interview by Aneta Mackovski
Kinga Nettmann-Multanowska, the wife of H.E. Jacek Multanowski, Polish Ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia
What does the concept of LIFESTYLE mean to you?
“Lifestyle” sounds like a big word, as the ‘style’ part brings glamorous and glittery associations. Whereas for me, “lifestyle” has a simple meaning. It is every day bringing a new challenge so that you could feel needed, so that you could learn new things (as life is all about educating yourself in a practical and metaphorical sense), living with the people and for the people, taking life as it goes—seizing the ‘ups’ and trying to find the positive element in the ‘downs’. Being open, perceptive, compassionate, and, as often as possible, being the best version of yourself!
Interestingly enough, Skopje turned out to be a perfect city for me as it is exactly here that I have felt that I am living the lifestyle that’s really mine, discovering the city for myself and my friends from Poland, becoming a volunteer tour guide for the guests of the Polish Embassy (I have been in great demand!).
Do you aspire to involve your passion to your daily routines and do you believe that this would further an authentic lifestyle?
I live my life with passion—no doubt about it, and I am trying to avoid the routine, of course taking into consideration that in the family life there must be some of it. I try to make my each day count, so that the time does not slip through my fingers. However, I do not live it according to a long-term scenario, meticulously scheduled and designed. I have goals, but rather of a short-term nature that simply take me to “the next level”. I had different goals when I was younger, I have different goals now. The wisdom that comes with the age (some call it “experience”) has taught me to be more flexible and less possessive.
For the last four years I have been living in the Republic of Macedonia with my husband, Jacek Multanowski, Polish ambassador. The life of an ambassador’s wife is full of routine, but at the same time, you can hardly call it ‘boring’, as it gives you a unique opportunity to engage in activates that otherwise would never be a part of your life. With your ideas and energy you can make the difference, your voice counts, your actions have a causative power, and because of all this, you can do things that are meaningful and lasting in a broader sense. Whether you choose to live a quiet life, accompanying your husband in his diplomatic mission, or to support him leaving a trace of your own, depends entirely on you. I am energetic, sociable and creative by nature, so I always choose to follow the second path.
I am lucky, as metaphorically, on a personal level, we speak the same language. Jacek and I are true partners that inspire each other and are supportive of each other. So basically, what I am trying to do is to give a little color to whatever he is supposed to be doing, in the spheres that are of my interest, like art and culture, for example.
It is a very privileged position that the diplomats and their spouses occupy for a few years representing their home country aboard. I always remember the ‘Noblesse oblige’ principle [nobility obliges] that denotes that this kind of life should not be lead for mere pleasure but it should extend far beyond titulatures and entitlements as it requires us to fulfill social responsibilities.
Where do you look for inspiration and motivation to achieve your lifestyle goals?
Around me, now in Skopje obviously, as this has been my home for over four years. I have been very much involved in the searching for the Polish traces in Skopje, literally digging through the city archives and saving them from obscurity. Documenting the Polish traces, reading various archival documents and talking to people, I have mastered Macedonian, which over time has become “my superpower”!
As for the Polish traces, I am talking about the know-how of the Polish urban-planners and architects in the post-earthquake reconstruction of Skopje, as well as the Polish art donations (212 art pieces in total) in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art on Kale (with the building itself being a Polish architectural design project). The 1963 earthquake turned the city into rubble within a few seconds. The world united in helping Skopje, later dubbed “The City of Solidarity.” Poles were one of the first donors. During the reconstruction process, the Polish engineer Adolf Ciborowski became the Manager of the UN Skopje Urban Plan Project (he had enormous experience working on the post-war reconstruction of Warsaw). Another outstanding Polish specialist, Stanisław Jankowski “Agaton”, a great figure in the history of Warsaw, managed the engineers of the official Polish construction agency Polservice. For many people, especially the younger generation, it is still a relatively new subject—unheard of by most of them. I am totally trilled as the grand finale of all our efforts is approaching. It will be taking place in mid-2019 at Kraków’s International Cultural Center, a Polish institution that has decided to organize an exhibition devoted to Skopje—the city of international solidarity, presenting the Polish story alongside many uplifting international gestures that the city received in the past.
I also have had a great time cooperating with the annual Skopje Poster International Student Poster Competition, introducing Polish big-names to young Macedonian graphic artists, and master-minding study tours to Poland for them so that they could learn a bit of the world-famous tradition and the present-day of the so-called Polish Poster School. Being a former university teacher, I enjoy working with young people. So with all my might, I have been trying to open doors for them, giving them inspiration and a bit of a helping hand, which they really need to be given at the beginning of their careers.
Another recent project, one out of the many I have been involved in, is an ongoing exhibition: The Porechans. The Macedonian Poreche 1932-1933 according to Józef Obrębski’s Ethnographic Records, prepared by Professor Anna Engelking of the Polish Academy of Sciences, open until March 31 at the Museum of Macedonia in Skopje. The exhibition features around 80 photographs (out of 550 existing ones) taken by Józef Obrębski (then a young Polish ethnographer) in the villages of the Macedonian Poreche, as well as his field notes documenting daily life, ritual and religious life, mythology, folklore, folk medicine and magic rituals of the Porechans. The material he collected was abundant and unique by its very nature.
What do you consider to be a healthy and gratifying lifestyle and what is your advice for creating and maintaining it?
There have been volumes written on the topic of healthy lifestyle… I am in no position to give advice. My secret for a healthy and gratifying lifestyle is to live in peace with myself, enjoying little things. A happy family life is what gives me strength and perseverance. I avoid trying to compare myself with others or compete with them, as I best know my limitations. I challenge myself to do things that I consider worthwhile even if they might seem difficult or time-consuming. I walk through the city streets with my camera or ride my bike, as often as I can…
Living in Macedonia is exciting and distinct. Please share your impressions of your favorite places you have visited in Macedonia
Indeed, Macedonia has a lot to offer! On the one hand, there is the city of Skopje—the symbol of solidarity and modern architecture with great examples of Modernism and Brutalism. On the other, there is the Macedonian folklore. Extremely fascinating for me. I love the oro! I dance it whenever I can! I have also learned how to make ajvar and lutenica.
I have a few favorite places in Skopje: The Museum of Contemporary Art on Kale (designed by the Tigers, a team of Polish architects, 1970) is my No. 1. A great building with a fantastic international art collection (including 212 Polish art pieces).
My second No. 1 is the Brutalist Goce Delchev dormitory designed by Georgi Konstantinovski in 1969. The structure whose dynamic form and uncommonness is the best proof of the vibrant and creative energy that was present in Skopje in days of its reconstruction.
I have one favorite outside Skopje. This is Kratovo, the city in the crater, charming and mesmerizing with its unique location, legends, kulas (towers), bridges, underground tunnels, volcanic bombs, nature, and hospitality. Kratovo is the essence of the Balkans for me. A place I feel truly attached to.
I have made true friendships here, and for this reason alone I will be coming back, especially now, when staring June 1st, I can fly LOT Polish Airlines, from Warsaw to Skopje directly in only 2 hours!
Skopje has become my second home. I know the city quite well and I have enjoyed living here. Speaking the Macedonian language, being able to engage in any conversation, I feel truly a “Skopjanka.”
I have my favorite spots in the city that I will miss, La Puerta, a burrito place on the bank of the Vardar river, or Coffee & Friends, the coffee trolleys scattered around the city center where I used to sit on a bar hocker and sip coffee anonymously tuning in Skopje’s city life. I am an ice cream lover, and I have eaten tons of delicious ice-cream in Malaga, Gino and La Terrazza. I am a devoted fan of Yugo-rock. I love Parni Valjak, Bajaga i Instruktori, or Bjelo Dugme with the harsh voice of Alen Islamovic. When in Skopje, I did not miss a single concert of these legendary bands, shouting the lyrics of their songs along with everybody else, swaying to the rhythm of the evergreens…
Kinga Nettmann – Multanowska
PhD in English linguistics (specialized in comparative studies); former university teacher at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland; a translator, teacher of Polish as a foreign language with experience in Kyrgyzstan and Georgia. Hobbies: photography, cycling, art and architecture.