Three steps to a successful seminar

 Everything started because energy and energy security of a country are fundamental for its development and therefore they decide whether it is sustainable or not. It is obvious that Poland is highly dependent on coal – coal power plants account for more than 80% of the country’s energy production, two thirds of the energy come from hard coal. We decided to observe the process of the Polish “black gold” exploitation at source. We choose a hard coal mine Bogdanka nearby Lublin. Under the pretext of organizing a seminar on energy, we discovered the beauty of the Lublin region, made use of networking with the local academics and students and managed to evaluate their attitude towards corporate social responsibility.

Step One: Journey to the centre of the Earth

The seminar started on Friday, 7th of March 2014. In the very early morning we were to visit the headquarters of Lubelski Węgiel “Bogdanka” company. Short after the arrival on the company’s premises we underwent health examination. It is compulsory for each daredevil who wishes to go underground. Next we were provided with working clothes, special footwear, crash helmets, torches and dust absorbers. After the preparation, clasping the miners’ dog tags in our hands, we finally went down to the centre of the Earth. The descent in an elevator to the level of 960 metres under the ground lasted only about 1 minute. The next four hours we spent exploring the underground drifts on the way to the mining wall. We covered about eight kilometres being explained the rules restricting the marking out of drafts and the distribution of air in the underground tunnels. We were taught how the installations and appliances that we were passing function and what they are used for, e.g. the stopping, the suspended railway, the conveyor belt. A lot of attention was also paid to the health and safety issues. Moreover, we were told that the omnipresent dust is in fact not the coal dust but stone dust. It is used to construct the anti-dust barriers and is placed on special shelves jest below the ceiling. On one hand, the dust limits the risk of an explosion and prevents it from spreading, on the other hand, it is more dangerous for human health than the coal dust. Having heard that, we covered our mouths with anti-dust masks with a greater care.

However, the true problems with breathing showed up only later when the magnificent view over the mining wall took our breath away. Undoubtedly, that was the most exciting moment of the journey.  Grouped in smaller teams we all had a chance to get a closer look on how the coal is exploited, how the mining shearer works, how to steer it and how the output is transported to the conveyor belt. Our guides would answer all the questions with a great patience, would share their knowledge and experience, would extract the mysteries of the coal mine. But for their support and care we would have been wandering in the dark, terrified, tired and not accustomed to harsh conditions. Bur for their generosity and the words „God be with you” heard  at every point, we could have believed we were in hell.

That is the reason why the journey back to the surface seemed to be a journey to a different word. We came back not as students, but as creatures with faces black from the coal dust and the eyes shining with joy. After a bath, we were slowly becoming accustomed to the sunlight and light gusts of wind on our faces.

At the company’s invitation we joined Mr Jarosław Wojewoda, the head of Marketing, CSR and Public Relations Department at Lubelski Węgiel „Bogdanka”, for a dinner. Being responsible for initiatives in the sphere of corporate social responsibility, he informed us about the guidelines of the company’s CSR strategy: care of the employees’ security and collaboration with local community and authorities that should decrease the potential damage caused by a cave-in. The interesting discussion was continued during the meeting with Mr Rogere de Bazelaire, Deputy Financial Director, who stressed that the crucial role in the Polish energy sector development is to be played by the government who should reconcile the economic interest of the country with the regulations imposed by the European Union. Having heard about all the successes of the company, we were sure about the bright future of the Polish energy sector.

Step Two: Journey to the world of CSR

On Saturday, 8th of March, we set off to conquer the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin to promote the knowledge on CSR among the fellow students. The seminar began when the CSR Ambassaor at the Department of Economics gave a speech on voluntary services provided by employees of certain Polish companies. We were encouraged that it is possible and worth to go beyond the work routine and combine the professional career with doing good and serving others. After the presentation it was the time for the CSR game. The focus of the game, which was designed by oikos Warsaw member, Ewelina Gawryluk, was promoting the topic of corporate social responsibility among the students. The participants were divided into seven teams (firms), each of which was supposed not only to make profit, but also to strive for development aligned with all RESPECT criteria, e.g. the environment, the society and transparency. The game required both making reasonable and well-thought decisions and great creativity to think out of the box. For instance, one of the tasks was about defining a program of innovative activities in the sphere of CSR to be implemented by the company. The ideas of some participants clearly went beyond our expectations. The game turned out to be a huge success – it not only extended the participants’ knowledge on CSR, but they also integrated so that after the workshop was over, the tee and coffee tasted as if it was drunk in a group of old friends.

Step Three: Journey back in time

In other words, we felt sorry to leave the university. Nevertheless, we had to hurry up to be on time for the next workshop. Having decided to deepen our knowledge on the forgotten technology of lithography, we joined Mr. Tomasz Malec, the lecturer from the UMCS Department of Art in the marvellous journey back in time. No sooner had we entered the studio, we became influenced by its magical atmosphere. Two rooms named „Schwarz” and „Weiß” consisted an endless collection of equipment and… stones. We were explained that lithography uses the stones to duplicate drawings and that the stones may serve for making a countless number of such duplicates. Easier said than done. Already polishing the stone requires a lot of strenght. Each of oikos Warsaw members had a chance to learn it the hard way – all volunteers attempted to polish a stone with the use of a special tool, which required no mean strength and coordination. Next we witnessed how the drawing on a stone is made (absolutely with the use of ink or a crayon), how a stone is acidified (with a sponge that soaked up nitric acid) and how to moisten a stone with water. All of the stages required a great deal of patience and concentration. Luckily, the hard work was rewarded with a magnificent outcome - the duplicate of the drawing made out of moistened paper brought closer to the stone. After three hours of the workshop, during which we observed the process of duplicates creation with intensive attention, in the air you could smell a smell not only of the paint, but also of the hard work. It was certainly worth to devote the time to see with our own eyes a technic that despite its excellence, obsolesces year by year because of being perceived as time-consuming and not-practical. In our opinion, lithography is a one-off craft that teaches humbleness, patience and concentration in the times of haste, consumption and comfort.

Journey back home

The stay in Lublin and its surroundings gave us answers to many of our questions, enriched our theoretical and practical knowledge as well as created a platform to discuss and reflect. We discovered how a company exploiting hard coal works, from the level of strategy planning of the executives to the daily hard work of the miners mining on the face. We analysed the aspects of corporate social responsibility, directed towards both the employees and the local community. We established bosom contacts with the students of Maria Curie-Skłodowska University that raised our hopes for a fruitful future collaboration. We were initiated into the world of difficult and disappearing art of lithography. Above all, we got acquainted with Lublin, let ourselves be taken in by its student atmosphere and openness, also towards the newcomers from Warsaw. Tradition was constantly alternating with modernity, creating a sustainable mixture of monuments and dynamic changes, especially in the sphere of innovation and investment. We absolutely consider Lublin as a city, to which it is worth coming back. You never know what it can surprise you with.

 D.Czyż, M.Dajcz, A.Kask, H.Pyliński, A.Sienkiewicz