sometimes afraid to show it but I’d like to change that and wish that we would show more of our creativity, spirituality and love of nature
We have Polish schools and shops in Antwerp and other Belgian cities, so that Belgian people can try Polish products and explore Polish culture, or tasty Polish food. We have a Polish football team and a Women’s Volleyball team too.
We are open to learning, and sharing our achievements.We have a strong sense of community and a desire to help others.
Sylwia organises the Global Speaker Award
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