Saturday, May 7, 2016

Departure Rapidly Approaching and a Visit to Dolny Śląsk

Departure Rapidly Approaching and a Visit to Dolny Śląsk

Just two months remain in our 10-month stay in Poznan, Poland. As we ponder with mixed emotions our return to Charlotte, North Carolina, the weather has turned spectacular. It has not been a difficult winter, just a dreary one in terms of weather -- generally chilly, damp, blustery and gray with just two real "cold snaps." The greening of the trees and the blossoming of the early flowers is rapidly turning Poznan and the rest of Poland into a stunningly beautiful scene.
We have not seen a forecast like this since September -- eight months ago!
My regular classes (International Public Relations and Corporate Communication) are moving forward with deliberate speed, and my students seem to appreciate the value of the knowledge and skills they're acquiring. I also continue to conduct regular guest lectures, such as a recent half-day seminar with graduate students on the topic of communication research methods. This was the third time I've led this graduate seminar since joining the Poznan University of Economics faculty, so I rewarded the students for their endurance by presenting them each a UNC Charlotte T-shirt. They quickly donned the shirts and posed for the photo below.
Graduate students model their UNC Charlotte T-shirts. Several students had to leave a bit early and missed out on the photo.
One of my roles as a Fulbrighter is to encourage other academics to pursue this great opportunity. This is a good time for my academic colleagues to think seriously about applying for a fellowship. The program is administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, and its website is the place to begin. The application deadline for the U.S. Scholar core program is August 1. The application preparation process can be a long slog, so starting now is appropriate. I would be delighted to provide advice and counsel to any of my colleagues considering this program. I have several initial tips:
  • Seek an appointment to an institution with which you have established a professional connection. I first visited my current host institution in 2005 as keynote speaker for a conference. That initiated dialogue, and I was awarded my first Fulbright appointment here in 2012. I continued nurturing that relationship and earned a second appointment for the 2015/16 academic year now drawing to a close. The relationship has resulted in numerous publications and presentations, and one scholar from my host institution made a return visit to my home university for a conference in 2013. My sense is that an ongoing, growing and productive academic relationship appeals to Fulbright application reviewers.
  • Obtain strong letters of support (required in the application package) from people well placed to know your qualities as well as the aims of the Fulbright program. My letters came from my Provost, the former president of the U.S. Fulbright Association, and the former president of the Public Relations Society of America as well as the former chair of The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management. I firmly believe that this impressive list of endorsers set my application apart.
  • Be sure to have a fairly detailed letter of invitation from your proposed host institution, and it should come from the highest levels. Mine came from the "Pro-Rector" of the university -- equivalent of a vice chancellor or vice president. It specifically described the activities in which I would engage during my appointment and argued persuasively for the value I would bring.
Please contact me if you'd like to discuss your thoughts about applying for a Fulbright. Note on the CIES website that programs are available for other professionals as well as scholars and that length of appointment is variable from a few weeks to a full academic year.

I have often included in my blog posts photos of concerts we've attended, and this entry is no exception. A few weeks ago, we attended a superb performance of Verdi's Requiem. With a full orchestra and chorus, plus four gifted soloists, it was a deeply moving evening. The cost, as always at the Academy of Music -- free.
A full orchestra, full chorus and soloists perform Verdi's Requiem in the Aula Nova of the Academy of Music.

A Visit to Dolny Śląsk

Dolny Śląsk (don't worry about pronunciation, non-Polish speakers!) is the Polish term for Lower Silesia, a region in southwest Poland. Its main city is Wrocław (roughly pronounced "VRAHTZ-wahv"). It's composed of several modest mountain ranges, beautiful rivers and streams (including the Oder River), countless picturesque villages and towns, and rich farmland. Robin and I spent several days during a recent long holiday weekend exploring the many sites in this lesser known but spectacular region of Poland. Historical sites expose the fascinating history of the region from the period of the Piast dynasty that began in the tenth century through extraordinary Nazi underground construction projects begun during the Second World War. With minimal narrative, what follows is a photographic summary of our experience. For a more complete photo record, visit our Dropbox site (brace yourself -- more than 180 photos and short videos!).

We anchored our visit to Lower Silesia in the small village of Bolków, staying in this hotel, a former convent.

Bolków Castle, built in the 13th century.
View from a high tower in Bolków Castle.

Just three kilometers from Bolków is Świny, the site of the ruins of a 16th century castle.

A third castle we visited in the region is Grodno Castle, built in 1193, reachable by following a 1-kilometer trail up a steep hill in the village of Zagórze Śląskie. 

A feature of Grodno Castle is its "torture room," displaying various items that challenge the imagination.

The young lady on the left, posing with Robin and me, is the owner and manager of a small shop in Bolków, selling ice cream, coffee and kebabs. In my view, she illustrates several important points. One is the entrepreneurial spirit and dedicated work ethic of Poles. On our first visit, we asked for coffee and a piece of cake. The coffee was no problem, but she had no cake. Immediately, she dispatched her daughter to the nearby bakery for two pieces of cake -- she is a problem solver and is customer focused. This is the spirit I think bodes well for Poland's future. Second, she spoke no English, but my German and Polish seemed to work well for us. When I told her, though (in Polish) that we were not German but rather U.S. Americans, she was very excited and explained that we were the first Americans she had met and the first to visit her shop -- hence the need to pose for photos. The encounter reminds us of the public diplomacy role we play not only as Fulbrighters but simply as U.S. American tourists. This was our one chance to make a first and lasting impression. We need to take these opportunities seriously.

This is the Cistercian Abbey in Krzeszów. The monastery was established in 1242, and the Baroque abbey was constructed in the mid-18th century. For a short video tour of the interior, click on this Dropbox link

The central square in the town of Świdnica is typical of the the beautiful settings in many Polish cities.

This is Holy Trinity Church in Świdnica, built in the 17th century using only wood, clay, sand and straw. For a short video tour of the interior, click on this Dropbox link.

By far the most impressive site we saw is Książ Castle near Wałbrzych. It would be impossible for an amateur photographer like me to capture its grandeur, so I include just a couple of my photos; I recommend visiting the photo gallery on the castle's website.

Approaching Książ Castle entrance.

One of the ornate rooms in Książ Castle

Several sites we visited pertained to World War II. Among them were the Arado underground aircraft factory (owing to Allied bombing raids, Hitler directed that much of the Nazi manufacturing sector be moved underground) and the early stages of a complete underground city, left uncompleted at the end of the war. In this and other planned underground cities, Hitler expected to locate the top leaders and scientists. Plans called for self-sustaining underground cities that included rail access, living quarters, offices, and all facilities, equipment and capabilities needed to survive for long periods under siege.

The entrance to the Arado underground aircraft factory.

The underground facilities also provided hiding places for looted art.

Awaiting our tour near the entrance to one of the partially constructed underground Nazi cities.

Actors realistically portray Nazi officials in the underground facilities.

The size and extent of the Nazi underground facilities is difficult to comprehend. Caves extend for miles, built by slave labor. A few areas are finished with concrete, ventilation tunnels, cable runs, etc.  Estimates are that it would have taken several more years of intensive labor to complete some of the projects. Plans even called for prototype nuclear power plants.

The last event I'll leave you with will be a re-enactment of a World War II skirmish involving Nazi forces against U.S. and British attackers. The scenario, if I understood it correctly, was an attempt by Nazi troops to transport and conceal looted treasures. The re-enactment was carried out in the village square in Bolków, where we were staying. Many Poles engage regularly in these enactments, portraying military engagements from all periods of the nation's remarkable history. Often, larger re-enactments involve tanks, aircraft, other military vehicles and weapons, and even cavalry charges on horseback.
WWII Nazi re-enactors prepare for the skirmish while a film crew captures the action.

To view a short video capturing the peak moments of the re-enactment, click on this Dropbox link. To get the full effect, hook your viewing device to several stadium speakers and turn the volume up full.

That's enough for today. I'm departing on Wednesday for three days in Opole, Poland, where I will be speaking at a medical conference. That's an unusual venue for a public relations professor, but I'll explain it in my next post, and it will make sense. In the meantime, thanks for your visit to my blog, and do widzenia!