So with the threat of war looming over Polish eastern border, how is our country doing, you might ask? Well, it seems it is business as usual, although some of the extreme right-wing people ask if we really need to stand by Ukraine: perhaps we should just sit down with Putin and split Ukraine between Poland and Russia, that would serve them right for what they did to us during Vohlynia massacres. Incidentally, the Vohlyn massacress are always brought up by Russia and pro-Russian trolls, or just some useful idiots, like some people on the Polish right, when Russia is trying to make another attack on the Ukrainian independence. And the propaganda efforts of the Russian side are conducted at really large scale.
I remember how back in 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea, I was suddenly flooded with e-mails from people pretending to be my readers at Britske Listy. Some were criticizing me for not writing enough about Polish-Russian relations, others were praising me for being a fantastic journalist and asked me to write about Volhynia massacres – of course, both sides were so kind to provide me with useful links to some Czech language blogs and sites, which – if you followed the tracks of quotes and reference links, invariably led to some websites that were clearly part of Russian propaganda. I’ve engaged in some discussion, being curious as how far they are really willing to go – I also saw it as an opportunity to practice my Czech, as I don’t have much use of it in everyday life, and my real readers don’t write to me often enough to keep me afloat. At the same time, I asked some of my Czech friends to look at those e-mails and as one of my friends told me “while their Czech is very good, I can clearly see they are not native speakers”. About the same time I started my own website, orynski.eu, and as I was able to look through the visitor stats I noticed something that would correlate with that observation: of about 15 visitors per day who have their computers set to the Czech Language, 10 or 11 were located in the same location: Samara, Russia.
Soon the dust about the Crimean invasion settled down, and so the e-mails of concerned readers, suddenly very interested in my take on Polish-Russian and Polish-Ukrainian relationships also stopped writing to me. I’ve been often thinking about that, what is the scale of the Russian propaganda enterprises, if they task someone with not only sending me some e-mails (most of them were just probably copy-paste messages) but also in actively engaging in the discussion with me in the language that is foreign to both of us. After all, in the journalist world, with all respect to Britské Listy, I am not a high profile name, there must be thousands of people like me. Tasking people to engage with us in hope that one of us will be stupid enough to actually write something that would perpetuate Russian propaganda sounds like throwing a really wide net to me…
As the tensions in Eastern Ukraine have been growing again, I started receiving similar e-mails again. Someone really wanted me to watch lectures by some pro-Russian Czech writer. Luckily, over the years Google improved their filters, so I’ve only found about it because I was looking for some lost e-mail in my spam folder. Perhaps the strategy of their online-troll army needs refreshing, as, apparently, it is no longer up to the task.
What is no longer up to the task is also a Polish army. At least if we believe a report that had been leaked out to the press. According to it, the Polish army has lost it military capabilities: it is heavily understaffed, there is a great shortage of specialists from engineers through communication officers, sappers down to the people trained in the usage of heavy machine guys. Perhaps there is a chance that some reserve soldiers might remember something from their training, as the average age of them is 45 years. It still relies to a great degree on the cold-war era ex-soviet equipment with an average age of just under 40 years. The army reserves that are supposed to provide supplies for 30 days of military operations would be exhausted just after 7 and there is no system of control of the strategic companies that are supposed to supply further materials and equipment in case of war. It seems that Antoni Macierewicz sabotaging the program of modernization of the helicopter fleet (about which we wrote in that series several times over the years) was just a tip of the iceberg.
But what the army is good at, is harassing local residents of the region bordering with Belarus, which for several months now been under the illegal de facto martial state. Along with the police, border guard, and the territorial army, the soldiers terrorize civilians, tormenting them with illegal searches and constant traffic stops – not only at the numerous checkpoints. Apart from the behavior of the random young people with the power-trip, the locals have to deal with constant noise from heavy vehicles driving up and down their remote, until recently peaceful villages, constant streams of the spotlights hovering over their houses and properties, and littering at the unprecedented scale (according to locals, the soldiers try to blame refugees for littering, but the fact that most of that litter is comprised of the wrapping of the Polish food and alcohol cans and bottles it is hardly believable that it had been left by mostly Muslim refugees). Some of the local, unpaved roads are destroyed to such a degree that even postal services are unable to reach the most remote villages, as it is impossible to drive over the muddy ruts until you have a pretty capable 4×4 vehicle. And now, as the construction of the wall in the most remote areas begins, the traffic will now increase with cement and delivery trucks and heavy construction equipment. The result, so far, does not show good quality work, just look at this picture of Morawiecki visiting the first piece of the finalized constriction.
I guess sooner or later we’re going to read that the European Union is responsible for the state of those roads. Because when it comes to propaganda, PiS is good. The Poles are now bombarded with messages telling them that the EU is responsible for 60% of the energy prices, suggesting that the recent price hikes are due to EU environmental policy. The state-owned energy companies spent 12 000 on a billboard campaign, but people also see the government propaganda attached to their energy bills. This is actually not true, and even the government propaganda channel knows that but there is a way to go around that: look how the message saying “emission costs are responsible for 60% of the energy production cost but only for 20% of the energy bill” is shown on the TV, with the thick red line encircling 60% in such a way, that the bit about 20% is hidden underneath:
Z dzisiejszych #wiadomości – przez ułamek sekundy widoczna informacja, że koszty emisji CO2 to 20% rachunku za prąd….
a chwilę później gruba krecha zasłania to co niewygodne dla #pis.
Sorry za przester… to zupełnie przez przypadek. pic.twitter.com/g5LD8hZtPl
— FlasH (@FlasH_vikop) February 13, 2022
It also has to mention that money are not siphoned out of Poland by the EU. They stay in Poland and should be spent on the modernization of the Polish energy market, so it is more environmentally friendly. But nobody can say where all those money went.
We know, though, about the money that is not coming to Poland at all. The European Tribunal of Justice ruled, that making EU payment conditional on the observance of rule of law in member states is justified. The Polish Constitutional Tribunal tried to rule on that matter as well, but so far they postponed: no wonder, as there is hardly anything they can do about that, as it’s the Tribunal itself is where destruction of rule of law has begun in Poland.
But at least the fight with COVID is going well. The state’s efforts are directed just where they are most needed. While a hospital tried to kick out a woman, who caught COVID while in recovery after a complicated surgery, and force a patient unable to walk and in need of constant care to go back to her vulnerable mother, an investigation is held into 800 workers of the epidemic and sanitary institution who logged online to see how on earth it is possible that Jacek Kurski, despite being tested with COVID had been released from isolation, because they just did not believe that it is true and wanted to check for themselves (more on that story here).
And only one thing remains unchanged: relations between the state and the church.
– A priest, who hit a woman on a pedestrian crossing and fled the scene without helping his victim claims to be innocent. He says “he drove away to inform the police about the accident” and disagrees with the suspended (and very lenient) sentence he received. Meanwhile, to the outrage of the faithful, the church still keeps his back, and so does the state: the priest is still employed as a police and prison chaplain.
But at least the priest was sentenced for his crime. This does not happen too often. In a high-profile paedophilia case, the court just gave up on attempts to obtain documentation from the church, which refuses to release the accused priest’s files, claiming they have sent them to the Vatican, and therefore the documents are outside the Polish jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, the church agents in the school system are still fighting sexual education in school. The Minister of Education just informed the prosecutors that several schools in Gdańsk expose their pupils to demoralization because classes on sexual health and birth control were held there. Meanwhile, the Kraków Ombudsman posed in front of the wall of boxes, claiming that the boxes are full of complaints from parents who are unhappy with NGO’s promoting sexual education and LGBT tolerance in schools, so left-wing opposition MP came to investigate and found that all of those boxes were empty. They found only 6 actual complaints, none of them on that subject (but one was about the pro-life organization visiting schools without the parent’s consent).
It is clear that Catholic radicals are pushing their agenda against the will of the majority of Poles and just make up rubbish about enjoying wide support. But in such an atmosphere it is no wonder that the LGBT community is more and more afraid: in Kalisz there was a plebiscite for the most LGBT-friendly restaurant in town, but the victors refused to accept the diploma or to have their name disclosed, afraid of the repercussions.
But there is a wind of change. And from all places – from the public radio. In the recent religious program for children (yes, this is a thing in Polish public radio) someone swapped tapes, and instead of the religious song “Kiedy ranne wstają zorze” with the lyrics:
“When the morning aurora rises
The earth and the sea
All creation sings for You:
Be praised, almighty God!”
the children heard a parody song with the following words:
“When the morning aurora rises,
the hangover gets worse.
And on top of that, vodka got more expensive overnight.
Please, good lord (…) make that so thieves don’t grasp power anymore (…)
make it, lord, so the cops don’t play altar boys anymore (…)
make priest patter, and allow me to shag some new nice ladies every night,
and let the girls not sell out to Arabs, but to us, who pay them with Polish złoty”
I don’t know if it was a genuine mistake, or if someone just sabotaged the program, but anyway, I would rather have children listen to that than to that religious propaganda they are fed in that show on a regular basis.
This piece was written for Britské Listy
Graphics created with the use of public domain pictures