Thank you to Sue Mleczko, a founding member, for the following anecdotes on the beginnings of IWAK.
“It was a spring day in 1994 when I decided to visit the bakery (cukiernia) near the park on Królowej Jadwigi and parked my car where the taxi stand now exists. As I came out of the bakery, a young woman approached me and asked if I was American as she had noticed my Illinois license plate. She introduced herself, Melissa Juszyński, and said she was new in town, and that her husband worked for the new Coca-Cola bottling factory in Niepołomice. She asked if there were any social organisations for expats in Kraków. When she heard there were none, she decided to put one together.
She had belonged to the International Women’s Association in Warsaw where she had previously lived and suggested that an organisation be started in Kraków. A group of four or five women began meeting at each other’s homes for coffee.
I remember a key decision from IWAK’s early days. For more than a year after its beginning, when membership had increased to about 30 women, there was a debate about what to call the group. Informally it was ‘the women’s group’, but a movement had begun to name it KIWA, for Kraków International Women’s Association. The problem with that name was that, in Polish, KIWA (kiła) is the name of a venereal disease! So that’s how ‘IWAK’ was chosen.”
And thanks to that fortuitous meeting on one spring day in 1994, Kraków now has an active International Women’s Association! The coffee mornings of those four or five women evolved into the IWAK organisation of today with its committees, charity work, newsletter, interest groups, and many events and activities. And, of course, we still like to meet for coffee.