Torun, the Polish city where I come from, has a historical connection with Leiden. From the end of the Middle Ages, it belonged to a European network of Hanseatic towns. Boats sailed to the sea via the Vistula River in Torun and then went on to different ports in the Netherlands. At that time, we traded in textiles, wood and bricks. So, it occasionally feels like I now live in the place where my distant ancestors also used to come.
As a child I grew up surrounded by fantasy books. The Lord of the Rings was our bible. That's where my interest in history and sword fighting comes from. The direct connection with history is what makes the sport of swords so interesting. Our starting point are the manuscripts, which are often more than hundreds of years old. They contain techniques that we still use today. That's a sport in itself, because these manuscripts don’t usually contain pictures and they are written in languages that no longer exist.
The swords eventually brought me to Leiden too. Seven years ago, I met my current fiancé in Sweden at a meeting of HEMA, a European association of people who practice historical martial arts. We tried to have a long-distance relationship for a while, but eventually I moved to the Netherlands four years ago. I work online so emigrating was no problem.
I manage my own company in social media marketing within the HEMA community and I also do graphic design. That community is bigger than you think! There are sword and dagger enthusiasts all over Europe and every week you can find a gathering somewhere. In these events, we exchange information and techniques, we fight with each other, and we make new friends with whom we share this passion.
At home we have a hundred different swords and daggers. None of them are dangerous. Most are metal, but others are made of plastic or wood. All are based on historical models. My favourite is this one, the so-called Great Sword. She is as tall as I am and weighs almost three kilos. The idea is to swing it around in circles to create space on the battlefield.
We draw our inspiration from the past, but we are also writing history ourselves. When I started ten years ago, women in this sport were looked down upon. We were not allowed to participate. Nowadays, I can proudly say that I myself have been a pioneer and that a large group of women participate in all the activities.