• August 8, 2014
  • 114

Young, ambitious, hard-working: Elżbieta Grużewska

We start a series of interviews with young Poles from Vilnius and Vilnius region who are ambitious and hardworking. Most of them could be characterised as talented. How do they realise their plans and dreams? What are they like? We hope that thanks to these interviews some kind of a picture of young generation of Poles who were born in Lithuania or have chosen this country will be created. Out first interviewee is Elżbieta Grużewska.

Recently you have graduated. What have you majored in?

I have studied psychology at the Department of Psychology of the Vilnius University. After receiving the title of Bachelor I decided to continue my studies and on 25th June I gained the master’s degree. During the course of my studies I took part in a scientific project organised by the University titled: “Psychological effects of extreme trauma and social transformations and coping with them”. It is a wide ranging study in which professors, novice and expert psychologist are engaged.

What is the aim of the project?

First of all, we were dealing with the psychological trauma. For example, we wanted to find out, how people reacted to the change of the system when Lithuania transformed from communism to an independent country. We are interested in social changes. What kind of influence they had have on the personal life of an individual and whole families. The initiators of the project wanted to know how these changes were experienced by the national minorities. I was studying that subject because I know Polish language. I have included some part of these studies in my masters dissertation.

How were these studies conducted?

By personal interviews and special surveys.

Are there any differences between worldviews of Lithuanians and people belonging to national minorities?

We cannot sum up the conclusions yet, because the project is not finished. Such project is realised for the first time. Preliminary studies show that people belonging to national minorities have experiences similar to those of all Lithuanian citizens who were affected by social changes. Loss of relatives, restrictions of religious beliefs, loss of possessions and job and difficulties in finding a new one are the most commonly mentioned experiences. Beside all these commonly shared experiences during the social transformations Poles living in Lithuania have to deal with experiences specific to them, like negative attitude towards their nationality, increasing discrimination and difficulties in combining Lithuanian and Polish culture. Poles believe that such behaviours are inappropriate and unjust because they are also Lithuanian citizens and together with Lithuanians have fought for the independence of Lithuania. Awareness of their position, help provided by relatives and a good command of Lithuanian language have helped and still help them in difficult situations.

What school have you finished? Did the school have an influence on your choice of studying psychology?

I have attended the Władysław Syrokomla Secondary School in Vilnius. I liked biology, languages and literature. I admit, I did not love maths. However, I knew that this school subject teaches logical thinking. I become convinced that general knowledge is required in life. By the end of the school I knew I wanted to study psychology. As a matter of fact, I thought also about studying medicine, but finally I have chosen psychology. Studying medicine means swotting up a lot and I like to analyse and talk with people. Family has strengthened me in my decision. I would like to add that in childhood I wanted to become an astronomer.

It seems to me that you are exceptionally ambitious and that you pursue perfection.

I simply know what I want and I always try to achieve my goal. I do not engage in many various tasks. Instead, I am focused on my goal. My dream is a private psychologist practice, own surgery.

Where have you done your practical training?

In the Rehabilitation Centre in Valakupiu (Valakupių Reabilitacijos Centras). I wanted to do my practical training in a psychiatric hospital on Vasaros street or in Naujoji Vilnia, but I was assigned to the Rehabilitation Centre. Work in such centre differs from the one in a hospital.

What are the differences?

I can compare them because previously I have done practical training in a psychiatric hospital where I dealt with people with mental disorders. In the Rehabilitation Centre I have encountered people who have undergone physical traumas, operations and amputations and people who, because of various reasons, could not continue work in their field of expertise and have to choose another one. Such process is called occupational rehabilitation.

How did the patients welcome you?

With some reserve, I must admit. It is sad that an opinion prevails that a psychologist is needed only when somebody has a mental disorder. I was trying to disprove such belief. Every time I introduced myself people were saying that they are fine and do not need any help. I was explaining to the patients that a conversation with me does not put them under any obligation and that maybe together we could find a remedy for their problems. Sometimes I compare this situation to furnishing a flat. More and more often we do not do it on our own, but we ask an interior designer for help who could suggest the choice of net curtains and furniture. Many times people talking with me have opened up, they did not feel left alone with their suffering and problems. I believe that in some cases people had have difficulties in getting in contact with me because of my young age.

Have you said something about yourself?

Usually I start the conversation with a patient with talking about myself for few minutes. I am aware that it is easier to establish communication with person you know something about.

Were you successful in convincing amputees that they can live good, full life?

Probably not, because in the Rehabilitation Centre the number of meetings with patients was limited. We need a long period of time to change someone’s beliefs. However, I think that few people believe in a happy life after an amputation and that they will continue to work on themselves.

What do you think about young people of today?

Quite often I hear negative opinions. I believe that young people are very diverse. It is true that some of them are lazy, hooked on the Internet, passive and waiting for the manna from heaven. However, most of them is ambitious, do not put limits on their dreams and realise their plans. I could describe the today’s young generation using one word: free. They can travel around the world, they can articulate their opinions, present their ideas and fight for them.

What are your plans for the nearest future?

Currently I am looking for a job. It is not an easy task, although psychologists are needed in hospitals, schools, nursery schools and rehabilitation centres. It is true that the psychologist’s work is more and more often appreciated, the stereotypes are overcome and more and more people become interested in the profession.

Have you ever thought about studying abroad?

I am very attached to my family and my home. However, I do not exclude the possibility of continuing learning outside Lithuania, for example in Poland.

Who are your parents?

My dad works in the Institute of Work and Social Studies. He is an economist by profession. My mum studied geography at the Vilnius University and for some time she worked as a teacher and currently she is working at the Nature Department of her alma mater.

What fascinates you beside psychology?

Mountains! My dad is an ardent mountaineer. He devoted almost 30 years to his passion and has reached many summits. I accompany him in climbing. Mountains fascinate me because of the effort, concentration, pursuit of the goal, obstinacy… The rucksack itself weights 20 kilos.

What was your greatest mountain adventure?

Reaching remote Fann Mountains in Tajikistan. I climbed almost to the top. I have reached the Chimtarga Pass (4750m). It is an amazing view – peaks of rocks covered in snow. I have manage to that under the direction of my dad who is my only one climbing instructor. Together with my parents I have been in the Alps in France and Austria. We have been also in the Polish Tatra Mountains. We have toured almost all Europe, North America and Brazil. I love long distance travels. I know that you cannot buy happiness for money, but you most certainly can book a trip.

What about more prosaic things?

I’m learning how to sew. I have sewn myself a skirt and a blouse already. However, I cannot devote more time to it, because the work of a psychologist requires continued training.

I wish you good luck with all your plans and I hope that our next meeting will be held in your own surgery.

I wish for that myself

P.S. When this interview was being prepared to be printed, Elżbieta informed us with joy that she has found job in one of the rehabilitation centres.

Translated by Maciej Jóźwiak within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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