Planting Polish Roots in Vienna

From the outlook on Kahlenberg, most people look down over the Vienna skyline, picking out buildings they recognize and admiring the majestic view. Poles do that as well, but they see more.

We Polish people can’t help thinking about the year 1683, when King Jan III Sobieski, one of Poland’s most successful rulers, charged down the hills with his famous “Winged Hussars” and broke the lines of Ottomans sieging the city. This final deadly blow in the Battle of Vienna is the pride of many Poles to this day – one of the most prominent victories in our history and a powerful tie to this city.

Thanks to Poland joining the European Union in 2004, it’s now become far easier to create our own connections. I will never forget my first moment in Vienna, standing at the middle of Mariahilferstraße, sweating in the summer sun, waiting for our teachers to count the heads of all the hyperactive international school students, already feeling at home in a city we had yet to discover. Excentric street art and chain stores may not sound like attributes of a place to fall in love with, but I did. Instantly. Seeing the rest of the city only strengthened my attraction.

I was only 12, and Vienna was my first love. All year long, I would dream about it, waiting to be reunited every summer. I even took a detour when traveling just to spend a few hours in the city center. I would get lost in the narrow alleyways, marvel at the breathtaking façades, and try out a new coffeehouse every time I felt like a break from the world.

Like many Poles, I was struck by the elegance and imperial feeling of this city. One warm night, I made up my mind; when I graduated from high school I would take this long-distance relationship to the next level.

At 18, I made the move.

What surprised me at first was how much Polish I heard in the streets. Little did I know that we’re Vienna’s fourth-largest migrant community! It’s a big group, diverse like the dishes on our Christmas table. Poles choose Vienna for a variety of reasons (p. 10) and, once here, we work hard as we persue our goals and dreams. Some fight for change (p. 18), others realize their business ideas (p. 30) or let their creative juices flow (p. 38). Whatever we do, we love to share our delicacies (p. 32) and we remeber where we came from, while embracing our new home.

Although we’re very active, looking for Polish places in Vienna may feel like a scavenger hunt, like our favorite autumn pastime, foraging for mushrooms: Often, you have to know where to look. But you’re in the right place! And once you find us, with legendary Polish hospitality, you can be sure that there’ll be an empty seat at our table waiting just for you.

Yours Sincerely,

Katarzyna Makusz

Katarzyna Makusz
Katarzyna was raised in Warsaw, moved to Vienna for university and to Madrid to fulfill one more of her dreams. A major in Mass Media and Communication Studies, she’s finishing her second degree in Transcultural Communication. When she’s not chasing stories, you can find her chatting over a cup of coffee, dancing salsa and bachata or planning her next journey.

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