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Jagiellonian University

I have always believed that the initial step for being a responsible citizen is to have a clear understanding of the historical origins of one's country as well as a distinct grasp on the direction it should be taking. I am from the Republic of Georgia, a country which has been struggling for more than two decades to escape from its Soviet heritage, build a modern democratic state, and take a deserved place in Western civilization by becoming a member of the EU and NATO. This is a critical time for this nation, when each of its citizens can use his or her knowledge of history and the desire for a better future for Georgia to play a role in promoting its path to European integration. While striving towards this goal, it is important to learn about the histories of other states that have failed or succeeded on a similar path. I believe that such knowledge will play a fundamental role in correctly evaluating the alternative ways that Georgia faces today for fulfilling its ambitions.

Poland serves as one of the best examples of a post-communist nation that reached its goal of European integration despite the immense troubles it faced along the way. The creation and the struggle of the Solidarity union, the defeat of the communist party in 1989, the political-economic developments and instability of the 90s, the achieved membership of NATO and EU along with the last decade of strong growth -- all of recent Polish history, with its hindrances and successes, has been a lesson as well as an inspiration for Georgians, including my parents' and my grandparents' generations. I too would like to learn about what Poland can teach about overcoming setbacks while striving towards becoming a member of the European family.

This is why I am interested in Polish studies and would like to participate in the Summer Abroad program offered by the Skalny Center. Aside from the required Polish Language course and the seminar Poland in New Europe, I would like to take IR280A - Communism and Democracy in Eastern Europe, to gain insight into the socio-political and economic transformations in Poland as well as other post-communist countries. I believe that history is not a mere accumulation of facts; it is a science of human societies. Thus, instead of passively reading acres of historical books and articles on my own I would like to study history in an academic setting with rigorous, systematic, and organized methods of analysis, such as is offered by this program. Furthermore, taking these courses specifically at the Jagiellonian University will let me interact with professors and students knowledgeable about various aspects of the Polish experience. Through my day-to-day relations with them and the rest of the ancient city of Krakow I will not only learn about the Polish transformation but will be able to experience its fruits and achievements myself.

Such an education in Polish studies will be an invaluable addition to my Take 5 Scholars program that I am participating in here at the University of Rochester. This highly competitive program lets students take several courses free of charge for the purposes of studying a topic they are passionate about but that is different from their major or minor subjects. I am combining Political Science, Philosophy, and International Relations courses to learn about the principles of political science, philosophical foundations of modern states, and general trends in political-economic developments occurring in new democracies. Participation in the summer program in Krakow will give me a better understanding of these themes as it will let me apply the general knowledge to the specific case of the post-Soviet transformation of Poland and its neighboring countries.

I have always kept close in mind George Santayana's famous quote - "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." I believe the word "past" refers not only to the record of one's own country but that of other nations as well, especially of those that share similarities in their historical developments. This is why I am confident that learning about the Polish experience through the Summer Abroad courses in Krakow will give me vital knowledge for my purposes of playing a positive role in assisting my country on its way to European integration.

Levan Bokeria, an international student from Georgia, is a senior at UR, majoring in Philosophy and Brain and Cognitive Sciences with a minor in Economics. He is a recipient of a Skalny scholarship for the summer study on location in Kraków.