MyGRANT METAMORPHOSIS – funded by the European Union

Serhii Tarnovski

Ukrainian, 57 years old
5 May 2021

Serhii Tarnovski

The toughest part was my different vision of the society.

Works at the Stained Glass Museum and Workshop in Cracow, makes stained glass.

When did you come to Poland?

I came in June 2014 with the whole family – the wife and with my daughter.

Why did you choose this country and Cracow?

Somewhat by accident, but not entirely. For me, Poland is the fatherland of my ancestors. My grandmother on father’s side and mother of my father’s grandfather were both Polish. I liked it. Poland was for me like a little light. I liked the culture. I tried learning the language. I used to visit my grandmother. There was usually a lot of Poles there. I planned on going to a different town than Cracow. We were investigating which cities in Poland are best for living. And so I ended up in Cracow, because I had friends here, and they offered me a job.

What did you know about Poland before you came here?

What did I know, that’s a hard question…
I watched a lot of Polish movies and I liked Poland. I liked a lot a comedy group with Polish roots, which operated in the former Soviet Union territory.

What was your first step?

The work was prepared for me, there were some problems at the beginning, though. At first I lived at a friends’ flat. I also had my wife’s support. She helped me and took care of our business in Poland.

What was the easiest and the hardest part of living in Poland?

I really liked the cleanliness of the streets, good transportation, one can feel stability and security. I liked the culture a lot. The toughest part was my different vision of the society. It was different than I thought. It turned out Polish language is not easy and is very hard to pronounce. It was easier to understand in a large group but when spoken fast, it was harder.

Did you speak Polish when you came here?

Before I came to Poland I learned the language for about 1-2 years. I took a course in the Polish-Ukrainian Fellowship Centre. I understood a lot of Polish because a lot of words are similar to Ukrainian. The most useful words (for the daily life) I knew and had no problems with them. I understood a lot and later I learned to speak.

What do you do at work exactly?

In the workshop we make stained glass. I make stained glass in the process, from the beginning to the end, well, maybe except designing. I used to do the entire process. I no longer do. Now, we divide the work and everyone focuses on what they do best. I am given a design and I work according to it. These are various types of stained glass, mostly sacral, for churches. But also private, for example for townhouses.

How do you do it and how long does it take?

Such a glass requires great precision. The time to make it can vary and depends on many factors, for example the size, the number of glass pieces, is it to be painted and the quantity of the dye. It is finally put inside a 700 degree Celsius furnace. Afterwards it is being gradually cooled. The whole process can take from 1 hour to several days – depending on the number of elements.

How did you come up with the idea to make the stained glass?

At first it came from the need to make a stained glass at home. Before arriving in Poland I was building a church in Ukraine. I changed the design, improving certain aspects, to make it prettier. There was a need to make a stained glass, so I began looking for information and ideas to make the church more beautiful. In Poland I thought about the stained glass, because there’s plenty of them here. I searched for an opportunity and it has appeared…

What do you think are the skills required to make the stained glass?

It’s so called Benedictine work, it calls for a lot of patience, because these are very small things, tiny pieces of glass. One needs good technical skills. The ability to combine taste and practice.

Do you succeed in expressing emotions by making the stained glass? What are your best works?

I always try to follow the artist’s vision and to convey it the way he wished it conveyed. There are several works of stained glass, which were important to me, contain something of me, for example the stained glass of the Holy Spirit we made for the city of Czestochowa. I made this project the way it should be done – I put my heart into it, because my boss let me do it (small touches of improvement). The other special work for me was the stained glass, which has never been done before – Polonia by Wyspianski.

What does your social life in Poland look like? Do you have Polish friends? Do you keep contact with people of your origin?

I don’t have much free time. The work is from 10am to 6pm. I try to go to the cinema. I meet people. I do have Polish friends, I spend time with them.

Do you have any advice to people willing to live in another country? How to make it in another country?

You have to know languages (the more, the better). You have to get to know the culture of the country, to take part in the local activities, to understand more and to know what to talk about. One should also watch local movies, make friends. It’s a good idea to travel, seeing more places and towns gives more knowledge, allows for better understanding of the country.

Is there anything you miss from your homeland?

The family (the parents who live in Ukraine), the friends and people in general, because they’re important. I don’t miss the architecture. My town was closed – everything was gray and gloomy. Additionally it was dangerous, you didn’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Thank you for the inspiring interview!