The FAL, Feministyczna Akcja Letnia (Feminist Summer Action), is a few days camp for women and people who experience living as a woman… It was my forth one. Each of them brings a lot of emotions, thoughts, development, it gives me a sense of security, hope and energy for further work. Although each of them is completely different.
The first FAL was shocking. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t yet feel feminist, I knew very little about this movement. Three bold women welcomed me at the reception desk. My thoughts circled somewhere between "What am I doing here?" and "It will be an interesting time". I was in a rather difficult period of my life – after one year in Italy I had quite a lot of problems with self-esteem, the first time to such an extend. Being in a space where no one knows me, so there is no label and preconception, was truly healing. That was a place without judgment, fully open and kind. People answered all my trivial questions about feminism, lesbian life, gender sensitive language, although they didn’t have to. I learned a lot about the world, about myself, I discovered a movement that I knew only superficially.
At the first FAL I was going to all possible activities and workshops, from the early morning till the night. The program of the camp is created by participants - each person can propose her own activity. There are usually so many that at least two things happen at the same time. Diversity is huge - from lectures about feminism, through different types of sport, art, philosophical discussions, till carpentry workshops. From the first FAL I remember WenDo the most and breaking a wood plank with my hand (about which I will write some other time).
For the second FAL I decided to be part of the organizing team. Each camp is organized by a new group of people who takes the lead for the year. Ulica Siostrzana [Sisterhood Street], in charge of the feminist camp, is the most fascinating group among those to which I had the opportunity to belong - fluent and informal, yet for several years effective in organizing the camp. Co-organizing FAL was a big challenge for me. A lot of work and, at least at the beginning, I didn’t feel comfortable with a group of people who had known each other for years. I was accepted and welcomed with joy, but I felt still fazed by being in such a group. There was also a moment of crisis. I was responsible for recruitment, answering emails and registering applications, and I still remember that one evening when it turned out I accepted too many children and too many dogs and there is not enough place for everyone. What a stress ... I felt guilty and really crushed. The reaction of the other people, first Do, who did the recruitment with me, and then the rest of the group, was surprising. They just... started to support me. No judgment, no grudge, although it was clearly my fault. We focused on solution, without discussing the guilt. The memory of the relief and the emotions which I felt comes back to me every time I face a similar situation, no matter on which side. At the second FAL I attended less workshops, but I started to run some of them myself. I led one of my first gender workshops, 12 hours about being a woman in our society. Unforgettable.
To the third FAL I came after a long break, already during my journey around the world. It wasn’t an easy camp. In fact, none of them is easy. Dozens of people making consensual decisions, co-creating the space without pre-imposed rules is a challenge that we rarely have the luxury to face. And the one I probably learn the most from. About cooperation, about alternative decision-making processes, about communication, expressing my own point of view, listening, effective conflict resolution and, above all, about mindfulness and treating others with respect, regardless of their opinions.
I came back few weeks ago from the fourth FAL. And I'm already willing to go back again. Most important this time were specific relations. Since a while I’m just feeling good in this group, uneasiness has disappeared, a sense of belonging has arisen. When I was asked how I feel in the camp, the answer which immediately came to my mind was: home. I would like my home to be like this - full of conscious people, attentive to others, ready to support, but also to take care of their own borders. Full of inspiration springing from workshops, but also from little daily events which are the results of being together. Togetherness is my best definition of this year's camp. I miss tremendously FAL as a whole, but also very specific people whose presence, joy, touch, sharing of experiences was incredibly important to me.
Thank you for being there since years. Maybe not every day, but for sure. FAL has become a fix element of the summer months I spend in Poland. It's time to be with yourself, to learn and develop, to participate in amazing workshops, and rediscover my power covered by the prose of life. I admire FAL self-development, I love to observe how FAL transforms, becomes vegan, trans-inclusive, how it doesn’t take for granted earlier assumptions, but still questions everything, examines and checks how much what we did last year is still fair, progressive, inclusive, attentive. Thank you for providing a place for each of us, even if it is not always simple and obvious. That we can meet, talk, disagree; that we have different visions and approaches, but the moment I cross the threshold of Kacze Bagno, where FAL takes place, I just know that I am safe. And that I'm at home.