In the first such initiative in Poland, Krzysztof Skwara, queer activist and the 2019 Warsaw Fellow, has collected all the useful LGBTQ+ addresses in his hometown Krakow, Poland’s second largest city. The Well-Oriented Krakow (Zorientowany Kraków) website is a great resource to queer folks, as well as their family, friends and allies. When the state does not protect all its citizens and denies them their fundamental rights and services, the NGOs and grassroots initiatives step in to fill the gap.
Divided into three sections, the Oriented-Krakow website offers practical insight into “emotional support and legal aid”, “crisis intervention”, and “education, activism, community”. It features 20 organizations, 17 initiatives, and 17 LGBTQ-friendly places. Instead of having to research and verify many essential services – from helplines to free psychological help and youth hostels for those experiencing homelessness – one has only one address to memorize, that is http://zorientowanykrakow.pl/!
What started as a database has now the potential to grow into a thriving community of queer activists, artists, and academics. As more people in Krakow find out about it (through the social media word-of-mouth), the network expands and new locations are being added. “It’s meant to connect people,” says Krzysztof, who sees the website as a safe space, where those looking for help can find it. The website informs, educates, but also gives a platform to lesser-known activists, like e.g. “trans dad” (trans tata), who shares online the experience of transgender parenting.
What prompted the need for the initiative was never a limited number of queer spaces, but rather a lack of knowledge and access to reliable information. “When I started my research I realized how many organizations were out there!,” says Krzysztof, who has put many hours into verifying every single address and person that is featured on his website.
Mapping of the queer city is also somewhat a revolutionary project as it (re)claims the public space, especially for a city known to be quite as conservative as Krakow (although, as Krzysztof points out, it was in Krakow that the first openly transgender Polish MP was elected). On social media accounts of Oriented-Krakow, Krzysztof documents Krakow’s antique balconies with rainbow flags on display, revealing the city’s diverse colors. It is a way of manifesting pride, but also visibility. “We want benches named after queer activists and queer school patrons,” dreams Krzysztof of changing his city to properly reflect and represent its diverse citizens.