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YP Spotlight on Warsaw

04 May 2022

Our May YP 'Spotlight On' feature focuses on Poland where we interviewed Katarzyna Stec, a Senior Associate, and Associates Joanna Derlikiewicz and Andrzej Girdwoyń to discuss working life in Warsaw, activities unique to Poland and the teams response to the war in Ukraine. 

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your job and where in the world you work.

Katarzyna: I'm Katarzyna Stec and I'm a Senior Associate in the Tax Advisory team in DWF's Warsaw office. I've worked for DWF since 2019. Before joining, I was a tax consultant for one of the Big Four Consulting firms. 

Joanna: My name is Joanna Derlikiewicz and I am an Associate in the Energy team at DWF Warsaw. I have been at DWF for almost 3 years now, starting as a legal intern after graduating. Beforehand I worked for Kultura Liberalna  contributing journalistic content, running fundraising campaigns and organising events. I wasn't keen about working in the legal field before joining DWF but this has changed drastically.

Andrzej: My name is Andrzej Girdwoyń and I am an Associate in DWF Poland's Dispute Resolution team. I joined DWF a year ago, before that I completed a one-year sabbatical across Germany and Switzerland where I worked on my PhD dissertation on civil law. Prior to that, I worked for several years at a boutique law firm focusing on private medical law. 

2. What do you enjoy most about your job?

Katarzyna: I love being challenged on difficult projects, but what I enjoy the most is the people I work with. We spend a massive proportion of our life at work so having strong relationships with colleagues is very important to me.

Joanna: It is the combination of projects requiring brand new legal solutions and the joyful and cooperative atmosphere in our team created by my colleagues. 

Andrzej: Two issues immediately come to mind. Firstly, my team consists of brilliant professionals who are also interesting and empathic people. Secondly, our work is really creative and requires a lot of consideration, which makes it challenging but rewarding at the same time.

3. Warsaw DWF colleagues are known for their support of Ukrainian refugees. Please tell us how your office contributes to helping Ukraine.

Katarzyna: The large-scale outbreak of war in Ukraine that took place on 24 February this year was a huge shock for many Ukrainians. Nobody had taken into account that the war in Donbas would spread all over Ukraine and no one had been prepared for such scenario. As a result, once the outbreak of the war became clear, thousands of Ukrainians crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border to find a shelter in Poland.

DWF Warsaw team's reaction to this was immediate - almost every team member engaged to help refugees – some people offered accommodation and transportation from the Polish-Ukrainian border, other people donated money, food, clothes and other other necessities. Those able showed willingness to provide refugees with legal advice on immigration matters.  Everyone helped in their own way.

4. Please tell us a bit about how you personally contributed to to helping Ukraine and Ukrainian refungees.

Katarzyna: My home town Przemyśl, which is very close to the pedestrian border-crossing in Medyka, immediately became a Polish hub of humanitarian aid for the Ukrainian refugees. Some refugees had friends or relatives in Poland who took care of them once they crossed the border, but there were many with nowhere to go. Such refugees were offerred free accommodation, food and transportation to other regions of Poland. 

I played just a small role in this relief mission – at the very beginning, I was matching Ukrainian refugeees looking for accommodation and transportation with those who could offer it. Once this process was taken over by local authorities, I focused on supporting a job search in Poland for Ukrainian friends – one of them is Irina, a Ukrainian lawyer that I worked with previously.

As with many people in Poland, I have been donating food, clothes etc. to various charitable and public institutions helping Ukrainian refugees. I have been also supporting local Magic of the Carpathians Foundation whose founders are delivering (in-person) specialistic gear and professional medical equipment to Ukrainian war zones, currently in the Donbas region. 

Some of my friends are still in Ukraine as they serve in the Ukrainian army and in the territorial defence battalions – the only thing I can do for them is to remain in touch with them to demonstrate my support for them. Last but not least, I try to help animals-refugees from Ukraine that also suffer from the war but mass media rarely focuses on them. Currently, I'm in a formal adoption process of a 3-years cat refugee from Kiev that lost its owner in the war. 

Joanna: As Kasia said, the outbreak of the war was a complete shock for us in Poland too. I can clearly recall the atmosphere of that day, when everybody in the office was preoccupied with the disastrous event taking place behind the border and focusing on anything else was impossible.

My family and I offered accommodation for a Ukrainian family through one of the volunteering websites. As soon as I posted the offer I received multiple phone calls from people desperately seeking refuge. Frequently people were also suffering from diseases or had family members with disabilities and needed advice on where they should go to receive help. The scale of the interest that our one offer received made me realise the importance of every single contribution. Even if in the light of the war atrocities happening in Ukraine one might feel helpless, we should remind each other that the help provided even to one person has a huge meaning and is a very powerful tool.

The Ukrainian family that has lived with us since had been running a small confectionery business called "Afrodiziak Chocolate" in Poltava, Ukraine, selling hand made chocolate based on own recipes (their website is available on Instagram under @afrodiziak.chocolate). They managed to get some of their products delivered to Poland so my family and I have helped spread the information about the business and thus contributing to helping Ukraine – the money raised is used for purchasing medical aid and military equipment to be sent to the Ukrainian army. Our Warsaw office also contributed to this cause, purchasing chocolate for the employees and clients of the office, a gesture I really appreciate.

5. What makes the Warsaw office unique compared to other locations?

Andrzej: As the capital of a country undergoing intensive economic and social change, Warsaw offers a variety of options both in respect to professional and social life. DWF Poland clients carry out projects of significance in our country. By supporting them with our legal expertise, we can observe these investments from within.

From a social perspective, Warsaw has become increasingly interesting to live in. It may come as a surprise to many, but our city is considered as one of the most vegetarian and vegan-friendly places in Europe! Additionally, many view Warsaw's public transportation as first class. Add to that many unique museums and a diverse nightlife, you get a city that has it all!

6. If a YP from another country was coming to visit you, where would you take them?

Andrzej: Warsaw is well-known for its complex history, which is at the same time the reason why, at a first glance, it may appear architecturally messy. When hosting guests from abroad, I usually start my tour near a market hall (Hala Gwardii) in the city centre. From that point, you can see buildings from all the significant times in the Warsaw history: an 18th century classicist palace from the time Poland was a monarchy, market halls from the 19th century, which were once filled with Jewish vendors, socialist concrete blocks, or modern skyscrapers of steel and glass. Each of these buildings tells a story with its own hopes and dreams.

If you are into urban studies, Warsaw is the city just for you. If not, it can still offer many interesting experiences! Go for a walk in the Old Town and Mariensztat and have a snack at the food trucks by the Vistula River. Then dare to take a journey through the universe at the Copernicus Science Centre or choose a trip through downtown bars. End your evening by watching a movie at one of the small arthouse cinemas or enjoy a party at the many clubs the city has to offer (in respect of both, recommendations available upon request). No matter what you fancy, in Warsaw you will find what you are looking for.

7. If you could work anywhere else in the world where would it be?

Joanna: Probably Iceland – due to my recent fascination with this country and its secluded, peaceful atmosphere that I appreciated during the trip I made there. Quoting Jack Torrance from The Shining, "five months of peace is just what I want" 😊

For more information, please contact Katarzyna.stec@dwf.law

Written by Katarzyna Stec, Senior Associate, Joanne Derlikiewicz, Associate and Andrzej Girdwoyń

Further Reading