Bożena Suchanek
  Beskid hijab

In "Moja Anglia", just like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, she humorously describes the adventures of dating and the funny stories that arise from dating. Direct, honest, eye-catching with its extraordinary appearance. The artist, columnist, blogger, YouTuber, author of the book Ten Który daje Odpowiedź. Bożena Suchanek, a rebellious woman, in an interview for Fourth Son.

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FS: You came to Great Britain a few years ago. You settled down, made friends, started a popular blog. Where did the girl who created the Moja Anglia fanpage community come from?

 

BS: I come from a small town in the south of Poland, in the Beskid Żywiecki, which became famous as the Westerplatte of the South. It is a fairy-tale place in terms of nature and painful memories of the Second World War. Fortifications and monuments of the fallen are permanently inscribed in beautiful landscapes, forests and hills. It is also a place of roadside shrines, which are located in private gardens by the roads. I spent my childhood walking in the forest and catching fish in the stream with the boys from the neighboring village. I was eating a carrot taken straight from the ground and rubbed against my pants. I would pick up lumber from the garbage can and use it to arrange a house in the garden. I grew up in the countryside, but it was not an idyllic childhood. I remember it as full of work and responsibility. I also remember the times when there was no running water and then I was bathing and doing my laundry in the stream. I define myself as a conflict child. As a little girl, I was torn between two sides that were still fighting each other. If I was a friend of one side, I automatically had to be an enemy of the other. And I do not think about it with regret. It's a rather emotionless statement of fact, an understanding of what shaped me. Today I treat my past and place of origin as a gift, although perhaps some psychologist could still see a trauma here, transformed into spirituality.

FS: You went through a severe depression in Poland. You applied for treatment and successfully recovered from your illness. What was the road to recovery, and are you using that experience in your writing?

BS: As a twelve-year-old girl, I had my first anxiety attacks. Depression and a nervous breakdown just waited dormant. They waited for a weak moment. And it came in the form of divorce and decay of life. I decided to undergo treatment because I felt there was no other way. I reported to the Crisis Intervention Center and from there I was directed to a sanatorium, where I spent three therapeutic months. It was a very difficult time, but also wonderful, and I am convinced that the decision about the resort was one of the best gifts I could give myself in my life. Therapy is a painful path that requires courage and looking into the eyes of your own demons. Recovery is a continuous process of understanding yourself, your reactions, and the development of self-awareness. There was a time when I wrote a lot about it, I wanted to give people hope. I am planning a book based on events  from the time of therapy. However, I must say that I consider this period of time to be closed. I am no longer a girl from the Center or a girl who suffered from anxiety. Don't identify with it anymore. I feel comfortable with myself, with my wounds that renew themselves once in a while. I feel good about my otherness and eccentricity. I think that such self-acceptance is a symptom of health. I also think there are spiritual aspects to depression, spiritual aspects to going through the valley of demons, going into your own hells. I think depression can be a soul cry for change, it can actually be something positive, but we don't understand it. At the very beginning of my journey, I met a psychologist who told me important words: "One day you will be grateful for your depression." I have to admit that she was right. Now that I have bad days, I say that I am going through another dark night of the soul. It is as if the seed is put back into the ground, or the caterpillar turns into a chrysalis. It is a continuous cycle of changes.

 

 

FS: The unexpected outbreak of the pandemic and Russia's unexpected attack on Ukraine have caused waves of fear and uncertainty about tomorrow. They re-evaluated our goals and made us approach "enjoy the moment" differently.  How has your life changed under the pressure of the story unfolding before our eyes?

BS: Just before the pandemic, my beloved English uncle died. You know, there are events in life that close certain stages. And for me, something ended with the death of my uncle. When the pandemic broke out, I decided that I would not be leaving the UK anywhere until everything calmed down. I haven't seen my family in two years. The reality has become monotonous and sometimes unbearable. I'd like to see my mom, but we're constantly in touch by phone so it's not that bad. The pandemic has brought me a re-evaluation of the definition of love. Why does love mean to miss and suffer? I don't miss love anymore. Love doesn't have to hurt. I try to see from the position of abundance, not from lack. Everything that I love still exists, I don't have to be where my loved ones are to feel their love. I think the pandemic has made me vulnerable a little. The thought of war brings fear for the future and for relatives in Poland. But war also raises many questions about humanity and where we are going and why we don't learn from our mistakes. Why do we still want to take part in wars that are only a game of people in high state positions. We civilians are not important in these wars, and yet we like to join them, because going to war means being a hero. Because going to war means administering justice. It is very easy to provoke people and turn them against each other, it is enough to touch intelligently where there is an unhealed wound. That's why I very much question this kind of heroism. After that, we will again have monuments to the fallen. And traumas that will drag on for generations to come. In this way, mankind will never develop. And the basis of development is to heal the trauma and limit the formation of a new one. No new effects can be expected if this san scenario is repeated over and over again.

FS: THE ONE WHO GIVES THE ANSWER is your first great literary debut. Under the mysterious title there is a story of a girl looking for love - Your Story. Is the story really an autobiography? And what is actually behind the title of the book?

BS:  (Laugh) I don't know if it's such a great debut. I do not feel this greatness, rather smallness. And I'm starting the process of getting used to being nobody. But that's another story. The book is about the search for love, but in a different sense than that shaped by pop culture. I have the impression that the meaning of the word "love" has changed dramatically, that you need to look for a new model. Can we still be friends in today's world? You cannot be a friend of every person you meet, because it is physically impossible, friendship is a big emotional contribution. But we are often not friends in our closest relationships. You know, there's this nice interpretation of the English word 'intimacy' which means 'into-me-see'. True love and intimacy is when someone sees you as you are, with all your emotions. When you can just open up, be yourself, activate your inner child, show that soft underbelly.

"He Who Gives the Answer" is another way to say He Who Gives Answers to Every Prayer. It is one of God's names, one of His attributes. But also the name of one of the characters of the book. This name can only be guessed by a person who is well versed in Islam. When asked if the book is an autobiography, I will answer like this: "any similarity to events and people" ... You know the rest of this sentence ...

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FS: You are a self publisher. You participated in the process of proofreading, submitting the text, formatting and issuing the final version in the form of an e-book. Please tell me what, in your opinion, the future self-publisher can expect?

BS: A future self-publisher, like a future writer, may expect a difficult path. And I'm not saying this to discourage writing and publishing. It's just a fact. That is why you cannot get discouraged, and in difficult moments you just have to rest, take a breath and then move on. For me, publishing was a more difficult journey than writing itself. Everything took an infinitely long time, the work to finish the book was arduous and I questioned the idea of publishing and emerging like a writer on many occasions. It was not even without tears. Anyone who has tried this path knows how frustrating it is. We very often think that writing is fame and the red carpet and we fall in love with this very vision. The reality, however, is completely different. Writing is hours spent on a laptop and the constant - often literal - pain in the ass ... It is making the same decision every morning: the decision to write even though there is a good chance that our writing will never bring a tangible result. I also think that both the writer and the self-publisher should value themselves first and foremost. There is also the fact that as a self-publisher we are treated as an inferior genre of the author. And if we still come from the so-called bloggers, we are already screwed. A publishing house is often perceived by the reader as a kind of authority that decides which book is good and what is not. That's why self-publishers are a bit uphill.

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FS: After publishing your e-book, you decided to publish it on paper. You took advantage of the opportunities offered by the American trading company Amazon. What was the publishing process like, what are the printing costs we are dealing with and would you recommend this way of publication to the authors?

BS: The plus in publishing by Amazon is the costs that is practically none. The author simply has to load the manuscript into a special program, develop the cover and undergo verification. Each book is printed to order, so we also avoid paper consumption and storage costs. About thirty or forty percent of the book's price goes to the writer. It all sounds fantastic. There is only one very serious problem. Amazon does not accept Polish. You can still find Polish books on this platform, but I heard that they are now unacceptable and Polish-language authors are asked to remove the books from the platform. I managed to put the book on Amazon by pure luck. A few days after accepting the manuscript, I received an email saying the platform said there was a mistake, but since they can't take my book off themselves now they kindly ask me to do it myself. I did not do that. I find Amazon's attitude reprehensible and striking at the basic rights of the author and the reader. I do not understand why the Polish language is removed from the platform when many other languages and even little known dialects are on it. My book still exists on the platform, unfortunately I can't make corrections anymore, and I could use a few. The case of Amazon should be publicized, while I myself, as an author, are constantly looking for new publishing channels, especially a channel that will enable me to sell on the Polish market. 

FS: You run the "Bożena Suchanek" channel on the YouTube streaming platform. Just like on the My England blog, you talk about your private life, make conclusions and thoughts. Do you think the video message will win over the written one? Is YouTube and Tik Tok the future of artistic content creators?

BS: Gee, I hope not! Many of my readers have said that they would prefer a paper-based book to an electronic e-book. I think that shows something. There are all kinds of audiences and probably many of them will reach YouTube and Tik Tok. However, I think that despite the great popularity of modern media, the written word will still have value.

 

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FS: You have mentioned many times that you are multi-level, multi-layered, non-obvious. What is it actually about and how does it translate into your creativity?

BS:  Man is like a mosaic. He has different facets of personality. It also has a master self that watches all thoughts and allows all aspects to exist. I think that for the fullness of personality you need to integrate the aspects that we have superseded. We even have to integrate the devil. If we do not have an enemy in our aspects, we will not have an enemy in other people as well. You know, people are like ogres, like onions, they have layers ... I have an inherent ambivalence which means that I often cannot take a clear position. I can pass from one point of view to another. For example, one day I can think like an opponent of Islam, and the next day I think like its follower. At the same time, I can see which aspect is active in me. Maybe someone will say it's a personality disorder, but I hate it. Everything coexists, and I often watch what comes like clouds in the sky. Although there are also moments of discomfort. I can enter the thinking of my interlocutor even if I do not agree with him. It's like traveling the path of someone else's experiences and thoughts. People often do not have an ally in me because I do not like to have only one viewpoint. I won't get a lot of fans either, because people like to look for confirmation of their views, and I'll give it to them one day to break it the next. After the emigration identity crisis, I feel that I no longer have to identify with anything, there is no such thing that something is only good and something only bad. I have the impression that wherever I go, I belong there. My homeland is everywhere. I think that this attitude makes my writing ambiguous. One book may be based on one view while the other is based on a completely different vision. It is like a journey through perspectives.

Is there a core of it that I can call my own? Yes, it is!

FS: You cover your hair and body, and your statements often refer to the Muslim culture. You say that the Koran saved you, you relax with the sounds of the Orient and you are friends with many followers of Islam. For the average Pole, it is an exotic and dangerous area, and it encourages an even hostile response. Have you ever encountered negative reactions from your fellow countrymen? What does Islam look like through your eyes?

BS: I was probably interested in Islam only because it is perceived so badly in Poland. The narrative in Poland is that we are not allowed to open certain doors. Because behind them, allegedly, there is to be a great danger, but also because exceeding them is tantamount to some unimaginable national betrayal. As I became interested in Islam, many of my countrymen suddenly became staunch Catholics, even though they had not been in the church for twenty years. It was not without epithets, emotional conversations. I was outraged at them then, but now I understand that they were acting out of fear because the narrative told them that Islam was wrong. But Islam, like many other things (other religions, politics, money) is just a tool. The tool is neither good nor bad. It is man who gives it meaning through how he uses this tool. And man uses the tool according to the state of mind in which he is. The image of reality can be manipulated by presenting the tool according to how it has been used. We can create fear and prejudice or adoration in this way. Muslims are normal people like us. I am friends with them, I eat with them, I celebrate with them. I used to pray with them in the mosque. Many of them consider me a Muslim and many do not. People are divided into two types. On those who will accept you and those who will not accept you. Those who accept you give you the same name they call themselves. I think that's how it works. I know these people a bit, I know what bothers them. Sometimes they turn against me saying that I am not Islamic enough. But I'm laughing at it now. I am very autonomous, I defend my spiritual space a lot and I know that my version of Islam has nothing to do with other people's version. I am not and never will be Islamic enough, and I don't even have such ambitions. Just like I'll never be Polish or English enough. For me, Islam is a beautiful ideology, but in theory. The human handicap makes it difficult to put this ideology into practice, especially without a wise spiritual guide. The dark side of many Muslims is that they blindly love their religion and fail to balance. I often tell them that they worship their religion, not God Himself. Then they get angry with me. I will never be radical in my spiritual search, I am rather attracted to Sufism, Islamic mysticism, just like quantum physics. I think spirituality and science will come together someday. I knew this in my early teens, but we'll wait a few more centuries for it.  

 

FS: You often talk about the spiritual path, the need to awaken humanity and the necessity of world changes. You are known for your controversial views and statements about the structure and functioning of modern society. You are familiar with the phrases "We will set your house on fire" or "Be careful what you say". Where does democratic freedom of speech actually end and does the creator still have the right to freedom of expression?

BN: Someone once told me that artists forgive just because they are artists. But artists are also a group that is not taken seriously. We usually associate them with the unfortunates sipping absinthe, for whom the reality is too painful. Artists are a very sensitive group, they see more and react to events ahead of time. However, I have the impression that they are a margin, a safety valve through which what worries us escapes. We are allowed to exist but not taken seriously. However, the problem arises when the artist becomes controversial. This is sometimes the only way to get more attention to something. He leans over and gets his nose. I think that to understand an artist you need predispositions. Language is always a barrier and it is impossible to speak in such a way that everyone and everywhere can understand us. One sentence will be understood differently depending on where the recipient's consciousness is located. And hence such reactions as "we set your house on fire" or "we cut your hand off". A group of Poles often speak ISIS to me and are not even aware of it. But did you know that every human being strives for his own vision of good? So even those who say that they will chop off my hand think that it will be some good, they do justice according to their understanding of the world, because they interpret my words as evil. Does the creator have the right to freedom of speech? He has, if he allows himself to do so. But there will also be consequences of this.   

FS: You are a self-declared single, you talk loudly about childlessness and you often face a wall of incomprehension on the part of… women. Do you think contemporary women are still stuck in the imposed, ossified structure of the cult of the family? And when is a woman a woman a wolf?

BS: I am probably single because it is difficult for me to find someone who would like to build a conscious relationship. Or maybe I just have a difficult character and no one can stand with me? I am, as you said, defiant. England is probably not a country conducive to permanent relationships, all kinds of short-term friendships, based on satisfying physical needs, are very fashionable here. And I don't want something like that. Besides, if you are a woman who does not want to have children, it seems that there is no point in entering into a stable relationship. I have heard the question "Why do you need a permanent relationship if you don't want to have children?" This question has always been asked by women. I also heard from women, "A man will not stay with you and will not love you if you do not bear his children." What I heard was scary and very strange for me. Because you can have a relationship for the relationship itself. It is not necessary to have offspring. It seems to me that people lack creativity in the field of building relationships, as if you had to stick to a set scenario at all costs, where you should check off the wedding, the children and the house loan one by one. And in my opinion, that's not the point. The relationship should primarily contain friendship and closeness. Are women still in family worship? I think so. And I don't think they are aware at all that they are stuck this way. They often hurt themselves and other women. Because it is from women, mothers, aunts and girlfriends that most of the questions about when the children will appear, when the wedding will come. It is women who can constantly criticize themselves for unwashed windows, I make a mess in the living room, too thin or too plump figure and other things. European feminism makes us aggressive towards men while we are trying to be just like them. But we are most wonderful when we have deep contact with our femininity. And when we give ourselves and other women the freedom to follow our own path, which does not necessarily mean family. Perhaps we don't know how to support each other yet. Maybe because nobody teaches us how to do it, or maybe because we've forgotten how to do it.

FS: Do you have any plans for another book?

BS:  Yes!!! I have started a few books, three half-written, and ideas for more. I just need time and strength to put it all together!

FS: What would your advice be for authors who are going to go self-publishing?

BS: It can be done!

The most important thing is perseverance, a plan and a strategy of small steps.

And appreciating yourself.

FS: Your way to forget about the problems of the day is?

BS: Shopping in charity stores, i.e. landfills of England...

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Insanely light style. You want more and more

- Klaudia, the reader

She touches the untouchable

-Joanna, the reader

Bożena Suchanek Official

 

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