Supporting Local News

Polish entrepreneur is giving it sox as Gaeilge


When Joanna Ciezha arrived in Ireland in 2007 to attend her friend’s wedding, the Polish national planned to go home to Wroclaw after a week’s holiday.

But sixteen years – and a citizenship ceremony – later, she’s still here, becoming more Irish than the natives. And now the innovative businesswoman, who was always fascinated with her adopted country’s culture, is embracing it even more by learning to speak Irish on a university diploma course.

Her love affair with Gaeilge began when the gravitational pull of Galway kept Joanna from returning to live in southwest Poland.

It sounds like a classic ‘Galway is the graveyard of ambition’ tale, but Joanna has defied that lazy stereotype through serial entrepreneurism and by setting up a home here with her husband and two children.

She met another Polish ex-pat – Alex Kieldanowicz a neighbour from Wroclaw who she only met while living in Galway – and they established Oly Art, an Irish souvenir gifts business selling napkins, coasters, fridge magnets.

When they added a sock range, it took off and Alex and Joanna now focus entirely on Irish Socksciety, a Liosbán-based retailer that specialises in funny, quirky and colourful socks.

Just like with Oly Art products ‘as Gaeilge’, the duo make bilingual socks.

As members of Gaillimh le Gaeilge, the publicly funded organisation established to help Galway businesses to promote and use more Irish, Socksciety leans on the expertise of Bríd Ní Chonghóile and her team for proper Irish translations.

The company scooped the Gaillimh le Gaeilge Gradam Sheosaimh Uí Ógartaigh award three times, and the latest win included a Dioplóma sa Ghaeilge scholarship at University of Galway.

Caption: Joanna Ciezha – embracing the language as well as the culture.

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