Przegląd Geograficzny (2022) vol. 94, iss. 2

Determinants and diversification of socio-cultural activity among Polish migrants as exemplified by those in Berlin and Hamburg

Magdalena Szmytkowska, Dominika Studzińska

Przegląd Geograficzny (2022) vol. 94, iss. 2, pp. 235-252 | Full text
doi: https://doi.org/10.7163/PrzG.2022.2.4

Scientific studies do much to embrace the issue of social activity among immigrants, as well as their participation in projects of various types, in both institutional and non-institutional dimensions. Nevertheless, research into the activity of the Polish community in German cities has only rarely been undertaken. In this context, the studies carried out by the authors are of importance as they make clear an intensification of social activity among Polish immigrants in Berlin and Hamburg. An influx of new migrants, attracted to Germany not only by relevant economic motivations, but also by a perceived need for of self-development and greater acquaintanceship with new communities in place, tends to allow German institutions to take more interest in immigrant groups, while also sustaining activity within newly-created networks of immigrant organisations. The consequences of all that are for the social and cultural activity engaged in within the Polish community in the cities to become more and more visible and diverse. Although it is relatively new for these behaviours to assume such a large scale, the observed intensity and spatial scope may sustain the conclusion that even the near-future will bring a significant increase in visibility for the Polish community vis-à-vis both German citizens and immigrant groups.

Specifically, the work detailed in the present paper has mainly sought to identify socio-cultural activity among the Polish migrants present in both Berlin and Hamburg. This involved the authors in efforts to ascertain: (1) factors determining the socio-cultural activity of Polish communities in the cities studied; (2) any noticeable differences between Berlin and Hamburg when it comes to the social activity undertaken by Polish migrants; (3) the directions of development that characterise the institutional and non-institutional activity of the Polish community present in the cities in question (which were selected in line with the high concentrations of Polish communities in both, as well as differences in periods of influx and of a socio-cultural and economic nature). Only a relatively small number of scientific studies have ever been devoted to the social involvement of Polish migrants in the cities of Berlin and Hamburg.

Relevant research material was collected in 2019, in the course of 7 study visits to Berlin and Hamburg. The authors initiated the research procedure by way of focus-group interviews with 12 members of Polish-diaspora organisations. These respondents represented different age groups and waves of migration, and also occupied different socio-professional positions. 15 in-depth expert interviews were then conducted in Berlin and Hamburg. The survey was participated in by representatives of Polish authorities, German academics, founders and members of immigrant associations, Polish entrepreneurs and representatives of local media. Respondent data was anonymised and coded. A background for the qualitative research was offered by analysis of available statistical information obtained from the German Federal Statistical Office and Statistics Poland (GUS).

Research conducted for the purposes of this article leads to a conclusion that the social activity undertaken by Poles in Berlin and Hamburg is highly diversified, while that in Berlin is developing intensively and in many different directions. Analysis of material collected sustains the conclusion that the Polish communities in question pursue clearly different policies when it comes to the activation and opening-up of Polish organisations. While the activities of Poles living in Berlin are targeted at Poles, Germans and other ethnic groups, those characterising the Polish community in Hamburg are rather exclusive. Moreover, while the offer of the local Polish institutions in Berlin is relatively wide; in Hamburg, social and cultural activity is limited to the learning of Polish, promotion of Polish culture and maintenance of Polish identity.

Activity on the part of Polish migrants in the social space of German cities is thus seen to depend on many factors, of which the most important are: (1) the cultural, social, economic and political specificity of the host city; (2) the period of and motive for migration; (3) external financial support; and (4) migration trends. The openness of the Berlin authorities to initiatives taken by immigrant minorities is what encourages local leaders to take action for the benefit of Polish migrants and inhabitants of Berlin. In turn, the different specificity of Hamburg, and its authorities’ less-pronounced cooperation with immigrant groups, may represent obstacles to social activity being taken up by the Polish community on any larger scale.

Keywords: migracje, aktywność społeczno-kulturowa, Berlin, Hamburg

Magdalena Szmytkowska [geoms@ug.edu.pl], Uniwersytet Gdański, Wydział Nauk Społecznych
Dominika Studzińska [geods@ug.edu.pl], Uniwersytet Gdański, Wydział Nauk Społecznych