5 questions with... Michał Boni

Teddy bears, books and Poland's transformation.

Michal Boni | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

1. How would you describe your political/leadership style in three words?
Openness. This means focusing on people and their different views, even if they are controversial. People's needs must be at the heart of finding solutions. Cooperation. The results of policies should be based on real evidence and the common work of many institutions and participants. It is key to involve citizens and treat their contribution to public policies as a source of knowledge for authorities. Long-term perspective. We need to find solutions, which are key not only for winning the elections, but for future generations.


2. What one item would you save from your house or apartment/house if it was on fire? 
Two items - my book, which at that moment is most important to me. And my teddy bear, Toby.


3. Is there anything you have personally achieved or done that would surprise people?
I was a negotiator on behalf of the government during Poland's transformation. Very often, it was not clear if common agreement would be possible. The talks revolved around the restructuring process and difficult reforms in social policy. With full respect to all partners and after working hard together, we achieved win-win results, and the great feeling of work well done. We surprised many people: impossible became possible.


4. Which person have you worked with has most inspired you in your career, and how?
At Warsaw University, in the 70s and 80s, a Polish professor of anthropology of culture, Andrzej Mencwel, was the most inspiring. After that, Jacek Kuron, one of the leaders of Polish opposition from the sixties, who was also as an advisor to the Solidarity movement in the 80s and the first Polish minister of labour during the transformation. I was his successor. He was a good man, open, without any prejudices. He was the father of Polish independence after 1989.


5. What do you do in your free time to relax and unwind?
I like to read books. I read every night before going to sleep. It clears my mind. In different parts of my life have I liked different writers. From Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Mann, Faulkner, Hemingway to Bulgakov. Now, I think that books written by Sandor Marai (a Hungarian writer, witness to the twentieth century's tragic heritage), Phillip Roth and Elena Ferrante are the most inspirational for me. They open my mind. I also like to listen to music, lots of different kinds. Some days, I listen to jazz: Koeln concert performed by Keith Jarret or music by Chet Baker. Some days, I listen to Grigory Sokolovs Bach or Mozart piano concerts or Martha Argerich and Misha Maisky joint performances. Other days, I listen to operas.


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