Migration policy, government challenges to the EU relocation process and anti-immigrant sentiment make it difficult to obtain asylum in Poland. However, a bistro in Warsaw called Kuchnia Konfliktu is one of few places in Poland that provides stable employment, training and support for refugees and migrants. The idea to build something local for refugees was born two years ago and aims to bring stability into refugees lives and to change the negative stereotype of foreigners in Poland.
The project started with a container caffe and food truck along the Vistula river in Warsaw. Early in 2018 they expanded to open a bistro at Wilcza 60 in downtown Warsaw. Refugees from several countries cook and serve there, working as one supportive family. Jarmiła, the initiator of the project, highlights that the goal is to hire not the most skilled but those with the greatest need for stable employment. Piotr, the head chef, exchanges recipes with other cooks and together they create a unique combination of flavors each week.
We're close to release a short documentary on Kuchnia Konfliktu, which helps shed light on what is unfortunately a very unique program. The following are some excerpts from our interviews with founders Jarmiła, Piotr and refugees Sultan and Liza who work here on a daily basis.
Jarmiła: "There were several reasons to develop this project, first was the situation in Syria which was the prime motivation for us to do something local and something that would have a direct impact."
Piotr: "We’re working with people with huge experience because they have several kids and families and they cook for them. It is however something slightly different to prepare a lunch for 70 people."
Jarmiła: "The menu is determined by the people cooking that day. It comes from the collaboration between Piotr, the chef, and the other cooking people that day. They exchange recipes."
Piotr: "I’m giving something from my side, they’re giving something from their home."
Jarmiła: "We’re trying to show this positive example, that refugees came here not for the Polish social benefits, which by the way don’t exist, or that they do not want to work or learn Polish or that Muslim man do not respect women. And you can see all of this in our team perfectly."
Jarmiła: "We currently work with people from Afghanistan, Iraq, Dagestan, Chechenia and Tajikistan. As you said, there are very few refugees from the Middle East and Syria in Poland, but we have many people from outside our Eastern border. Previously we worked with refugees from Congo, Belarus, Ukraine, Algeria, Tunisia, Pakistan and Iran. For many, Conflict Kitchen is the first place where they can find out how life looks like here, in this new reality, they start learning Polish."
Sultan: "I left Afghanistan in 1987 to study in the then Soviet Union. When I graduated, power changed in Afghanistan and mujahedeen arose to power. I couldn’t return then. I was already married to my Ukrainian wife. I couldn’t leave my family and I couldn’t take them with me, so I decided to stay in Ukraine. I came to Poland because I have been living in Donetsk and a war started there, so I came here."
Liza: "The situation in Dagestan is still is not good, but back then it was really bad for my family. It is my homeland but I wouldn’t like to return there right now. It would be difficult. It can be dangerous there because the state doesn’t function like in Poland. People are not free to do what they want. People go missing. That’s the problem."
Sultan: "Poland is a beautiful country. I like it here and my kids like it here as well. People are good. They’re very benevolent."
Liza: "When we reached the asylum center I could go to school immediately. I had a possibility to learn the language. I’m still learning. I found this job with my mom and I like it a lot. I’m among my people here. I like meeting new people and I’m quite talkative so this job is great for me."
Piotr: "We’re here for one month now and it’s going better and better, so I’m positive that one day I will no longer be needed here."
Jarmiła: "We’d like to give refugees at least some sense of stability in the work and financial area, so that at least that would not be a stress factor in their lives. Knowing that people here feel they are part of this place, they feel responsible for it and they feel like they are hosts here is super cool to me."
While the food is truly amazing, Kuchnia Konfliktu is definitely our favorite place in Warsaw for much deeper reasons.