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A simple label can make the world of difference to someone's lonely daily routine, Source: JCC Krakow

Gaduławka, the first Happy to Chat bench in Poland opens in Krakow

Gaduławka, the first Happy to Chat bench in Poland opens in Krakow

There are, in fact, very simple ways to fight loneliness

The first 'Happy to Chat' bench in Poland is already a fact, as of this week. Known locally as Gaduławka, it is an upgraded bench that encourages people to talk to each other. As it appears, a simple nudge in the form of an inviting sign may work miracles in terms of fighting loneliness, which has become all the more acute at times of social isolation.

Good ideas spread fast

The first 'Happy to Chat' bench in Poland was inaugurated on the evening of 22 September, at the Jewish Community Centre of Krakow during the week-long Sukkot Festival. Other than its attractive design, the bench wears a special sign, inviting passers-by to sit and strike up a conversation with a stranger. The aim of the action is, of course, to fight loneliness and to rebuild the sense of community among citizens.

Gaduławka is the Polish equivalent of the 'Happy to Chat' Benches, which have already gained roots in Western Europe, USA, Australia and New Zealand. First introduced by Allison Owen Jones in Cardiff, the project reached Poland thanks to Allison’s TEDxKazimierz talk in October 2020, as the organisers of the opening event have explained.

Essentially, the idea was born when Alison saw a man who obviously looked lonely, but she found it inappropriate to start a conversation with him in order not to make him feel awkward. It was then when Alison realised that nowadays it is particularly difficult to start a conversation and this needs to be changed.

Soon after, green signs were hung on benches in Cardiff (UK) encouraging people to talk to the stranger sitting on it. They also gradually appeared in other countries.

The following implementation was supported by Krakow entrepreneur Richard Lucas, and Gliwice-based Maria Gorczyca, working with Fulco — a leading street furniture firm. The action is also supported by Magdalena Błyskosz - the founder of Open Coffee Youth.

Allison Owen-Jones, who assisted the inauguration of the first such bench in Poland, emphasized that you never know what a simple "good morning" can lead to, and expressed her hopes that the bench will encourage people in the neighbourhood to talk to each other.

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