It seems that the divisions between PiS and its side-kick coalition parties deepen. When the early elections for the mayor of Rzeszów have been announced, Zbigniew Ziobro’s party put up his own candidate. Marcin Warchoł, the deputy justice minister, has been recommended to a surprise of everyone by the outgoing left-wing mayor. He quickly began his campaign, and so, incidentally, the local firemen received goods worth 150 000 zł – paid from the “Justice fund”, that has been established to help victims of the crime.
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PiS also seems to be willing to win those elections. By a strange coincidence, Rzeszów has become the Polish city in which the COVID-19 vaccination program goes most smoothly. Over 60% of residents have been already vaccinated, including random 20–something olds. Minister Dworczyk, responsible for the vaccinations, denies this information, explaining that it just happens that many vaccination points for the whole region are located within city boundaries, and this is the reason for the peak in the statistics. Strangely enough, nobody noticed this statistical fluctuation before the elections were announced. Were the vaccination points moved from the area outside Rzeszów to the city itself, and if yes, why?
Everything is possible, though. The vaccination program is a mess. On 1st of April, it turned out that it is possible for 40-year-olds all across Poland to register for their jabs. Some were given dates as close as the next day or two. That came unexpected, as there is still plenty of priority-group people who still await vaccination, so some people – like me – expected it to be just an April’s Fool joke of exceptionally bad taste. But it was not. Even though the ministers were ensuring everyone that everything is in order, finally after few hours they admitted that it was just an ordinary cock-up. Still, it generated enough interest, that people who tried to register themselves for the vaccine online caused the whole system to crash under the weight of the traffic. Most of those appointments have been since cancelled, but some of the people were still able to get their vaccination – including Szymon Hołownia, the former presidential candidate who’s now building a new political party. He was met with the wave of criticism, as he used exactly the same excuses (“I did not want to, I would rather see some senior being vaccinated, but I had to do it, otherwise the vaccine would go to waste!”) for which he heavily criticized actress Krystyna Janda who skipped the queue right at the beginning of the vaccination program (see here).
But those desperate to get their vaccines might find it comforting that some people don’t believe in them. Or in COVID-19 for that matter. A bunch of conspiracy theorists have burst into the hospital wards and walked there, mask-less, claiming that the whole pandemics is just the conspiracy. They have filmed mask-less nurses in their staff rooms, or empty beds in the general surgery ward. For some reason, they have NOT entered actual COVID wards. Perhaps their belief that COVID is a hoax is not as strong as they would like us to believe…
Faith is the professional area of the Polish priests, who fight social distancing all over the globe. A Polish pastor in Canada chased away the police officers, who came to check if he observes COVID restrictions. He called them Nazis and Gestapo. The London Bobbies, who came to one of the Polish churches in London had more luck. After they broke the service and asked people to disperse, the footage from that event has been then used by the parish to accuse the police of “brutally overstepping its competencies” and “profaning the place of worship”. Even though it was allegedly the priest himself who asked them to break the message to his flock.
To the surprise of everyone, Police in Poland has been also tackling the issue of the worshippers breaking the COVID rules. In Wolsztyn police found that in two churches, the allowed number of people inside was exceeded by sixfold. The priests were fined. The one from a smaller church had to pay 20 zł, the one from the bigger one – 50. Just to compare it with other fines: if you walk the street without a mask, you’ll be fined 200 zł. If you open your gym to the clients, you can be fined up to 30 000 zł, and if you opened your nightclub, your customers might be beaten by police, who disperse tear gas there.
Still, I guess the reason for those apparent injustices might be that the priests in Poland are simply not used to being punished harshly. Even those with the biggest crimes behind their ears. Let’s take Archbishop Sławoj Leszek Głódź, who was found guilty by the Vatican for covering up paedophilia scandals. They kindly waited for him to retire and then banned him from any public appearances, ordered him to move out of the Gdańsk archdiocese (which is no problem for him, as he has a huge mansion in his home village). So basically if you are a paedophile priest, you’ll be transferred to another parish. If you are an archbishop involved in a paedophilia scandal, you’ll be transferred to another archdiocese.
Głódź was also ordered to pay an “adequate” sum to a church charity. The exact number has not been disclosed. I am not surprised: if it was low, then everyone, who knows how rich he is would simply have a laugh. If the sum is high enough for him to feel it, disclosing it would actually give up his real wealth.
But it is good, that at least something is happening about the church paedophilia. The government commission for investigating paedophilia also made headlines last week. Its chairman Błażej Kmieciak wrote a piece for one of the leading papers in which he shares his thoughts about how terrible the crime of paedophilia is and how we should speak to the victims about it. He is sure that children, who were molested, go straight to heaven. Well, I doubt that they will find any consolation in the fact that they de facto obtained a “get out of hell free” card by being abused by the priest. I suppose they would rather welcome seeing their abusers being brought to justice. So, Mr Kmieciak, stop writing pseudo-philosophical essays for papers and GET ON WITH YOUR JOB ALREADY!
It is a Polish tradition, that during the Paschal Triduum graves of Jesus are being built in Polish churches, often decorated with a symbolic representation of the sins, for which Jesus had to die to save us. This year was not unusual in that amongst those sins who are “killing Jesus” one could find things like pictures of LGBT and Women’ Strike activists. Very subtle. Strangely enough, I am yet to see a grave of Jesus decorated with some items suggesting that church paedophilia might also be a problem.
But you did not have to go to the church to see Jesus this Easter. It was enough to open the official website of one of the many state institutions. “Let resurrected Christ blesses you with the gift of faith,” says the website of the Highest Court in the country, which has a division between the church and the state written in its constitution:
And as if it was not enough yet, the Highest Court spokesperson spoke to the press about European actions regarding the destruction of the rule of law in Poland. “This is yet another time when on the Holy Wednesday the European Commission comes up with similar motion, there was a similar situation last year” – he said. – “And it’s again Holy Wednesday, the day on which Judas has betrayed Jesus, the day on which he took his money for it”. He refused to explain whom he compares to Judas and whom to Jesus. He just said we are witnessing a kind of “Mysterium Iniquitatis”.
But at least the government finally got a message: the young have enough of Pope John Paul II already. Therefore this year’s children parliament (traditionally held on 1st of June, International Children Day) will debate another important issue, as this year’s topic is “Following the steps of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński – looking for the direction signs in the modern world, according to the values and ideals of Primate of the Millenium”. Yes, seriously. This is, according to PiS, the topic that is most pressing to today’s youth.
Meanwhile what the youth (and older people as well) really care about is a drive to the destruction of Polish nature. PiS together with State Forests are for example trying to undermine EU consultations regarding the European Strategy for Biodiversity. With the strong PR campaign of lies, they try to scare the public into filling the survey so the public opinion would be biased more towards allowing them to continue chopping Polish forests. Meanwhile yet another team of experts – this time academics from the Polish Academy of Science – yet another time criticized State Forests for yet another instance of destroying Polish nature. But the trees have to be chopped. How otherwise the foresters would found their perks and benefits? The director of State Forests just bought himself a house – from State Forests. He paid only 9400 zł for a house of the market value estimated at 190 000. Even though some employees are able to purchase property with a significant discount, he did not qualify. But if you are a director of State Forest, you can change rules briefly, buy a house, and then change them back, right? But let’s don’t blame him. You would also do everything to avoid paying an extortionate rent of 387 zł per month…
The only problem is that the house is in the forests. Its residents might have to deal with lost soldiers. As the army just purchased 12 000 new compasses. Despite the fact, that the army grade devices vary between 165 and 400 zł per piece, the army managed to save money by sourcing them at 60 zł per piece from a company that sells Chinese garden equipment. Except that those are just Chinese toys that everyone can buy on Alibaba.com from $0.30 (1.20 zł) per piece… I guess they would make a nice set with those infamous Grot rifles that are falling apart (read more here). But don’t worry, the defensive capacity of our country has been further improved by the fact, that the busy road between Bielsk Podlaski and Hajnówka, despite pledges from the local community, will not receive a cycle path alongside. The reason given? The strategic military importance of that artery.
And if that did not make those pesky cyclists feel safer, then perhaps they should be happy that the major issue regarding air traffic safety has been resolved: the two Air Traffic Controllers, who blew the whistle and alerted public opinion that some towers are staffed with only one controller at the time, got promptly sacked, and their trade union has been disbanded. I don’t know about those cyclists, but I feel safer already.
But in recent days the public opinion has been shocked by the former PiS senator’s bestiality. Annoyed by the fact that his dog escaped its enclosure, he captured the animal, then tied it to the towing bar of his car and dragged it along the tarmac to its inevitable death. The whole situation was captured by another driver’s dashcam, so he was soon apprehended by the police. He denied animal cruelty saying that “he just walked the dog by tying it to the car” and that “nobody is taking care of their dogs as good as he is”. To prove his innocence he demonstrated a dog, well and alive. But it was not the same dog – the police found the killed one buried in Bonkowski’s garden. He faces 5 years in prison, but despite fact that he already tried to mislead the police, he has not been arrested.
Just over a month ago Jan Lityński, legendary activist of the anti-communist underground, former MP and advisor to president Komorowski tragically died, after drowning under the ice when trying to rescue his dog from the river. The difference in how animals are treated by former politicians of the PiS and the opposition can be a good illustration of the differences in moral compasses between the two sides of the political division…
This piece was written for Britské Listy
Illustration: screenshot from the website of the Polish Highest Court