Meeting with Janina Ochojska began with a question about ethics. For Ochojska leading an ethical life is to live in a way which does not harm anyone. Unfortunately, today's consummer society makes us live at somebody's expense, even though we don't mean to do so... This question has set the tone for the rest of the meeting with the charity activist - it was to be meaningful, thought-provoking, inspiring, and sometimes difficult. Ochojska's work, aimed at bringing humanitarian help to the regions of the world most affected by wars or natural disasters is demanding and one of her goals is to make her compatriots become more compassionate and aware of the problems that others might face.
Janina Ochojska is the founder and president of Polish Humanitarian Action and has been one of the most anticipated guests of AFA. Ochojska has commited herself to helping those in need and she continues to inspire others to contribute to the worthy cause of humanitatian aid. Her aim is to raise social awareness - while it might be safe, cosy, and warm where we are, there are people in the world who are less fortunate - and Ochojska speaks about their plight openly and honestly. Having seen many armed conflicts first-hand, during humanitarian missions to Kosovo, Chechnya, Iraq, and Sudan Ochojska descrives the horrors of war as follows: war is the worst thing that human beings have come up with. War is about losing everything - your loved ones, your home. If you can afford it, you become a refugee...those who can't - they stay in a country torn by war and become victims. I am reffering to more than shootings and bombings - war is about rape, torture, humiliantion. It destroys you. You become powerless. These are the effects of war. I saw wars up close. What's terrifying is that wars have lasting effects - for example, the effects of Bosnian war are still ongoing. People still feel the aftershocks of the conflict. They can't return home, they still remember and want retribution. And that's why there is a danger of war erupting in Bosia again.
On the difficult topic of wars, Ochojska reflected on patriotism and the idea of protecting your homeland. Who is our enemy? Do you think it's humane to kill people? One victim brings about more and more. You have no idea how much there will be to pay for one death. WW I began with the murder of one person - and how many lives have been lost afterwards? Killing people does not solve problems... I want Poland to be perceived as a country of compassion and solidarity with others and I work to achieve this goal. For me, patriotism is about serving your homeland in a best way possible. I am a patriot. I love my homeland and I am proud to call Poland my home - I know our history and there is nothing to be ashamed of! Especially when you go to countires such as Chechnya, where people admire us for being able to show our support.
Apart from humanitarian aid for those affected by armed conflicts the mission of Polish Humanitarian Action is helping those who suffer the effects of famine. Ochojska has asked a tent overflowing with people if there was someone who has never thrown food away - and only two hands shoot up. Ochojska took this as a starting point to talk about the ways we could combat world hunger. Seeing how in Poland alone we throw away 9 million tonns of food each year, there is a way to put a stop to world hunger. Unfortunately, the so-called developped countires are too greedy and refuse to show solidarity with people in need of basic sustenance.
Ochojska spoke about many important and beautiful topics, such as dreams, freedom, and the idea of goodness. One of the most poignant things she has shared with the audience was about the nature of goodness and kindness: Goodeness is not something that serves me - it is something done for others. Sometimes you have to give up something for the sake of others. If you ground your life on timeless values, no-one will be able to influence your strenght or your resolve. No-one can take away my achievements, my experiences, or the feeling of self-worth. Don't allow anyone to take these things from you! I ask of you - if you have dreams, even if they seem to be ridiculous and impossible to achieve - don't give them up! I think a step forward, taken with faith and resolve is the step on the road to success.
Meetings at AFA are held under the patronage of Pekao Bank.
Photo credit: L. Lewandowska
Do you like the festival, but you feel that it has been missing certain something? Perhaps this something is an extreme running race, very aptly known as Runmaggedon. Challenge your fitness and stamina at Woodstock!
Mondays bring us another listing of the Golden Spinning Top competition. The winning bands will be invited to reprise their performance at the Main Stage of Woodstock Festival Poland.
...and send us a vote! We are extremely proud to have been chosen to participate in European Music Awards again! We have been included in the Best Major Festival category. The poll closes on October 31st.