Unfortunately due to my work commitments, I am unable to bring you new chapters of the Absurdistan series as often as I would like, which forces us to take a step back and look at the recent events in Poland from a greater distance. But perhaps this is what we need, as really BIG things are happening in Poland and you need really a wide lense to capture their sense.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like what PiS does every day changed dramatically. It was more like steady progress, more and more of the same, and, like in that anecdote about boiling a frog, we would be able to miss how bad things got. Because they got really bad. They lost all the limiters, went off the rails, and stop from nothing.
It’s not just that they give cozy jobs for their friends and families. Things already went to a higher level: it had for example emerged that in 2019 Mateusz Morawiecki’s sister was “employed” by the city of Trzebnica in a fake job in a non-existent department. That’s an old story now, but of course, with PiS you can expect everything. So something quite the opposite happened: Dziennik Bałtycki, a local press controlled by the government after PiS-controlled oil giant Orlen purchased most of the local papers (more on that here) organized a plebiscite for “Personality of the Year 2022” which was won by Agata Bąk for her “achievement in AI implementation in human resources”. You can google all you want, you won’t find Agata Bąk anywhere – because she does not exist, she was created by a local activist with the help of an AI chatbot and picture generator to show, that this whole competition is just money making exercise. Nobody verifies the candidates or cares about any merit, it’s just to encourage people to vote – because to cast a vote, you have to pay. And PiS won’t stop from any way to make some money on the back of regular Poles.
What apparently also does not exist in Polish air defense. On the 26th of April, a woman riding a horse in the woods near Bydgoszcz found pieces of wreckage, which turned to be a crashed Russian nuclear warhead carrying capable rocket Ch-55. The woman had to report her findings to the police a few times over two days before somebody took an interest. After some time it emerged that this rocket entered Polish airspace on the 16th of December. Polish air defense tracked it for a bit then lost it. They also lost interest and never found out what happened with it (maybe the soldiers were too busy with their mandatory bible readings). Minister of Defence Mariusz Błaszczak finally spoke up and told the press that nobody informed him about it, which was quickly debunked by the army officials, who claim they informed the minister as per relevant procedures, but the case was swiped under the carpet as the government was afraid of political repercussions in case the public finds that they can’t be protected from potential Russian attack or even a lost rocket like the one that killed two men in Przewodów earlier last year.
It ended up with a festival of mutual accusations where both the prime minister and the army officials basically accuse each other of lying and nobody is taking any responsibility. Prime Minister Morawiecki claims to be unaware of the situation too. But the facts seem to be as follows: the army initially began the search for the rocket, but this was shot down by Minister Błaszczak’s orders. Of course, the government denies any wrongdoing and assures Poles they can feel safe as our air defense is in the highest standards… and then an unidentified drone the size of the glider plane misses a passenger liner landing at the main Polish airport Warszawa Okęcie by 30 meters. And again, instead of following procedures and closing the airspace immediately, another plane was allowed to land. The pilot was just warned by the air traffic control to “watch out for the drone”.
Online security is not better. You might remember a recurring topic in that series of leaked e-mails of Minister Dworczyk, who, to the astonishment of everyone that still cares, still remains a member of the cabinet, despite the fact that it had been confirmed several times already that at least some of those leaked e-mails are real. One of the recently leaked e-mails included login and password to one of the government systems for crisis management (sending such information in the open e-mail should be a sacking offense on its own). Some nosy journalists used those and to their surprise found that THREE YEARS LATER those were still active and they were able to log in. Of course, Dworczyk still remains a member of the government.
And how are the reforms of the justice system going? Newly appointed judges faithful to Zbigniew Ziobro begin the changes themselves. Judge Daniel Jurkiewicz for example first moved himself to the court where he will have less work to do then issued a decree preventing any new cases from being added to his workload. In one of the most important investigations related to illegal surveillance of the opposition senator Krzysztof Brejza’s phone with the use of Pegasus software a CD containing crucial evidence had been damaged. Incidentally, CDs containing important evidence related to the Beata Szydło limo crash have also been damaged. Apart from the fact that such evidence is still transported on CDs in 2023, how nobody made a backup is beyond me. But it’s not like the justice system does not do any work: in the court of appeal the driver of an illegally modified BMW that killed a pedestrian on the crossing while going nearly three times the speed limit had his sentence lowered (more on that accident here). According to the judge, the victim is partially to blame, as he should be able to hear the noise of the illegally modified exhaust and notice a bright orange car rolling towards him at 136km/h…
Shame no such attention to detail can be visible where public money is siphoned out to shady foundations and organizations run by friends of PiS. And those attempts are getting more blatant. A leading PiS propagandist got nearly a million for a shady foundation that hasn’t been able to show any project completed for such hefty grants, other PiS propagandists got nearly 2 million for portal sovereignty.pl that was supposed to spread Polish point of view abroad. Money well spent, I guess, as according to the analysis of the portal press.pl, this website designed with WordPress is visited only by Polish users, (probably because only PiS fans would like to read this anti-EU drivel, and they already read it elsewhere, as a lot of those articles are just (bad) translations of pieces already published in another pro-PiS media) and not many of them.
In its best months, the whole portal registered under 5000 visitors. For comparison just my latest article for blisty.cz had been so far read by over 2300 readers. Sovereignty.pl has 523 followers on Twitter (my personal account has 8045) and they gathered 73 likes and 88 followers on Facebook (nearly-dead profile of my blog orynski.eu has respectively 400 and 418), and I haven’t got a penny from the government for MY WORK on promoting Polish point of view abroad (and not that much from Blisty.cz either, so please donate to support independent journalism!). And if we talk seriously, Notes from Poland, an English language source for all things Polish I highly recommend has over 40 000 followers on Twitter and around 60 000 on Facebook…
My personal opinion is that PiS seriously considers the possibility that they can lose power in oncoming elections, so they just try to steal as much as possible. They are like the mafia. And those aren’t my words – a personal friend of Morawiecki, who got a cozy job in one of the state-controlled companies fell out with his partner and the mother of his child and started to blackmail and abuse her in text messages. Amongst many threats he sent to her, there was that chilling message in which he told her “Yes, we are mafia”.
But it’s not like they are not thinking about winning elections. They keep promising new money giveaways. Kaczyński promised to raise their flagship child benefit from 500 to 800 zł (as most of its value had been already eaten by inflation). Donald Tusk reacted swiftly and promised that if PiS will raise the benefit BEFORE the election, they will vote for it too, but suddenly it became impossible. What can be done before the election though is to pay local communities grants of up to 10 000 zł for the organization of the dance nights, but only in the period immediately before the elections.
But if the voters can’t be swayed to like PiS again, there is also another option: to make it impossible for Tusk to enter back into Polish politics. The parliament just passed a new law that would create a special parliamentary commission to investigate Russian influence. This Russian-style institution will be able to arbitrarily decide that someone is a Russian agent and prevent him or her from participating in public life. The commission will have almost unlimited prerogatives, even undermining the basics of the law (like client-advocate confidence or the basic rule of “lex retro non-agis”) and its decision will be final. If you decide to ignore the commission, they will be able to find you up to 50 000 for not turning up when summoned. Their decisions are to be final and you won’t have the right to appeal but the members of the commission will be granted immunity from any future prosecutions for any wrongdoing. Readers can research it more, as it had been covered also by the international media, but I guarantee you’d be only even more outraged.
While this commission is clearly aimed at Tusk (the bill had been already nicknamed Lex Tusk), it’s not the only opposition activist that is being targeted. Bartosz Kramek, one of the leaders of the Open Dialogue Foundation had been harassed for years. His wife, Ukrainian Luydmila Kozlowska has to live in Belgium after the Polish government put her on the red list, trying to prevent her from entering the Schengen area. Many EU countries found the accusations to be fake and ignored it, so she was able to live in Brussels, but she is still not allowed into Poland and PiS tried to prevent Kramek from leaving Poland so he would be unable to meet his wife in person.
Recently a whistleblower contacted Gazeta Wyborcza and claimed that the secret services not only eavesdropped on Kramek, but ordered him to look for compromising materials in his room (like used condoms), or even tried to move him to another hotel where known Russian agents were staying so they could photograph them together at the breakfast table to compromise him. I am sure he will also become a target of this outrageous commission. Along with many others – a TVN reporter, who asked Kaczyński if he still trust Minister Błaszczak after that aforementioned blamage with the Russian rocket, instead of the answer heard that he is “representing the Kremlin”.
Meanwhile, the opposition also prepares for the election. Donald Tusk called for the nation to gather in Warsaw on 4th of June – the anniversary of the first (partially) democratic elections in the Eastern Bloc that took place on that day in 1989 – to show disdain for the PiS rule. This march is planned to be a show of force, or at least a chance for the opposition to make a head count, so PiS already tries to sabotage it. Local opposition activists from Wrocław claim that Polish railways made it really difficult to organize special trains to Warsaw on this day. There are already rumors circulating that police on that day will be tasked with detailed technical controls of the vehicles heading to Warsaw – which should be treated seriously as harassing opposition activists under false pretexts of technical control is a well-tested tactic of the PiS-controlled police.
The opposition also tries to take over the narration online. With some success, a hashtag #bambik took over the internet by storm after Donald Tusk used that word (coming from the vocabulary of the young gamers, fans of the game Fortnite, meaning a poor and inexperienced player) to describe Mateusz Morawiecki. But not all attempts to take over narration go well: Radosław Sikorski posted a picture of Donald Tusk standing in the viewing gallery in the parliament, looking over PiS MPs, and called it “Lion and hyenas” which was not the most fortunate, as everyone who remembers the famous scene from the class Lion King cartoon can realize:
But there is still time. I’d just rather see that politicians from Platforma Obywatelska tried to reach to the young people not with an attempt to make some hashtags trending on Twitter, but rather with some program that could encourage young voters to trust the boomers. Those might be the most important elections in our recent history, “Vote us or you’ll end with PiS” might not be good enough anymore.
This text was published in Britské Listy
Picture: Public Domain