With energy and a huge heart for seniors

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Once a founder of the student magazine, a marketer, director of the Promotion of the University of Economics in Krakow, today a social entrepreneur, president of the MANKO Association, founder and publisher of the first Polish national magazine for seniors, as well as the National Senior Card. In a word, a warrior for social issues, an educator and a visionary. He was brought up in a home where such values as patriotism or sensitivity to human harm were of great importance. It is also a precursor of the non-smoking act in public places.

Beata Sekuła talks to Łukasz Salwarowski, nominated for the title of Leader by vocation.

What were the sources and origins of your business?

It started with the Manko Association, which I founded at the University of Economics in Krakow, and whose beginning was the student magazine MANKO. The university educated economists, entrepreneurs, but social matters were not important. I had the impression that people around me were only learning about career development and earning money. Our magazine was to make students realize that there are also such values ​​as health, ecology, and business ethics. solidarity, democracy or freedom of speech. We fought for this freedom, for the students’ voice, for them to influence their fate, for the study program, to work in social organizations, attend scientific circles, do something for others. Subconsciously, we felt that the one who engages in these areas is later a much more valuable entrepreneur or politician. With time, the newspaper went beyond the walls of the university and became a magazine of Krakow students.

When was the first time something outraged you and you felt the need to react more spectacularly?

Already in primary school, I organized the first demonstration. Together with a friend, we planned a provocation, through which we revealed the teacher’s dishonesty. Then we went to the hall during the lesson, shouting out: injustice! The second manifestation of such needs was the establishment of an independent student magazine MANKO, and later we set out on deep waters, organizing the social campaign “Lokal bez cigosos” and “Poland Without Smoke”. It was a huge nationwide campaign. It was born from my assertiveness: one day we went with a friend in Vietnamese chicken. Two ladies sat at the table next to it, and they began to smoke. Very quickly, instead of the taste of the dish I ordered, I only felt cigarette smoke. There was an explosion of thought – it occurred to me that there are thousands of other people in my place and that non-smokers are terrorized and poisoned by a burning minority. This is how the idea was created to create a network of premises without a cigarette in Poland.

Have you been the precursors to the non-smoking act in public places?

During the campaign, we came to the research, which showed that as many as 5,000 people die in Poland due to passive smoking: because a husband, wife, colleague smokes because he smokes in public places. As a result of the campaign, an informational map of Krakow was created, showing where you can go to spend a nice time without worrying about carcinogenic cigarette smoke. Soon other cities joined the action. We made contact with the Ministry of Health, the WHO and the mayor of New York became interested in us, Michael Bloomberg, who invited us to the USA for training at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and appreciated the grant for educational and lobbying activities in this area. We have created a coalition of social organizations “Tobacco or health” initiating the social movement for changing the law. The campaign was very popular in the media and many well-known people supported us: Kayah, Marcin Daniec, Maciej Orłoś, Anna Dymna and many others. After many pickets, talks with politicians, participation in the Sejm Health Commission, broadcasts, discussion panels, after 5 years of endeavors, on 5 November 2010, the law banning smoking in premises and restaurants came into force. This is our greatest success. It shows that if you really want something, you can. We evoked a change for the better, we made a healthier life, which was also confirmed by the research.

A huge achievement. What else does the MANKO Association do?

When we find a problem, we take action: we make us aware, change our consciousness, attitude and behavior. Smokers were not aware that they indirectly kill or harm others, including their own children. They had no idea about the consequences. Many people said that we would not be able to say that smoking in Poland is almost a tradition, that the entire gastronomic industry will collapse, that we will go bankrupt and contribute to the bankruptcy of others. Everything turned out to be nonsense! We also carried out the campaign “Do not Pal next to the child”, and against the initiation of smoking in junior high schools “smoking is poor”, as part of it, we even created a character on Facebook – Free Man. He was a smoke free high school student, proclaiming “be free … from cigarettes”.

Smoking, although unhealthy, I think, unfortunately, experiencing its renaissance?

Now, tobacco companies are investing in electronic cigarettes, which we also oppose.

Did you get the value from home?

My mother told me from a child that I was socially sensitive. I am one of three siblings, I have two sisters, one younger, one older. My grandfather, also a social worker, was an officer and cavalryman, later a soldier of the Home Army, after the war a oppositionist, patriotic and pro-social values were always at home. I think that my attitudes were influenced by upbringing, plus my internal social sensitivity and greater assertiveness. When something bad happens, people show two reactions: passivity or opposition. This is the fundamental difference. I react to harm and evil and try to do everything to prevent it.

Once a student magazine, today a magazine for seniors. How was the “Senior Voice” created?

As the MANKO association, we have created and continue to create many campaigns: on HIV, AIDS, ecology, recycling, rape pills. At some point, the seniors from the Civic Committee of the city of Krakow, in which I was active, asked: You are doing so many cool things, why there is nothing for us? It was also influenced by my grandmother, whom I wanted to help find new forms of activity. At that time, I worked as a director of the Rector’s Office and promotion of the University of Economics in Krakow and decided to create at our University, the University of the Third Age. And so we decided in the Association to work for the benefit of seniors. Thanks to funding, the SENIOR’S VOICE was created, the first Polish nationwide magazine for seniors, focused on activation, education, integration of the environment and improvement of the image of seniors in Poland. Then came the Nationwide Senior Card, Nationwide Senioralia, the Seniors Friendly Community Program and many other initiatives.

Senioralia”. Could you explain their idea?

The V National Senioralia in Krakow, organized by us, this year will be held on September 21. It will be inaugurated by a Holy Mass in the St. Mary’s Church, followed by a parade to the Kijów Cinema, where free lectures will take place, and around 30 stalls will be set up, free of charge, including pressure, hearing, vision, skin, sugar level, age of the heart. We will also learn the results of the finals of our competitions and lotteries, a fashion show of stylish seniors and seniors, and finally a dance party with the music of our Ambassador of Virginia Szmyt or DJ Wiki.

And how is it with the foreign market? Do you have plans to go beyond the Polish borders?

We’re already doing it. A European version of “Głos Seniora” was created in the German, Lithuanian Romanian and Polish versions. The nationwide newspaper and its local mutations are our tools for social change. We are present as a ground floor on over 200 senior events during the year, we create thematic campaigns as part of the Senior Voice and other media. We are currently preparing two new ones: Senior-Patriot and Stop-Manipulation – Do not Buy Presentations. From the very beginning, from 2012, we also have co-financing and support from ministries, including The Ministry of the Family of Labor and Social Policy (ASOS) and the National Institute of Freedom (FIO). We have a specific goal – we just want to help seniors and that’s what counts for us!

What is the structure of your organization?

If I had to count employees from all over Poland, along with ambassadors, seniors, it is 50 people, but working permanently in the headquarters, or in Krakow, and the Warsaw branch is over 25. Half of us are disabled people, which we also try to engage , integrate and bring to the labor market.

How many hours a day do you work to reconcile such numerous duties?

Too long (laughs). About twelve hours a day.

That’s a lot. Where do you get energy for all activities and projects?

Above all, with a desire to change for the better. After that, my sport helps me: swimming pool, treadmill, boxing bag. Sport winds me up. I came up with many ideas while swimming or by breaking another record on the elliptical cross trainer. I know perfectly well how a healthy body affects the brain and how a healthy brain affects the body. Movement and physical activity are necessary for life and development.

So you are an advocate of saying “a healthy spirit in a healthy body”. The work you do also adds wings?

Of course. Every campaign, every help, every new newspaper published, every nice action … it all gives wings. Gratitude and appreciation from the target group, which says: “This is it! Thank you! We need you very much, “that makes us want more and more. We get comments that we do what is needed and we do it well – we do not waste time and money and we are effective – it gives us power.

You have been nominated for the Leader of vocation title. What do you think that your features help you fulfill so many different functions? Do you think that a man is born or is he still a man?

Certainly genetics and predispositions are important here. It is only important not to squander the potential that energy and willingness will not go wrong. In my elementary school days, I was rather a troublemaker, I was thrilled by action and adrenaline. Growing up, I began to wonder how to use this energy that I have. Sometimes I can turn on such a hidden button, the second gear and do something above human strength. I have the impression that in my life I could manage my temperament in a good or bad way. My luck was that I came across senior masters who inspired me to go in the right direction and serve others.

Who was your authority?

Globally, it’s Martin Luther King, Józef Piłsudski, Captain Witold Pilecki. They are also my parents, Professor Ryszard Dyoniziak, doctor Zbigniew Paszek and Władysława Maria French. First of all, it’s people who saw something interesting in me, some potential. They were my social educators. They directed me and tried to use my energy for a good purpose. I am the nature of a warrior, I am fighting for good. Thanks to them I learned strategic and intelligent thinking. We became friends, despite the large age difference. I owe them a lot.

Your activity is in a way a tribute towards them.

Yes. For the most part, unfortunately, they are dead.

The association is a very social work. What are your plans for you in the near future?

Another 5th Senior Senioralia in Krakow, where we expect a record number of 1500 seniors from 70 cities. Secondly, the release of the second edition of the European ‘Senior Voice’ in four languages ​​and the publication of the 40th edition of the Senior Voice of Poland with a record number of over 70 pages. We want to make the next cities join the program of the Community Friendly to Seniors (currently there are over 100). We are ahead of developing two new campaigns that I mentioned, but also strengthening those we already run. Intergenerational communication is also very important to us. We are launching the Seniors – Children campaign, related to volunteering for seniors in hospices, orphanages, kindergartens. We also want to support Polish Social Welfare Homes. We also invented the first board game for seniors in cooperation with specialists: Flying Reporters. The game is to activate and educate in the areas of health, law, security, economy, media and the Internet. It is designed for people 60+ and has three levels of difficulty. We are constantly working and trying to create new beneficial initiatives, campaigns and projects. And how it goes – it gives us all new positive energy and motivation.

In that case, we wish you further implementation of great plans and thank you for such an inspiring interview!

Thank you.

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