What does it feels like to be Polish and queer and living in Iceland?

Polish people make up the largest ethnic minority group in Iceland, presenting more than 40% of all immigrants in Iceland as of 2018.  Last year it was estimated that over 19.000 people of Polish people were living in Iceland. We at GayIceland where therefor keen to find out more about the Polish community in Iceland, the queer part of it to be more exact and what it feels like to be Polish and queer and living in Iceland. Today we start that journey by interviewing a young woman who has settled here and has no plans on going back to Poland.

Magda Doborzyńska.

When Magda Doborzyńska first moved to Iceland from Poland, she was only planning on staying for a few months. She was having trouble finding work in her home country and was offered a job in the Westfjords. A year later, she has no plans on going back. “I found love here,” says Magda, who met her girlfriend about seven months ago, after moving to Reykjavík, and now she’s working in the city while learning Icelandic.

Reflecting on her experiences living in Iceland with her partner, it’s the little things that stand out to Magda. “The thing that was very new for me was that no one was looking at us on the street. And also, when I say I have a partner, people aren’t assuming the gender of the person, which is a small thing but it’s really new for me,” she says.

“… there is no education in Poland about human rights and about LGBT people. There are a lot of stereotypes, and teachers are also not educated.”

In Poland, Magda was working as a political activist. She focused on human rights issues, and in particular women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and rights for people with disabilities. “It was a great adventure, but it was also very tiring,” she explains. “The political situation in Poland is really complicated now and really bad. After maybe two years of doing activism I was very, very tired.”

We don’t have any rights in Poland

In particular, Magda says the situation for LGBTQ people in Poland is very bad. “We don’t have any rights, actually. Any form of partnership, legal partnership, marriage, adoption — it doesn’t exist.” Although there is a hate crime law in Poland, Magda says it doesn’t include crimes against LGBTQ people. “A few weeks ago, our president said that he would consider a law kind of similar to the one in Russia, against homosexual propaganda. It’s just an idea, but this government is scary and they’re not supporting any human rights for anyone, especially for LGBT people.”

On the other hand, Magda says the general population in Poland seems to be more tolerant than the government. “A lot of people think that we should have a right to get married, for example,” she explains. She says that disconnect is perhaps because it comes down to the fact that the current government has promised more social programs for families and poor people. At the same time, she says the ruling party in Poland is connected to the Catholic Church, as well as some far-right and nationalist groups in the country.

“When you are poor you just want to have something to eat and you want to have a place to live and you want to have money to buy books and stuff for your children to go to school. You’re not thinking about other things that might be more abstract. You’re just thinking about what to do to get money to live, and I understand that,” she says. “The other thing is that there is no education in Poland about human rights and about LGBT people. There are a lot of stereotypes, and teachers are also not educated.”

“We don’t have any rights, actually. Any form of partnership, legal partnership, marriage, adoption — it doesn’t exist.”

“With this new government there is more space in the mainstream for some nasty ideas, like fascists and nationalists and all this hate speech they are producing. For example, someone was beaten on the street because he was holding hands with his partner. I’m sure there are a lot of stories like this, but I think people are saying it doesn’t make sense to report it to the police.”

‘Beating faggots’

Magda lived in Gdańsk, one of Poland’s biggest cities, so she says her experience in her homeland was fairly positive. She first started coming out when she was just a teenager. “I was fifteen and I was walking in a park with my sister and I told her that I think I might be interested in girls,” Magda says. “She was like, ‘yeah, that’s fine, okay.’ But coming out is a process, so I was having lots of coming outs in my life and I am still doing it.” Today, Magda identifies as pansexual.

Magda lived in Gdańsk, one of Poland’s biggest cities, so she says her personal experience in her homeland was fairly positive.

While she doesn’t speak with her parents much, Magda says her siblings and her friends have all been accepting. “I was living in a big city so I felt kind of safe,” she says. “I can’t say that I experienced real homophobia, like abuse or things like that. But, of course there a lot of people who have.”

Although she may not have experienced any homophobic violence, Magda says there have been moments that have frightened her. “There was one situation I remember very well,” she explains. “It was seven years ago, and I was coming back home with my girlfriend. We were living in a not very crowded district and it was in the late evening, so it was dark, and there weren’t a lot of people on the street.

We were holding hands and there was a guy who was walking just behind us, and he was talking on the phone. At one moment we heard that he was saying something about ‘beating faggots.’ I was so scared, so we stopped holding hands and we headed straight to a nearby train station to wait a bit, because I was too scared to continue this walk with this guy following us. I don’t think he saw us, and I don’t want to think about what would have happened if he did.”

Polish people are ‘waking up’

Despite the homophobic policies of Poland’s current government, Magda still holds out hope for the future. “I can’t say that it’s only getting worse. It’s getting better at the same time. But I think we need a lot of time to make it work,” she says. “There are a lot of great people in Poland who are fighting and there are a lot of young people who are getting involved in activism. It’s great because there is a new perspective and they are very brave, and I’m really impressed with their work.”

Magda says she feels like Polish people are “waking up” right now to different human rights issues. “In 2016 there was this whole thing related with abortion law in Poland and at that time there was a lot of mass demonstrations. A lot of people came into the street to say no to the law,” she says. “This whole thing showed us that there are a lot of Polish women who want to be active and who want to fight about women’s rights. But not only women’s right because when you are an activist you are meeting other activists and you are learning about other people. I believe in an intersectional feminism, and I believe that you can’t fight only for women’s rights or for LGBT people or poor people. You have to fight for everything in the same moment. You have to think about other aspects of discrimination.”

“I think there is a cultural difference between the typical Icelandic person and the typical Polish person. But I think it’s probably great for these people that they are coming to such a nice country full of different people.”

In Iceland, Magda says she hasn’t been very active in either the local Polish community or the local LGBTQ community. After her experiences in Poland, she says she’s putting her activism on the back burner. “I’m just having a rest from any activism,” she says. “But I think I would like to do some stuff here in the future, maybe for the Polish community, but I’m not sure yet what I want to do. I just need some good rest now.”

“But I think I would like to do some stuff here in the future, maybe for the Polish community, but I’m not sure yet what I want to do,” says Magda. Photo / Aga Doborzynska

Although she has heard that Icelanders have some stereotypes about Polish immigrants, she also says she hasn’t experienced any xenophobia firsthand. “I think there is a cultural difference between the typical Icelandic person and the typical Polish person,” she says. “But I think it’s probably great for these people that they are coming to such a nice country full of different people. There are lots of different people from different countries here, and I believe that if a person is open to learning something from other people then there’s a hope to communicate.”

Main photo: taken by Karol Makurat | Tarakum.pl

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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