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Maria Bielicka: You’re known to take initiative whenever public institutions fall short. What motivated you to act this time?

Dominika Kulczyk: I was motivated by the usual mechanism: my deep conviction that if there are people in need who would benefit from my support, I take action. It is a matter of decency, if you will; a simple human gesture, almost like an automated response. If I can help, I do it. That is what I am here for. I want people to believe that other people are good. I want people to see that we are in this together and we need each other, because I believe this is a deeply sensible approach. 

In one of your previous interviews, you mentioned that charity should not be a spontaneous decision.

-Let me clarify. Helping others should come out of one’s innermost conviction, out of a a belief that it is the right thing to do in this exact moment. And indeed, if you have the possibility and means, as in my case, it should rather be done in a deliberate and thoughtful way. There is a chance that such help will then have a lasting impact on someone’s life and empower them. Otherwise, helping would be merely self-serving. That is why it must be done conscientiously and seriously. Such help requires careful planning. Of course, it does not mean the entire process should be dispassionate. Emotions play a big role in all of that, it would not make much sense otherwise.

But sometimes the situation demands spontaneous action. Wasn’t that the case now?

-Well, I think it is safe to say that coronavirus came as a surprise to all of us. Therefore, it is certainly hard to talk about any careful planning here. We do not know what tomorrow brings. Here and now is our only certainty; the world we will wake up to once the pandemic is over will probably be much different from the one we lived in until now.

We are trying to make sense of what happened and predict what will come next, but no one can give us any answers. At the same time, some things about our current predicament are clear: we are in the midst of an epidemic, people are dying, and we need medical professionals. We need to save lives.

In situations like the current one, there is no time for lengthy deliberations and strategic planning.

„Doctors for Doctors” Foundation announced that the equipment will be provided specifically to doctors. Aren't you concerned that it might not reach other medical professionals - nurses, paramedics, orderlies - who need protection as well?

- I trust people. It would be counterproductive to get carried away by conspiracy theories at this point. I think that the doctors from the foundation are people we should be proud of; they are highly ethical representatives of a professional association, acting voluntarily out a sense of decency. They were born to help others. That is what I believe and that is why I decided to trust them and offer them my support.

fot. Jakub Wittchen / Kulczyk Foundation

Please correct me if I am wrong, but your intention was to provide everyone with the equipment, right?

-Of course. My intention was to provide protective equipment to everyone who needs it. To protect healthcare workers, their families, and patients. Women make up almost 70% of the entire healthcare personnel in Poland. They are especially important to me.  

The PLN 20 million you donated to help fight the coronavirus is more than one fifth of your foundation’s total expenditure so far. Does it mean other projects will have to be cancelled now?

- PLN 20 million amounts to almost the entire annual budget of the foundation.  That being said, I did not cut any of the already planned projects, I simply provided additional PLN 20 million on top of this year's budget. It means that this year the foundation will have PLN 50 million to spend on aid. It will be an exceptional year, because we usually spend PLN 30 million.

What do you think is the lesson we should learn from this epidemic?

- We really need to do our homework now, because nothing will ever be the same.  As Olga Tokarczuk, whom I adore, says: we are being tested. I think that this pandemic is some sort of a test, a test of our humanity, our quality and dignity. There is no room for half-hearted measures and grey areas here. Everything is black and white now, and that is a very beautiful gift we are given. I think we will learn a lot about ourselves and the world we live in. And may this lesson, while certainly a difficult, even a tragic one, at least be useful. May it teach us some humility, teach us to slow down, to live more, better and deeper. And to be more human. These are my wishes to world and to myself. For us to enjoy more affection and more freedom.

And how has your life changed during the pandemic?

- I have not left my house for five weeks now. This is a completely new experience for me – before the pandemic I sometimes thought I was a prisoner of constant mobility, because I live and work on the move. Now I discover that it is possible to take life more slowly, to be with each other - with family and loved ones - and to do it more deliberately. And I also see a lot of beauty in people and in the community. I was unable to see it before, not with this level of clarity. Maybe it is finally time for a new version of the world, a more female one?

Dominika Kulczyk – an investor and a philanthropist, president of the Kulczyk Foundation, which is committed to supporting infrastructure and aid projects in developing countries. The author of 60 documentary films on issues related to gender inequality and discrimination of women. Vocal supporter of the Sustainable Development Goals set by United Nations (UN) in 2015.

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