The justification for the Tribunal’s ruling de facto banning abortion in Poland in all but the two most extreme cases have been published. Experts have torn it to shreds – both on the legal basis and pointing its ideological message, so I won’t be going into it. I’d rather focus on the actual impact of the life of Poles that it had. And its publication has set certain things in motion. And I don’t even speak about protests – those are nothing new. I am talking about first citizens trying to find if the government is to take this ruling seriously. A citizen from Dzierżoniów demands from ZUS, the Social Insurance Institution in Poland, to recalculate his pension. He points out that according to the new ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal, human’s life begins not at birth, but 9 months earlier (he provides relevant quotes from the justification) and, therefore, he believes he is owed 9 months worth of his pension. The scan of his letter circulates the internet, and I can’t wait to see their answer.
But of course, the publication of that justification and the following changes to law sparkled further wave of protests. The police deal with them more and more brutally. The protesters are being surrounded and held (unlawfully) by the police for hours in the freezing cold, while officers forcibly drag a single person from the crowd in order to “process them” at the police stations – often in remote satellite towns and villages of Warsaw or other major cities, which is considered to be another form of persecution. Buckets of red paint were spilled outside the building of the former Constitutional Tribunal. Activist Katarzyna Augustynek, known as “granny Kasia”, who’s persistence in protest activities seems to exceptionally annoy the functionaries of the regime claims to be abused and humiliated at the police station. She says she has been forcibly undressed to her underwear despite the presence of male officers. The police, as usual, deny those accusations, accuse “granny Kasia” of lying and claim that it was her who assaulted its officers.
The illegal practice of transporting detained to the police stations even 40 km away has been challenged by a journalist Anna Dryjańska, who asked Police’s press office to provide the reason why one of the activists was transported so far away. The police responded, that they cannot provide her with that information because it would be in breach of his privacy. So the activist himself wrote another e-mail, CC’ing the journalist and granting the police permission to disclose that information, but the only answer they got is that he is not allowed to use this e-mail, as it’s for journalist’s use only.
But the protesters are not ready to give up yet. On the contrary, the mood seems to be good. Those detained by the army of police officers near Kaczyński’s home decided to dance the Polonaise, which was symbolic for two reasons: one because in Polish culture the Polonaise is considered to be a dance of hope, but secondly, because it’s traditionally danced at the Matura balls held to celebrate the fact, that in 100 days the school will be over…
Studniówka pod domem Jarosława Kaczyńskiego
Warszawa, 29 stycznia 2021 o północy.
Materiał Roberta Kowalskiego. pic.twitter.com/qgOB9k8xVI
— OKO.press (@oko_press) February 2, 2021
But of course, not everyone was in a joyful mood. The women, who were already in the hospital awaiting termination of their deformed pregnancies have been told that the procedure cannot go ahead. Some went in shock – one went into the lift and was riding it up and down for hours and refused to leave. Others were taken by their families to civilised countries like Slovakia or the Netherlands.
And it seems that the prominent PiS politicians would do exactly the same if it the need occurred in their own families. Senator Stanisław Karczewski was asked by the journalist if he would force his daughter to give birth to a child with lethal anomalies answered: “No way! This is absolutely her own decission”. Well, you idiot: your party just made sure, that it is not. Your daughter would surely be able to go abroad if she decided to terminate her pregnancy, but what with 1000’s of women who cannot afford such a trip? We can add this to the list now: “your daughter is better than my daughter”.
The official state’s help for the women who are diagnosed with lethal fetal defects is the network of “prenatal hospices”. Those institutions will be supposed to take care of such families, offering medical and psychological help. But the critics point out that since those women are to be referred to those hospices by their regular doctors, it might be used by the government to track those of them, who go abroad to perform termination of their pregnancies. Which, as the law stands now, is not legal, but who knows what PiS still has in its sleeve?
Meanwhile, the woman’s rights protests are not the only ones that keep the police busy. More and more entrepreneurs open up their locales and businesses despite the government ban. Seeing that court after court find the fines imposed on businesses for breaking COVID-19 regulation void due to the fact, that the limitations have been introduced by the government with a complete disregard to the proper legal procedures, they follow the others and open up as well, as being at the verge of bankruptcy (the government help for businesses is not only miniscule, but also completely chaotic and illogical) they feel they have nothing to lose.
The government sends police to deal with them by force. In Wrocław, the police were trying to prevent entrance to a nightclub. During the brawl, a man has been strangled by the cops to a point that he become unconsious. Despite crowds demanding from cops to call the ambulance, they simply carried his inert body to the police van parked nearby and drove away. The police spokesperson on duty told the journalist who tried to enquire about this situation that “nothing extraordinary happened, as nobody died, so call us in the morning”. By the morning, of course, the statement was ready. You could probably guess by now: “the man was aggressive and attacked a police officer, and when it comes to his condition, he was just simulating”.
The night club in question is called “The Wall Street”. I guess each country has “occupy Wall Street” even it deserves. But while in Wrocław the police were just occupying the entrance to a night club, in Katowice there was a regular battle between the police and people who wanted to dance in the night club, that uses a loophole and calls his disco night a “political party conference”. The riot police used tear gas and opened fire from smoothbore guns shooting rubber bullets.
In PiS Poland you will be forced to live according to the government’s will – if not by force, then in the other way. Sometimes the persecution is pretty absurd – like the 17 years old boy who made a speech during Youth Climate Strike using a megaphone and is now accused of breaking environmental laws as he was “making an excessive noise”. A headteacher of a private school in Tczew faces her rights to be a teacher having stripped from her because she was one of the organizers of the woman’s strike. As she tells Oko.press, her husband, employed by the state-controlled company, has also been sacked.
Even the most faithful servants of the regime are not allowed any wiggle-room. An employee of TVP, who criticizes the Tribunal ruling on abortion on air has suddenly disappeared from the screens. Portal onet.pl found, that both he and his wife, also employed by the government-controlled TVP, were offered a deal that they can not throw away: they would move to a niche TVP Polonia station aimed at the Polish diaspora abroad – much less prestigious job with significantly reduced pay…
But where there is a stick, there is also a carrot. For example school, pupils might gain extra points by writing a poem or recording a song criticizing abortion. Which is in line with the new direction taken by the Polish school system under the new Minister of Education Przemysław Czarnek, a radical Catholic. According to him, the school curriculum should include more Catholic and Patriotic content. To give way for those things such as contraception or civic society will have to go. But at least the pupils will now learn that Lech Wałęsa was a communist agent (the fact, that as a young man in early 1970’s signed some minor document is being blown of proportion by pro-PiS historians who try to smear him in order to make space in the National Pantheon for their own heroes like Lech Kaczyński). The changes in education are visible in every corner of the school system. For example, the annual student Olympics of English contained a questions that could be understood as promoting the anti-transsexual views such as those of J. K. Rowling.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the internet, the main topic of recent weeks was the creation of the new social media portal Albicla.com. This came as a response to Donald Trump’s ban on Facebook and Twitter and is supposed to be a platform of the real free speech for everyone. I tried to register as a private person a week ago to no avail, so today I attempted to create my official account as a Britské Listy journalist – and I still haven’t received my confirmation e-mail for either of those attempts. True, it might be caused by the pyramidal amount of technical faults that Albicla suffers since it’s launch, but the rumour has it that all accounts are manually verified, so perhaps I was simply deemed “too leftist” to deserve access to that oasis of free speech… Anyway, Tomasz Sakiewicz of extremely pro-PiS paper Gazeta Polska that is behind this project is very proud this proud opus magnum of Poland’s silly cow valley, develops new revolutionary functionalities such as “answering comments” and “notifications” and it is already planning it’s the expansion to the most promising foreign market: Hungary.
So far, though, the portal is said to be riddled with technical difficulties, has tragic security record and most of those lucky users who managed to open their accounts there are just internet trolls (as I said, I have no way to verify it myself, but since I am waiting a week already, I decided to write about it anyway). But I guess the viewers of TVP will soon learn how wonderful Albicla.com is. Such “news item” are common there. Just recently they yet another time broadcasted a 6 minute material about how wonderful and trustworthy TVP is… Oh, the irony.
Meanwhile, the major war games took place in Poland recently. It was the first time we could see how the new strategical changes to the army introduced by Antoni Macierewicz would work in practice. In a simulation codenamed “Winter 20” the things were going so bad, that most of our army was destroyed in the first days of the attack. Some orders were so stupid, that commanders questioned them, believing it has to be some mistake. In that simulation instead of planned 22 days, Poland was able to fight enemy only for five days, with major cities being given up without fight and Warsaw being completely surrounded in four. It’s a disaster much worse than back in 1939.
But some say it’s a good thing. Poland, they say, should declare war on Czech Republic. In 5 days we would be completely under Czech control. All problems of Poland sorted in less than a week – that would be fantastic. But would Czechs be up for that?
Correction: Last week I wrote about how my father and other seniors were told that they will have to travel 100 km or more to get vaccinated. I missed one important fact: those appoitments for vaccinations are in TWO MONTHS.
Surely two months would be enough time to realize that since there are several people willing to be vaccinated in the big city, it could be much more reasonable to bring the vaccine to them, rather than ask them to undertake such long journey? We’ll see. I will keep you updated if that happens.
This piece was written for Britské Listy
Picture designed by me using public domain graphics.