“PLOV IS AN IMPORTANT SOCIAL INSTITUTION” – SLAWOMIR WROBLEWSKI ON HIS IMPRESSIONS OF LIFE IN UZBEKISTAN.
Slawomir Wroblewski is an experienced professional who moved to Uzbekistan a few years ago. We decided to find out why he moved to this country and how he sees it today.
I am originally from Poland. I studied political science and journalism at the University of Warsaw. I was actively involved in the development of the meeting-related business tourism industry as a government advisor and founder of my own company. I worked for seven years in the USA and then was appointed as an expert in the European Union.
I was also president of the Polish Association of Conferences and Congresses. I founded several successful projects: the first Convention Bureau in Poland, the Congress Ambassadors Programme, the Academy of Conference Organisers and Business Tourism Exhibitions.
In 2016, I came to Kazakhstan. At that time my former academic supervisor became the rector of Narxoz University in Almaty. I joined him to continue my academic activities.
I knew a little about the country: during the Soviet era, my distant relative and her family were sent to the Kazakh steppes. The locals helped them through the harsh winters.
Over time, I learnt more about Central Asia. Uzbekistan was an inaccessible country back then. After the change of government, one of my friends travelled there and came back with positive impressions. This awakened in me an interest in the country that my parents, who had visited Samarkand and Bukhara when I was young, had told me about.
About the activity
In 2019, I received a job offer from a UK recruitment agency that was looking for an expert in labour organisation and management for a new university in Tashkent. Six months later, the project had to be closed due to a pandemic. Then I was invited to become dean at Silk Road International University of Tourism in Samarkand.
Later, I co-operated with other universities: Webster University, Tashkent State Transport University and Management Development Institute of Singapore in Tashkent.
Now I am Deputy Rector for Operations Management at International Agriculture University in Tashkent. We provide education in English together with the Royal Agricultural University from Great Britain. Our task is to train modern specialists in agriculture, to attract foreign standards and solutions.
My impressions of the country were pleasant from the very beginning. Everyone here is open and friendly to foreigners. People themselves start a conversation, ask where I came from, and tell me about themselves. It is easy to get advice or help from neighbours, passers-by on the street or in a shop.
I collect different observations about the country, society, traditions, and ways of thinking. I take notes and photos and write down interesting local expressions. I notice that some of the most popular phrases are: “How much is it?” and “Will there be a discount?”. These all observations need to be researched in depth. Perhaps I will write a book about it.
Living in Uzbekistan has led me to a few observations that made me, as a scientist, think. Every country has its pros and cons. And that’s normal. In Uzbekistan, I see great potential. When I arrived in the country, I felt younger, because the situation reminded me of my native country as it was 25 years ago. This helps me to anticipate how further development will go. After all, some patterns of social development are similar.
Uzbekistan is a young society, so you can expect a big demand for housing, kindergartens, schools, and urbanisation. For all this to go smoothly, development programmes need to be prepared. For example, create “Smart Cities”, which will be clean and environmentally friendly. Buying a car in Tashkent is a “road to nowhere”. There are already too many cars here, and the city should be for people. Uzbekistan can follow the example of countries where this has already been realised, to learn from their mistakes rather than making its own.
About local cuisine and traditions
There are not so many national dishes in Uzbekistan: plov, samsa, manty. There is a lot of meat everywhere. I am not a vegetarian, but sometimes you want something lighter.
There are many traditions in Uzbekistan that people practice and pass on to new generations.
At the same time, plov is not just a meal to satisfy hunger. It is an important social institution that is accompanied by celebration, conversations, and new relationships. With its help, you can see the hierarchy in society: who sits where, who starts a conversation, and so on. The history of the nation can be clearly seen in it.
There are many traditions in Uzbekistan, that people practice and pass on to new generations. For me, as a foreigner, it is interesting to observe them. On the other hand, a strong traditional component can make a society conservative.
My mission is to share my experience. I have worked in the US and Europe, visited more than 50 countries and owned my own business. I have a lot to share with the younger generation.
As deputy rector at International Agriculture University, I am responsible for internationalization – introducing foreign practices and cooperation with other countries. For this purpose, we organize a unique event that aims to disseminate scientific knowledge. “Life Science Festival” will be held in April 2024 for the second time. I invite everyone to visit.
The publication was translated by Shakhzod Khaydarov.
To read the original interview in Russian on the WE media website, please click here: https://weproject.media/articles/detail/plov-eto-vazhnyy-sotsialnyy-institut-slawomir-wroblewski-o-vpechatleniyakh-ot-zhizni-v-uzbekistane/