Dear readers, first of all I owe you an apology for not being able to come with new chapters of my series for some time. As some of you might know, I left Britain for Finland, and moving house across the half of the continent on budget is complicated enough without things going wrong – and everything that could go wrong, did. I had to fix my car after incompetent mechanics in Glasgow destroyed my gearbox. My van broke down. I was sick and I had a dental emergency. All in all it took much more time than I expected.
But two things came out of it. First, I managed to transport 1 tonne of humanitarian aid from Finland to an Ukrainian relief centre in Poland with my van. Second, I had to spend several weeks in Poland. I could talk to people, get the feeling of the atmosphere, watch the news on TV with my parents or deal with a Polish bureaucracy. At the same time the fact that I was not following news as closely as I usually do allowed me to take a step back and look at wider picture. And therefore this chapter will be a bit different than usual.
Because I still have enough absurds collected to fill a couple of episodes. I could write about how in Wrocław half of the city was paralysed during the day because some VIP’s named a tram after Edyda Stein and wanted to take a picture with it on the tracks outside her home, so all the traffic on that line had to be stopped for half an hour. I could write about how a journalist of the government controlled radio wrote an e-mail about how one of the articles had to be removed as it was not in line with government propaganda – but instead of sending it via e-mail, accidentally published it on the radio’s facebook page. I can write about the government crying “discrimination of Christians” after child welfare NGO reported a Christian youth camp for putting kids in bondage (allegedly to show symbolic ties of the sin limiting human freedoms) – the government reported them to prosecutor for religious discrimination. We could laugh at Taxi Drivers from Karpacz who demand for public transport buses to be delegalized as it’s not good for their business, worry about forest guards being issued assault rifles for some reason or be disgusted by the fact, that ministry education sent cow’s eyeballs to schools for “educational purposes”, so the school children can look at them under microscopes in school laboratories. Sadly, schools have no laboratories. Or, in most cases, microscopes. They usually don’t have fridges for live tissue samples either, and even if they had, somebody would have to write on the top of the parcel what’s inside, and because nobody did, and parcels arrived in the middle of the summer the stench will be remembered there for weeks.
There is also an issue of the concrete in the freshly opened channel to nowhere (as the newly dug canal through Vistula Split leads to very shallow waters, so it’s still useless until the whole waterway and the port in Elbląg will be deepened too) is already cracking. Or about how TVP organized a concert in Elbląg to celebrate the opening of the canal, but forgot to register it as a public event, so the stage was fenced off so people could not watch it unless they went home and turn on their TV sets. Or how the Institute of National Remembrance accuses Gazeta Wyborcza of promoting totalitarian regimes after the paper published a picture of one of their directors is making a Nazi salute amongst some skinheads.
But two major issues were PiS getting more and more in trouble and Russia. And PiS and Russia might be more connected, but I’ll talk about that later.
First, PiS faces more and more scandals. They pop up in the most unexpected places. For example, Norbert Kaczmarczyk, deputy Farming Minister, had a wedding. For 540 people.
Skromne wesele w PiSie 😂
A dla ciebie suwerenie drożyzna,inflacja,brak węgla i katastrofa ekologiczna 😡 pic.twitter.com/bvo71WEOec
— Beata 🇵🇱🇪🇺🇺🇦🌈 (@BeataGorszySort) August 22, 2022
Ok, he’s not rich, but his parents might be. That’s not a problem. He got a gift from his brother. A tractor. He’s a farmer so it’s not a problem either. But that got some people thinking: if the minister is just a small farmer, why would he need a giant John Deere tractor worth 1.5 million złoty? Some pesky journalists decided they need to go deeper and found that the minister used some insiders knowledge and exploited a loophole thanks to which he is leasing 140 hectares of land that should be made available to local farmers – and pays about 20% of the going rate for it.
This scandal costed deputy minister his job and caused some tensions in the ruling coalition. To satisfy Zbigniew Ziobro, leader of Solidarna Polska, PiS satellite party that despite being virtually non-existent in the polls keeps hand on Kaczyński’s balls, Kaczmarczyk had to be replaced by another member of this party. And they really have short bench, so Janusz Kowalski, commonly known for being anti-vaxxer and a not-a-very-bright-person with a Donald Tusk obsession, took his place and instantly became ridiculed by everyone for his ignorance of the subject.
All decisions were taken above Morawiecki’s hand, so rumour goes that some of his competitors in PiS wanted to use that opportunity to replace him, but the idea failed as there was nobody stupid enough to take his place.
Because PiS is sinking. Polls consistently show that while PiS support still remains inexplicably high, other parties close the gap and if the elections took place today (and were fair), even if PiS still came first, it would not be able to create a government – even if they teamed up with other right-wing parties. But their voter bases also start to see the truth after all those money giveaways were eaten by extra taxation and record-high inflation. PiS government is very happy to rattle their sable and talk cocky things about Russia to show how anti-Russian they are, but completely failed to prepare for the energy crisis, so there is a huge shortage of coal and where it is, it’s being sold at quadruple of the last year’s price. It is important, as many Polish houses are steal heated with coal. People are genuinely worried and I know some friends who installed wood burning stoves in their workplaces as a last resort heating option and now gather old pallets and timber in their backyards. It broke my heart when I saw an elderly lady visiting a local supermarket with a small cart, begging employees to give her some scraps of broken pallets as she was unable to buy coal at cost of two of her monthly pensions per tonne…
To calm people down, the emission requirements and quality norms for solid fuels have been suspended and Kaczyński himself told people that they will have to burn everything (but tires and other harmful things) to stay warm:
Some already took it to their hearts and when a man in Wejherowo was apprehended by municipal police for burning rubbish in his wood-burning stove he refused to accept the ticket saying that “Chairman Kaczyński gave permission to do it”. To his surprise, the courts ruled against him. Apparently, Kaczyński’s words are not always the law in Poland yet.
This will of course worsen the already bad air pollution situation and begs a question: where is all that coal that was supposed last us for 200 years? Well, the truth is, Poland was relying on Russian imports that were gradually lowered since 2010, but when PiS came to power, they overturned that trend and yearly import is twice – or even three times – larger than during the last year of the previous government. So now with the embargo on imports from Russia they had to patch this huge gap – and all at the time when everyone else is trying to do the same.
No wonder they try to unload some of that responsibility and just made local councils responsible for the distribution of the coal to the public. This makes no sense, as councils have no know-how or facilities to trade solid fuels, not to mention they can’t create it from thin air: but that’s the plan: PiS will help those ruled by their own people and blame the ones ruled by the opposition for the shortages. The laws are very murky and rules for obtaining government-subsided coal are so complicated, that prosecutors surely will be able to find something to at least smear some opposition politicians with as well. And all that while local councils already struggle with huge financial cuts caused by changes to the fiscal policy, new tasks imposed at them by the government, and energy and fuel prices going ballistic. Some already reduced frequency of the public transport or switch street lights at night.
Poles are joking about it already: “What is the difference between Poland and Titanic? When Titanic was going down, it still had lights on and plenty of coal onboard”. Or when news came about a Polish actor being cast to the new Mission Impossible movie: “he’s going to play a Polish guy trying to buy coal”.
PiS knows that they are sinking. That’s why they tried to put out a new law making their people in the boards of state companies impossible to be removed for at least 5 years.
And all this with a great, flashing, banner saying “RUSSIA” dominating the Polish political scene. Remember that eavesdropping affair from 2014 that helped to bring Platforma Obywatelska’s government down (we wrote about it here). So it turns out that the man behind it was importing coal from Russia. And when Donald Tusk’s government acted to reduce those imports, his company went into financial trouble. As Polish Newsweek wrote last week, according to his business partner, he decided to pay off his debt by “bringing down the Polish government” and gave those recordings to Russian intelligence. Zbigniew Ziobro’s prosecutors knew it for years, and yet they refused to follow this line of inquiry. One could wonder why.
Investigative journalist Tomasz Piątek for years tediously works providing answers to this question: in his books about Antoni Macierewicz, Mateusz Morawiecki, Andrzej Duda, Tadeusz Rydzyk, and, most recently, Jarosław Kaczyński he investigates and explores their connections to Russia. I’ve read two of his books so far and while in my view his conclusions are sometimes too far-fetched, just the pure number of facts, suspicious coincidences and connections he managed to unearth should ring all the alarm bells in the counter-intelligence services and bring the government down. But nothing like that happened. Perhaps because the counter-intelligence services are controlled by Mariusz Kamiński a criminal illegally pardoned by president Duda (read more here).
Antoni Macierewicz regularly features in his column, and if you remember him, the question commonly asked in Poland – if he is a Russian agent or just a madman – won’t be a surprise to you. Recently a documentary by TVN24 shook the political scene for a while. It shows how the “subcommission for investigating Smoleńsk crash” led by him was engaged in falsifying the results of the research – by cherry-picking data and misrepresenting results of experiments – in order to support his theory that the plane crash was, in fact, a very complex assassination. Of course, nobody with just a basic understanding of physics (or logic) would believe in any of those stories about two bombs exploding in the plane perfectly aligned by malicious air traffic controllers with the pre-cut trees in the forest, but it was enough to sew doubt amongst the large chunk of the Polish population.
And who is known for that they don’t care about what people believe as long as they doubt the truth?
Still, PiS pretends nothing is happening, while Poles, hit by record-high energy prices, skyrocketing inflation, and new taxation are sliding back into poverty. But maybe it’s just a plan to protect Polish families as if we believe Tarnów’s Bishop Leszek Leszkiewicz’s “prosperity might destroy marriage and led for the man to harm his wife and kids and seek happiness in a homosexual relationship”. Good thing we’re going to be poor again then. Poor, but mad: according to a recent poll, 71% of Poles consider living in Poland to be harmful to their sanity…
This piece was published in Britské Listy