Non-governmental organisations and the media, for example, have been sounding the alarm about the increasing hate speech and hate aggression against various social groups in recent years. In Poland, LGBT+ people, refugees and religious minorities are particularly vulnerable. Under conditions of progressive radicalisation, society quickly becomes polarised and loses its capacity for dialogue. The scale of the problem is evidenced, for example, by the hateful reactions to the humanitarian crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border. There is a lack of opportunities to meet and talk in depth with the so-called ‘imagined stranger’, which would be the beginning of a change in attitudes. Meanwhile, one of the educational activities that serve to build dialogue in the public space is the Living Library, a space for direct contact and conversation with people representing groups particularly vulnerable to discrimination.
As part of the project, five Living Libraries were conducted in Warsaw (including three online and two in public spaces). The pilot Living Library was aimed at male and female psychology students at the University of Warsaw, while the first Living Library Festival in Poland was organised in cooperation with the Academy of Special Education. A total of 154 people participated as Readers and Readers’ Readers. Around 70 people were involved in the organisation of the events themselves, a significant number as Living Books. The project also provided a number of development and skills enhancement workshops for those involved in preparing the Living Libraries. The grantee also organised storytelling workshops to develop the communication skills of people in crisis of homelessness from Emmaus shelter, Cafe Zytnia and the Po Drugie Foundation. A report was also prepared on the analysis of available publications and documents regulating the functioning of local government institutions in terms of the anti-discrimination provisions contained therein.
The project has helped to spread the idea of the Living Library in Warsaw, especially among young people. Dozens of people developed their competences in organising and participating in the Living Library, as well as in working with people from groups at risk of exclusion. 154 people had a total of several hundred conversations with representatives of groups experiencing discrimination and prejudice. These people raised their awareness of the dangers of hate speech. The grantee also looks forward to further cooperation with partners, including universities, who have taken an interest in the idea of Living Libraries.