The big news in Poland is, of course, a village near the Ukrainian border that had been hit by a rocket, killing two men. The international media covered it well and since, judging from what I see in the Social Media, I am the only person in Poland that is NOT an expert in rocket science and military technology, I don’t think I have much to add. Just for the record, I want to mention that the investigation is still pending, the working theory is that it was, in fact, one of the Ukrainian defense rockets, but Ukrainians forcibly deny this is a possibility – even though it changes nothing as nobody in their right mind would try to blame them for trying to defend themselves. Some people suspect that the village of Przewodów was targetted by mistake as it has a latitude of Kyiv and longitude of Lviv, but as I said I am not an expert so I won’t even dare to suggest if this is in any way a credible theory.
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What really surprised me is that contrary to the expectations of many people in Poland and abroad, neither the Polish public nor the Polish government was irresponsible. There were no calls for invading Russia or invoking article 5. The government as they should – some security procedures were increased, allies had been consulted and all that while not going over the board with hysteria – unless we count providing F-16 jet fighters to escort the plane carrying Polish football team. But when it comes to providing safety to footballers, F-16 won’t help if they are at risk from inside of the plane: it had emerged that the Polish Football Association employed a neo-nazi criminal as a bodyguard of Robert Lewandowski, one of Europe’s top sportsmen.
Meanwhile, the footballers aren’t the only representatives of Poland that fly to take part in the international event. The minister of health flew to the US, where he spent a week attending an international conference on biotechnology. Except that the conference was not really international – it was organized by the Poles, and most of the participants – mostly representatives of the pharmaceutical industry – also came from Poland. The conference itself lasted just a few hours, it was basically a press briefing and a short panel discussion. And all that for a mere 400 000 zł. But at least the participants agreed that they should discuss possible cooperation – so it is a success, I guess?
All of that is where the health service in Poland is in tatters: one of the very few child psychiatry units for example is so overcrowded, that it has more than twice the patients than capacity – children in critical mental conditions are forced to sleep on the floor in the unit’s corridor. Despite that, the government decided to seek savings by cutting funds for the health service by 77 billion zł over the next decade. And what do the experts think about this? Well, their opinions were not sought. Apparently “due to unequivocally positive or neutral character of the project, the consultations were not required,” says the document, explaining that there is no time for this, as the changes have to be made quickly. To me it sounds like a famous quote from King Julien XIII, a lemur character from the Madagascar cartoon series that once said “Now, let’s hurry before we realize it makes no sense!”.
Luckily (for some) the government sees no need to cut funds that are being pumped to the NGO’s and foundations ran by “Rabbits friends and relations” – to stay in the field of quotes from children’s culture – that is by people associated with politicians of the ruling coalition. Foundation established by minister Michał Dworczyk (the same one who’s e-mails are being regularly published online by – allegedly – Russian hackers) just received nearly 5 million zł grants to buy some buildings. The total sum of grants since PiS came to power came to about 64 millions so far. Another foundation, one of many connected to another government minister received 20 millions, despite having no meaningful achievements or even a plan (the foundation aim is to “promote comprehensive development and education of humans throughout their lives”) and the property registered as a foundation HQ serves, in fact, as a private residence of it’s chairwoman. The women was accused by her neighbours of disturbing their peace by throwing out loud parties and now she is accused of murder after – as she claims – “accidentaly stabbing her ex-boyfriend with a knife”. I swear I am really not making it up.
Amongst the beneficiaries of the current government we can also find an infamous businessman priest Tadeusz Rydzyk who, apart from running his media empire and university, managed to build, thanks to generous government grant, a geothermal installation in Toruń. Despite the fact that all experts were warning for years that the underground waters at this locations are not hot enough to provide reliable source of heat. In result for the installation to work, the water has to be heated with the use of other energy sources – like gas. As the result people from the housing estate connected to this installation have to pay 500% of the going price for their heat (and this after the whole project was heavily sponsored with their tax money).
But it is not only the government that takes care of their “Rabbit’s friends and relations”. My home town of Wrocław is just being shaken by a scandal when it had emerged that various municipal institutions – like a waterpark, a social housing company or the city’s wateworks and sewage company – have “Program Councils”. I can understand why a cultural institution might need one, but a waterpark or a water treatment plant is new for me. I tried to find a program on the waterpark’s website but failed miserably, so I contacted them asking to provide me with one – I would be even be happy with last year’s one, unfortunately at the moment of writing I still haven’t received an answer.
One could say the the purpose of existence of such councils is for the Wrocław’s president Jacek Sutryk’s friends – who don’t have any qualifications (as none are required to be a member of such body) or want to bear any responsibilities (as the body is strictly advisory) – to be able to make some money on the side. Each member of such boards is paid 2000 zł per month, even though they are only required to attend a meeting twice a year. The councils are so secret, that even their alleged members themselves don’t know if they are members or not. “I was in that council, but I am not sure if I am still a member” said one of them to a reporter – “But I enjoyed it, we had interesting discussions”. And what topic a program council of the waterpark might be discussing, you might ask? Well, they apparently came with the idea to sell salad in the buffets, so they ordered a range of salads and tasted them to check if they are good. I swear again, I am not making it up, even though I wish I was…
With such examples of obvious corruptions you might be wondering where is the police. Well, they are very busy. Apart from guiding Jarosław Kaczyński, who tours Poland with his own “enthusiastic audience” on tow (each of those events are protected by more cops than there were soldiers on Westerplatte, that in the first days of WW2 for a week heroically defended that Polish outpost from overwhelming Nazi forces supported by the fire from the Schlezwig-Holstein battleship…) they are too busy tracking dangerous element. Like an opposition activist known for placing his own, non-government-aproved flowers under the monument to the victims of Smoleńsk crash and other people who try to disturb Kaczyński’s montly rituals. They are also – along with other uniformed forces – still engaged in actions against refugees trying to enter Poland from Belarus. Although since the numbers of refugees decreased, they are now threatening local population – one of the local women had a rifle pointed at her when she went out for a walk. The army promised to find a soldier who threatened a citizen with shooting her, but so far we only have a denial from the Territorial Army – that operates in this area – that it was one of theirs. Somehow I don’t feel any safer knowing that a mystery armed people in green uniforms threaten Polish citizens just across the border from the Belarus and the army don’t even know who they are…
And all while Poland still hasn’t received money from the European recovery fund, as the government still stubbornly refuses to re-establish the rule of law and implement the milestones set by the European Commission. According to recent polls Poles have no doubt who should be blame for that and well over 60% of respondents blames the government (17% says it’s Europe’s fault and 11.5% blames the opposition). But the government does not believe this is true. “This opinion poll has been manipulated by an ill-informed public” says the chief of the political cabinet of the MP Marek Kuchciński. I guess the public needs to be better informed, should we expect turning the propaganda dial on the public media to 11 now?
Speaking of the number 11, we had another Independence March in Warsaw. As you might remember in my very first piece in Britske Listy that had been published 10 years ago I tried to explain how it happened that Poland celebrates its independence by having radical right rioting in Warsaw, destroying its city centre and fighting police. Not much had changed, except that we got used to it, the radical right still marches the street with their far-right slogans, and the only difference is that they are not bothered by the police any more – under PiS the police are harassing counter-protesters who stand next to the route of the march with anti-fascist banners.
You might also remember that my second-ever piece I was explaining that Poland is not really that much Catholic, it’s just the church is unduly powerful and all governments are trying to please it in every way possible. I am sad to report this is also still true, and it got even worse under PiS, as it not only pumps an enormous amount of public money into it, but also actively engages in torpedoing any attempts to curtail church’s obstruction in investigating paedophilia cases. For example PiS politicians are against new law making it mandatory to provide all relevant documentation on the request of the prosecutors within 30 days, saying that church’s internal regulations have priority over the state law and thus removing the church from the scope of those new regulations – despite the fact that it’s the church that is responsible for the lion share of the obstructions to the paedophilia cases investigations…
But to be fair, it is not only the government that will always defend the clergy. After a local vicar in Nowa Dęba had an affair with a local woman, the village was flooded in leaflets in which the woman is being accused of being an “immoral divorced whore, who seduced an innocent priest by showing him her defiled perineum with no regards for what the parents of this wonderful, beloved priest might feel. No, she does not care about it, she spit at Christ’s face and she’s proud that”. The pamphlet ends with a wish “for that bitch to be swallowed up by the earth alive” and call for a prayer and it’s signed by “parishioners of the local church”. I am not an expert, but it does not sound too Jesus-like to me… The woman’s employer, a local hospital, says that while they don’t engage in their workers private lives, they have advised her to leave the town. The church meanwhile says that it’s up for the priest to decide if he wants to remain the member of the clergy.
In the country like that, I guess it won’t surprise you that the fact that in the most recent episode (2699th) of one of the soap operas broadcasted by the public TV two women characters will kiss each other is a news worthy of headlines in media related press and celebrity gossip portals, but also a subject of the serious analysis on the cultural pages of the biggest daily paper…
This piece was written for Britské Listy
“Side View of a Priest in the Church” by Ron Lach (CC, free to use via Pexels)
“Sexy woman” by Richard Foster (CC 2.0 via Wikipedia commons)