The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs recognized Kazimierz Popławski as a civil diplomat for his years of work presenting Estonia through his portal www.eesti.pl in 2014. In 2008–2011 Kazimierz studied three semesters as an exchange student at the University of Tartu.
Questions about the origins of my passion called “Estonia” are quite problematic for me. Usually, people who ask these kinds of questions expect romantic or at least family stories as an answer, yet mine is quite simple, pragmatic, and even boring.
I got my first computer when I was in middle school. I never had a great passion for computer games, but the Internet was something that was very fascinating. I thought back then that it would be nice to create a part of it. I decided to learn to build websites – coding, administering, publishing, etc. I’d heard some interesting news about this little country north of Poland, and I thought: “Hmm, Estonia is a good topic to cover – it’s small, so I’ll build the website, I’ll write about all the possible topics, and I’ll be done within 2–3 months”.
I failed, as it’s already 12 years and I’m still working on the website (from the beginning of the year you can visit the brand new version of www.eesti.pl). During this time hundreds of thousands of people have visited the website and each of them have read a couple of articles and news. People simply need information about Estonia, and I can tell you that many of them are just fascinated by what they read about. That’s the first reason why I keep working on it. There are more of them, and to me, personally, the following are probably even more important.
The online part of my Estonian activities quite quickly evolved first into editorial, and then into offline activities – from attending parties, meetings, and events, to giving lectures and presentations, writing articles and analysis. Back then, when I was a 16-year-old school kid, it was quite impressive to advise and help older and wiser people – journalists, university students, even scholars. Now it’s nice to share the knowledge I’ve gained over the years and to present ways of development, application of technology, or doing politics that are different from the Polish way. And tens of thousands of people listen and read it carefully.
It’s not only “failure”, but also a big surprise even for me that I have kept Estonia around me for 12 years already. Through all these years I’ve visited the country several times and I keep going back. Estonia is often called a start-up country, e-Estonia, and the country uses the motto “positively surprising”. In total I’ve spent 1.5 years studying and travelling in the country. Despite the reason for being there, what I was doing, or where I was living, I have met hundreds of inspiring people (not only in Tartu or Tallinn, but also in Poland) and I have spent many beautiful, crazy, and exciting moments in Estonia.
There is one more, maybe philosophical reason. I think that the more important question than why I do this is how my passion influences me. When you live in one country and you spend a couple of hours every day (on average) exploring another culture, your views and mindset are somehow enriched with much of what this other culture has to offer. Estonian culture has a lot to offer of what is rather rare in Polish culture – appreciation of silence and nature, minimalist aesthetics and traditional culture, pragmatic and positivist attitudes towards life and work.
Being an Estonia aficionado is probably something extraordinary, and, for many, even strange. Well, the best part of being passionate about something (whether it be Estonia, Italy, tango, or mountain-climbing) is that it enriches your life and personality.