This week Wrocław celebrates a victory in the online contest for “Best European Destination 2018”. It has gathered more votes than London, Lisbon or Prague. It has been possible thanks to the voters from 146 countries around the world. But last week Wrocław has seen also a slightly less celebrated victory: for a brief moment it has been the most polluted city in the world, leaving behind the usual suspects like Delhi or Beijing. This time we have only ourselves to blame. Yes, politicians for much too long pretend that problem does not exist, like former Minister of Environment Jan Szyszko, who claimed that smog in Poland is, in fact, the sand blown to our country from Sahara. Yeah, blame those bloody Arabs for everything again!
But seriously, for that problem regular people are often to blame. As the joke goes, Poles sort their refuse into two groups: these, that can be burned during daylight, and those, that one has to wait till the night, so the black clouds of smoke cannot be spotted by the neighbours. The problem is, that you don’t need to see it. I am often visiting Poland in November, when the heating season has already started, and while driving through the countryside one can actually smell the settlement before first lights become visible on approach. No wonder, as many Polish people show a complete disregard to their neighbours and the environment, and burning old tyres, plastic bottles and other toxic refuse is nothing uncommon. Similarly, the pollution standards for the cars are often considered to be a form of leftist, Eurobeaurocratic oppression, and while the practice of rolling coal, popular in the USA is so far only admired online, the popular tuning accessory for diesel cars in Poland is a little sticker proudly displaying the slogan “Diesel musi kopcić”, which translates roughly to “Diesel has to be dirty”. Workshops offering removal of DPF filters from the cars and vans openly advertise their services.
It is not to say that Poles don’t value purity and cleanness – they do, as long as it comes to racial or even national purity. Recently one of the 13 year old pupil went for a school trip to the National Centre for Nuclear Research and was refused entry on the grounds of security. Understandably, due to strategic importance of this institution, foreigners need to get permission from the director before being allowed entry. But this girl has been born and bred in Poland, speaks Polish flawlessly – as it is her first language – and has a Polish citizenship, so what was the problem? Well, her parents are from Ukraine, and therefore her name and surname was not considered Polish enough. Yes, according to the employee of this institution, “her name and surname does not sounds like those of the majority of Poles”. Luckily this time it was just a stupidity of one of the employees, and the Centre’s director called girls mother to apologize, but still it is shocking to me that such things happen in my country on a daily basis.
So it all ended well, and her Polishness will be further strengthened in the future thanks to the new school curriculum, in which kids will learn, for example, about SKOK banking societies (the ones, that, as shown in several reportages of Bianka Mikołajewska and others, serve as a money making machine for PiS – you can read more about it here) but they will not learn a thing about NGO’s. Why? Because schools are not to “operate foreign acronyms”. So Spółdzielcza Kasa Oszczędnościowo-Kredytowa – good, Non-Governmental Organisations – bad.
And that can be a shame, even for the right wing, as Non-Governmental Organizations are the foundations of healthy civic society, educating citizens and protecting their rights from being abused by the government. And in PiS Poland, such abuses of constitutional rights, are happening almost on daily basis, and even radical right, so cherished by Kaczyński’s people, can fell victim of them. For example in a desperate attempt to prevent escalation of the Polish-Israeli conflict (you might remember this issue from last couple of the pieces in this series), closed streets surrounding Israeli embassy under pretext of security in order to prevent legal manifestation of the extreme right wing from taking place there. And since it has worked and there weren’t any significant protest, then, who knows, perhaps next time the security measures will require to close the quarter of the town when opposition rally is about to take place?
But the opposition is no better. As pointed out by the watchdog portal Oko.press, the new law on NGO’s and associations proposed by .Nowoczesna is so badly written, that it will open the way for the government to close existing organizations using some non-essential irregularities as a pretext.
Non-essential irregularities won’t serve as a pretext to not considering one’s candidacy for the new Judicial Council – as since PiS forced their bills on judicial reform, they opened the doors for replacing existing judges from this body with their own. The problem is that due to the consensus of the legal world that those bills are unconstitutional, they don’t have too many lawyers who would be willing to stick their head up for PiS, and they have to deal with what there is on offer. One of the candidates, for example, is a military judge who had 54 disciplinary transgressions, and further 24 proceedings against him were scrapped as it has been suspected that he is simply not a sane person.
The quality of the prosecution is not much better. As they are currently trying to accuse opposition MP of corruption and plagiarism, they applied for a warrant arrest. In this document they have plagiarised at least 12 fragments of the paper of a well known proffessor in law, in total nearly 2 pages. The problem is, that despite the fact, that the alleged crime has been said to take place in 2013, they have plagiarised the paper that refers to the law that has been changed in 2011. So in fact they are trying to accuse the opposition MP for breaking the law that has ceased to exist two years earlier.
But at least it existed at some point. The new TV series about Witold Pilecki, a hero who volunteered to go into Auschwitz in order to find what is going on there, is not going to happen. At least not in cooperation with BBC. TVP did not even bothered to respond to that offer, and only after the press took up the subject, it was explained, that they were not interested, as BBC wanted, that the series would be produced by the company that made a highly acclaimed movie “Pokłosie”.
This movie tells a story about a man, who uncovers the truth about a Jedwabne-like pogrom in his village and pays the highest price for it, after realising that the underground tensions are still alive. This movie was protested by the Polish right as they don’t like movies, that show that Poles were not only the victims of the war, but welcome those showing Poles as victims. Therefore while Smarzowski’s “Wołyń”, that in a extremely violent way tells the story of the Ukrainian crimes against Poles was welcomed and even branded “outstanding”, Oscar-awarded “Ida”, an artsy psychological drama about a nun, who discovers that she is a child of Jews murdered by Poles, was hated and branded “anti-Polish” and “Polish hating”. And so, for TVP, producers of such “anti-Polish” movie like “Pokłosie” are responsible for “damaging relations between Poland and Israel”, “causes indignation of the large part of the Polish population” and therefore “cannot be trusted by TVP”. They will do their own Pilecki movie instead. So I am afraid the story of this brave hero will be butchered and mixed with primitive propaganda, and we’ll end up with yet another un-watchable piece of junk just like Korona Królów.
But there was an unexpected event as well. A priest from the mountain church of Maria Śnieżna, that towers over Kłodzko valley, has been sentenced to 10 months of community work for attacking a man with a taser for entering the church’s grounds with the small York dog. The priest’s only comment was “such courts we have, and such sentences”. I guess he welcomes PiS’ reform of courts then.
“…and this is not our last victory, as Poland got up from it’s knees today. And everyone, who watches closely political life of Europe and of the whole wide world, sees, that this is the only way, and a way that leads to success” – said Jarosław Kaczyński during 94th Monthinversary of the Smoleńsk plane crash (you can watch a short reportage from this surrealistic event here). Of course, just as he says every month, we also heard that “we are really very close” again. Except, that this time he did not said, that they are really close to explaining what really happened in Smoleńsk and why it was an assassination. It was like he was talking about some kind of “final victory” instead. Apparently with Antoni Macierewicz gone, Kaczyński no longer has to validate actions of his “Smoleńsk commission” that long time ago became a laughing stock for coming up with completely new conspiracy theories every couple of months. So, in other words, they are still paid a good money to run it, but even Kaczyński himself does not expect any results any more. This political fuel has run off. But at least those “experts” can enjoy a cosy, well paid job.