Communications Chair Sophia S Begidzhanov interviewed Polish-Canadian artist Anya Mielniczek regarding her recent travel to Poland and other EU countries. Thank you, Anya, for participating in our pandemic travel series.

What was the date of your departure? Was it a direct flight or with layovers?

My departure date was August 11th, 2020. I flew directly to Warsaw, Poland.

What was the purpose of your travel?

The purpose of my trip was split between business & personal. I was able to execute a project in Austria while visiting family in Poland.

Which airline(s) did you fly with?

I flew with Lot Polish Airlines.

Was there a noticeable decrease or increase in the cost of travel?

The cost of travel was at season prices. There was no noticeable decrease or increase.

Did you experience longer or shorter wait times at the airport?

I experienced shorter wait times at the airport. There was significantly less travelers at the airport with 7 outgoing flights at Pearson on the night of our departure with all shops and restaurants closed at the terminal.

Were there additional health screenings?

Yes, I had three health screenings which included temperature checks. Upon my arrival there was free COVID testing being offered to everyone that was interesting in doing it (not mandatory).

Were social distancing measures in place and if so, how were they enforced?

Measures that were in place at the airport included only traveling passengers allowed into the airport, health screenings and wearing masks while in the airport and on your flight. Otherwise lining up to board or while on the plane maintaining the 6’ distance wasn’t truly upheld.

Were masks mandated at the time of your travel?

Yes.

Did anything strike you as different during the flight?

Wearing masks during the entire duration of the flight and receiving one large 1.5L water bottle for the entire flight (flying to Poland we did not receive any other drinks, on the way back we were offered a choice of drinks).

When you arrived in Poland – did you notice any differences in the protocol at their airport versus at Pearson?

The only difference was not having any health screenings and no COVID testing. Otherwise there was way less congestion in travelers at the airport though Warsaw was busier and you also had to wear a mask.

When you arrived in Austria, was there a noticeable difference in protocol, if so, what was it?

To arrive in Austria, I had to fly to Poland first, there were no direct flights to enter Austria which at the time of my departure was not open to Canadian travelers. I was able to enter Austria however through the EU as a Polish citizen by train without problems.

Was there a mandated quarantine period for you in either country?

There was not, I was able to travel to Poland, Austria and back to Poland without quarantine.

Comparing your time in Poland versus in Austria, did you notice a difference in social distancing protocols or information/messaging?

I would say that both countries had the same protocols which included wearing masking in all public places. Messaging in public spaces was the same. Otherwise, I’m not sure about how it was being relayed in the news as I didn’t watch any while there.

Did you experience lower costs or fewer tourists in either countries?

I would say there seemed to be fewer tourists and travelers, naturally but not as few as I expected. Overall, I felt Europe has a more relaxed stance towards COVID than in Canada. Restaurants and public spaces were opened quite earlier than in Canada and the vibe from people in public is less tense than I’ve experienced here. In Canada I feel more fear and anxiety towards the pandemic.

Any other insights you may have about travel during this unprecedented time and tips for our members considering to travel for business or pleasure?

My biggest tip is to be aware of any restrictions a country may have that you’re planning on traveling to, calling the countries embassy to double check travel information to be safe your travel plans can go according to plan. Otherwise, travel whether for business or for pleasure has a few new protocols under current international events but is up to one’s discretion and comfort level.

On another note, as an artist how has the pandemic impacted your line of work?

I would say it’s slowed down certain elements of my line of work which includes things like live events, public workshops and large group paint jams. Otherwise, there have still been many opportunities to keep creating and painting.

Are there more job opportunities for you in the EU?

I’m currently entering the EU market in my field, so even though I find there are still more opportunities for me to paint in Canada because of the last 8 years I’ve built up my network here. I do believe Europe has more opportunities to paint overall. There are more festivals, there are different regulations for gaining access to walls and the culture appreciates art in a different way than I find Canada may still be waking up to. Overall, it’s a market I’m looking to keep expanding in the years to come.

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