Fighting antisemitsm with surrealism

In Łódź they’re fighting anti-Semitism with surrealism.

2014-03-25 20.13.46Someone once said that with Polish anti-semitism,  it is not that every Jew is the enemy, just that every enemy is a Jew. In some circles, to call someone a Jew is tantamount to insult, a phenomenon which is particularly common amongst football fans.

The anti-Semitism and racism in Polish stadiums is perhaps not as extreme as the BBC’s infamous Panorama program tried to paint in the run up to Euro 2012, but the problem is still there. This phenomenon was particularly acute in the city of Łódź, once home to the largest ghetto, where fans of two local football clubs, RTS Widzew and ŁKS, were particularly hostile to one another with the word ‘Jew’ often appearing as an insult in football graffiti. The local authorities and various NGOs made several attempts to rid the town of this scourge without result. Slogans such as “ŁKS Żydy” (ŁKS Jews) or “Widzew Żydowskie psy” (Widzew Jewish dogs) plagued the walls of Poland’s third largest city.

Until one night that is, when a local man had had enough. As he later told a local journalist, he wanted to ridicule the longstanding graffiti war, so on some tatty wall he wrote “Widzew to ciapy” (Widzew are sissies) and on other one “ŁKS nie czyta książek” (ŁKS do not read any books). The idea continued the Polish tradition of resistance by surrealism that had its peak in the form of the 1980’s “Orange alternative” movement, but no one could have foreseen the effect his actions would have.

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This new graffiti did not only bringing a smile to the faces of Łódź residents, but to everyone’s surprise the discourse was taken up by the football fans themselves. Soon surrealistic slogans appeared, mocking the opposing football club with sentimental and abstract accusations. Their actions found many fans across the country and beyond. The Facebook fanpage “Futbol Factory po łódzku” (Łódź Football Factory) has nearly 24,000 followers, who like and share pictures of slogans such as “ŁKS kupuje chleb w Meblach Bodzio” (ŁKS buy bread in furniture shop), “ŁKS ogrzewa dom smalcem” (ŁKS heat their homes with lard), “ŁKS myje auto pumeksem” (ŁKS wash their cars with pumice stones), “ŁKS handluje pasztetem na Allegro” (ŁKS sells paté on Allegro auction website), “ŁKS zamawia frytki z ziemniakami” (ŁKS orders chips with potatoes). Of course the opposing club doesn’t pull any punches, with quips such as “RTS jeździ Tico” (RTS drives a Tico car), “Widzew śmiał się na Kac Wawie” (Widzew laughed at Kac Wawa (an extremely poor comedy), “RTS smaży zupę” (RTS fries soup), “Widzew goli nogi i nie zmienia majtek” (Widzew shave their legs and do not change their underwear) or “Widzew nie obiera ananasa ze skórki i w ogóle jest strasznym niejadkiem” (Widzew do not skin pineapples and in general are terribly light-eaters).

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Some of the slogans betray the author’s political views: “ŁKS płakał po Kaczyńskim”  (ŁKS cried when (very unpopular) president Kaczyński died). Others indicate their readership choices “RTS czyta Express Ilustrowany jak jakiś głupol” (RTS read the Illustrated Express like some kind of idiot), and some show that their authors are close observers of current affairs. After the woman who was accused of killing her own daughter Madzia gave an interview to a tabloid paper, that was accompanied by pictures of her in a bikini, the slogan “Widzew czeka na CKM z Mamą Madzi” (Widzew waits for the adult magazine with Madzias mother’s pics) appeared on one of the walls.

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Some slogans are really auto-ironic. “ŁKS kipi agresją” (ŁKS boils with aggression) says one, while another reads “RTS brzydko pisze po murach” (RTS write shitly on walls). Now the anonymous man who changed the face of Łódź football graffiti faces another challenge: can he think up something to get rid of the vandalism entirely?


This article was published in www.gazetae.com 

Screenshots from  a Facebook profile “Futbol Factory po łódzku

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