Every week I am trying to write about some less important things happening in Poland so my readers don’t only follow politics but can also get a glimpse in everyday life in Poland. But so many important things are taking place that almost everyday I end up dropping them hoping I will be able to squeeze them into a next week’s piece. I got a few of such things lying down.
Like that news item from late October about a completely idiotic “sport discipline” called “PunchDown” in which competitors just smash each other faces in turn, that ended up with one of them ending in hospital in coma with a severe head injury (the latest news I managed to find is from 6 days ago he is still in critical condition). Or about the exchange between two MEP’s representing Poland in Europe, in which PiS’ Beata Kempa addressed Radek Sikorski per “Herr lord” and he advised her to “hit herself in her greasy head” and of course Sikorski came under fire for attacking a woman despite that he apologized later (but strangely enough speaker Terlecki, who called a woman who politely criticized government’s stand against women’s right “a moron” and then doubled down on it, saying that she was aggressive and he was extremely polite to her under those circumstances is being defended by people close to PiS). There was that story about how the viaduct in Koszalin collapsed after unprofessional demolition attempt of just one of the spans ended up in the whole estacade folding up like a house of cards (luckily not a single car happened to be under it at this very moment). The news about Morawiecki’s project to build a flagpole in every parish (see more here) that was to “commemorate with dignity” the anniversary of the 1920 Warsaw battle, that apparently after the media attention made it impossible for the government to fund this project from COVID-19 funds, never came to fruition had also been ommited by me.
More recently the new banknote with Lech Kaczyński sparkled some criticism and mocking after it turned out that after decades of issuing banknotes that were highly appreciated by both experts and public, the National Bank of Poland issued one that looks like the task has been given to a colourblind 10 years old. The slogan on the note says “it’s worth to be a Pole” and the value of being a Pole is apparently valued at 20 zł…
But this is not the only controversy involving National Bank of Poland. Its chief Adam Glapiński – known mostly for being a faithful follower of Kaczyński and employing two unqualified blonde women at top position in his bank (see here) – was deemed to be one of the worst heads of National Banks in Europe, which came just as the inflation started to spin out of control (which is, according to him, not a problem, as the Polish economy is great as never, and the growing prices and inflation nothing to do with PiS government’s policies). Apparently though, he’s loosing his nerve, so he ordered his social media PR department to begin a counter-offensive. They started with calling the ranking “unimportant” and run by a paper nobody cares about, then turned into pointing that his precedents were also getting bad notes. Now its Twitter account suggests that the “attacks on National Bank of Poland are inspired by Donald Tusk” (apparently it’s social media are also run by 10 years olds). I am linking to the article, as the tweet itself might be deleted later, just as the one in which the Bank is bragging about making profit by manipulating złoty’s exchange rate…
But apart from that, life in Poland is going as usual. The public TV refused to broadcast a women-themed commercial in which the female Olympic athlete kisses her girlfriend. They demanded abit with nudity (like a women breastfeeding a baby) also to be removed, but while the nudity could be accepted after 8pm, there is no good time for homosexual relationship in Public TV. The country had been placed at the top of the list of the countries that fared the worst during the COVID-19 pandemics and government does nothing to prepare Poland for the next wave of pandemic or to up the vaccine uptake rates. Solidarnosć’ legend Władysław Frasyniuk faces prosecution for his words criticizing behaviour of soldiers towards migrants at the border (he said that their behaviour is inhumane and someone who treats weak, unarmed people in need in such way are scum and a disgrace to the uniform). Prime minister Morawiecki made a fool of himself during Climate Summit in Glasgow where he failed to provide any road map for Poland to go climate neutral, instead claiming that we, just like third world countries, cannot afford transformation (such an opposite message to the one directed for internal market, where he claims that Poland is having a golden time and everyone is jealous of our economic successes). Those journalists who refuse to carry that government propaganda in the newly taken over local press are forced to leave and look for a new job. Meanwhile in Swarzędz a man died on the street from health attack, as the nearby surgery refused to help, basically saying that “this is not their job” (but a doctor and a nurse came out of that surgery to watch, along with other onlookers, the ambulance crew struggling to save his life). Top it up with a movie director and a minister of culture arguing with each other who’s idea it was to make this film and what’s message it carries from one side and the fact, that the current Minister of Justice might be facing a Tribunal in Hague and that will give you just about a typical week in Poland AD 2021.
But the biggest event of last week were the marches under the slogan #AniJednejWięcej (Not one more) after the a pregnant woman died on septic shock after her doctors refused to perform aborion, choosing to wait for a natural death of the fetus instead (see last week’s piece). The marches drew crowds perhaps even bigger than those called by Donald Tusk a couple of weeks back in defence of Polish place in the EU:
But meanwhile despite the fact that the death of Iza of Pszczyna (as the victim is called in the media) had not been a sole example (another woman died in Świdnica after being forced to give birth to a dead fetus), the right is not rubbing their success (because everyone knew it will end that way) in our faces and refuses to own it. For PiS MP Marek Suski its absolutely normal (people die sometimes, shit happens, nothing to do with aborion ban – he claims), others – like Krzysztof Bosak blame doctors, saying that the fact that they might be less keen to act due to being afraid of responsibility under the new law is just a “leftist propaganda” and Kaja Godek – another lead proponent of abortion ban – blame… feminists. (Sorry can’t give direct link as she banned me from her Facebook).
Meanwhile it is apparently not the end yet. Ordo Iuris, the Kremlin-sponsored ultracatholic fanatic organisation, begun a “multi-stage campaign aiming to curb Polish women trips to have abortions abroad, sale of the medicine used for pharmacological termination and day-after pills”. Theyalso want to bring to justice everyone who facilitates abortions for Polish citizens (even if it’s just helping them with their trip abroad, which would make even me a criminal). First cases emerge already – one of the activist from the organization Aborcyjny Dream Team that helps women to get legal abortions got in trouble already – the organization confirmed, but all we know is the information leaked by the prosecutors to the TVP.
This is the stick, but since Poland is facing a demographic issue, the carrot is needed as well. For the mere 30 000 000 zł the “Polish Insitute of Family and Demographics” will be established. The institution has been proposed by one of the MP’s responsible for the abortion ban and apart from being a scientific institute, it’s chief will also be given prosecuting prerogatives in the field of family matters. Since the government has enough data as it is (but it’s not interested, probably because the data clearly shows that Polish women dont’ want to have kids due to economical situation, lack of affordable childcare and, last but not least, fear that if something will go wrong with their pregnancy due to anti-abortion laws they will end like Iza from Pszczyna, or in the best case, having to care for a heavily disabled child). So some suspect, that the prosecution aspect of the new institution is the most important – and the prosecutors will be able to step in when the family is, for example, not traditional enough, or if parents respect their child’s transgender issues or homosexual orientation… So the carrot is actually just an another stick, and the dystopian vision from “Handmaid’s Tale” comes closer and closer everyday.
Meanwhile the situation on the Belarussian border escalates. The reports of the inhumane treatment of refugees on the border are too many to mention here – women giving birth in muddy forests, kids separated from their parents and pushed back into Belarus by the Polish soldiers, unreliable rumours about dozens of bodies amassing in one of the local rivers or neo-Nazi groups patrolling the border are spreading – and we can’t vet those informations, as all we have are reports from the refugees and local residents and bits released by official Polish and Belarussian propaganda as the government still denies access to the press. The humanitarian NGO’s are also not allowed to operate in excluded area and Polish Red Cross is also not to keen to go there without government’s blessing.
As I write those words – on Monday, 8th of November thousands of migrants marched towards Polish border crossing. You could think this is what the Polish right wanted – after all they all were saying that asylum seekers should report to the official border crossing – but to a surprise to absolutely noone they were not allowed to enter. We don’t have reliable information, but allegedly the peaceful march was an idea of the refugees themselves, but the Belarussian regime hijacked the event and after the crowd was not allowed to cross into Poland, they become trapped between the Polish border and Belarussian soldiers forcing them to cross into Poland by brute force. According to some reports, Poles used tear gas, while Belarussians fired warning shots. At the moment of speaking, thousands of refugees are still trapped at the border, they are setting fires and camp along the border fence. It is gonna to be tough – according to forecast, the temperature is expected to fall to -2 degrees tonight.
Polish government still refuses Frontex assistance, and a decission had been made to spent 350 000 000 euro on “impenetrable wall” along the border. The whole force of Polish reaction is aimed at those people, who for that or another reasons became victims of Lukhashenko’s regime, while there are no attempt of diplomatic retaliations against Belarus, liasing with the EU and NATO or attempts to tackle the problem at source (that is – in Iraq and other countries from which Belavia planes take people to Belarus). Instead, the PiS regime and its followers can’t wait for the Polish army to open fire to refugees and accuses the Polish opposition of acting on behalf of Lukhashenko. The situation is dense, as Lukhashenko adds oil to fire by calling parts of eastern Poland “occupied Belarussian territory”.
And just to think that the situation could be de-escalated if those 350 000 000 euro were used to help those people in need (the reason how they became trapped in Belarus is no longer relevant) and show to the world, that Polish government hasn’t slumped down to Lukhashenko’s regime level yet.
This text was written for Britské Listy
Collage uses following pictures:
Photo of Migrants: Gémes Sándor/SzomSzed
Photo of Kaczyński: Silar
Photo of Lukashenko: Alexander Astafyev / Governmental Press Service
all under Creative Commons licence from Wikipedia Commons