14 October 2011 Krakow in ICORN

Krakow is one step closer to acceding to the ICORN International Cities of Refuge Network. Another step in Krakow's application procedure is today's signing of the declaration on the continuation of cooperation between the City of Krakow and ICORN. The ceremony held at the Villa Decius was attended by Magdalena Sroka - Deputy Mayor of the City of Krakow for Culture and City Promotion, and Helge Lunde - Executive Director at ICORN.

"It's time to change the approach to the exile," said Sroka during the ceremony. "We cannot consider it only as a problem, but also an opportunity for the local community. Encounters with the Other always enables redefinition of ourselves and growth of a committed and creative society," explained Deputy Mayor. Sroka also added that human dignity is one of the most important humanistic values, and by acceding to ICORN, we join the circle of mature democracies, which regard for protection of fundamental creative and expressive freedom as a value of paramount importance. "Our involvement in ICORN is also how we pay off our obligation to civilisation, a debt incurred by our writers in exile," said the Deputy Mayor.

"I have observed the presence of such values as creativity, hospitality and solidarity in Krakow on many occasions and I'm delighted to be here and sign this declaration at the conference in Villa Decius," said Helge Lunde, Executive Director of ICORN. "I believe Krakow will play a crucial role in the ICORN network and the writers coming to Krakow will have a significant role in democratisation processes throughout the world," added Lunde.

The document signed today envisages that both parties, guided by the ideas of supporting democratic development and civic society as well as the freedom of speech, declare their will to continue the activities aimed at the accession of the City of Krakow to the ICORN International Cities of Refuge Network and obtainment of the title of a City of Refuge. Both parties declare that an agreement on cooperation under ICORN programme will be signed upon meeting the formal requirements.

The signing of the declaration was a special event accompanying the "Borderless People" International Conference held on the 13th and 14th of October at Villa Decius.

It is worth mentioning that the decision on Krakow's accession to ICORN was made by Krakow City Council in May 2011. ICORN is committed to protecting eminent intellectuals by developing 'writer in residence' programmes in the cities belonging to the network. The organisation is also concerned with facilitating contact and cooperation between individual cities of the network, Festival directors and writers, through close cooperation with the EU and International PEN.

The network has operated since 2005 and now includes almost 40 cities offering safe refuge to writers. Some of ICORN's members include Barcelona, Stockholm, Oslo, Brussels, Frankfurt, Palma de Mallorca and Mexico. The cities themselves cannot apply for membership in ICORN but they can join it upon invitation. Before Krakow's councillors made the decision on joining ICORN, the Executive Director of the organisation, Helge Lunde, had extended an official invitation to the Mayor of the City of Krakow, Jacek Majchrowski.

What was of great significance was that international opinion was greatly impressed by the Villa Decius' acceptance of the writer Maria Amelie for a temporary stay (organised at very short notice) -  Amelie was offered asylum and great hospitality. The author will also be a guest of the 3rd Conrad Festival, beginning in Krakow on the 2nd of November.