Meanwhile in Cuckooland 95

Last two weeks in Poland were of course dominated by a tragic murder of the mayor of Gdańsk (see here). Some say that this might become an important point for the future of Polish politics, that after that nothing can be the same. PiS quickly pulled all dreamers down to earth, by outrageous opposition blaming propaganda from the public media from one side, and behaviour of PiS leaders – Jarosław Kaczyński and his acolytes, for example, have chosen not to take part in the minute of silence to commemorate Adamowicz and entered the plenary room only when tribute was paid already. The public, on the other hand, showed overwhelming support for the late president. In the ad-hoc fund-raiser on Facebook, in which organizers hoped to raise 1000 zł for the charity supported by Adamowicz, the answer exceeded all expectation: they ended up with 15 991 611 zł.

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But while Poles remain shocked by this violent murder, it does not mean that other issues have been left unattended. The government plan to slaughter all wild boars under the pretext of fighting African swine fever epidemics has been met with protests all around. Apart from environmentalists and experts, who point out that mass slaughter of the whole species will be counter-productive in fighting disease while causing unpredictable results for the ecosystem (think cull of sparrows in Mao’s China in 1958, that led to spread of insects feeding on crops, resulting in massive hunger), mass protests including petitions and street rallies, as well as hunts blockaded by eco-activists took place all over the country. Amongst the protesters are also hunters themselves. Even infamous Jan Szyszko, former minister of environment famous for his devastation of forests and love for hunting spoke about how this mass slaughter makes no sense.

After the massive outcry, the government put its head in the sand – just a few months ago the minister boasted about the need to kill ALL wild boars in Poland, now they try to convince the public, that the number of the animals killed this year will be no greater in the previous years. They say now, that so-called “sanitary cull” will be ordered only in few departments aside regular hunting plans. This result in the total chaos, as even hunters now don’t know how much wild boars they should kill. Moreover, since the ASF is spread through blood and the virus can live outside the host for up to 7 months, it’s hunters who might be the most responsible for its spread. Of course, during sanitary cull, a special hygienic requirement has to be met (and for that trouble hunters are to be paid up to 650 zł per animal), but since they have also to carry on with the regular plan, some hunts are going on as usual. As one of the hunters told TV reporters, it’s completely unclear when the hunt is considered “sanitary” and when it is to be treated as a regular one, as of course there is no way to tell before shooting the animal if this particular one carries the virus or not. Therefore many boars are killed and paunched on the spot, leaving ponds of blood everywhere, which is only likely to spread the disease even further, even for miles, as many hunters carry dead animals on the racks attached to the back of their cars. The internet is flooded with the footage of the snow sprinkled with blood:

or even with the hunter’s dogs biting the dead (or injured) animals:

So why to push ahead with this slaughter if it’s clean, that it won’t help in fighting ASF at all? Recent local elections confirmed, that PiS is losing support in the big cities, and it’s unlikely that they will be able to win those voters back, therefore they have to focus on gaining support in the countryside. Many farmers see requirements of bioassecuration as a nuisance and they are very reluctant to take care of their stock, especially, that when the virus is discovered in pigs in the area they have no way to sell meat anyway. Nearly 90% of EU funds allocated for the fight with the disease has been unclaimed, and 3 in 4 farmers never introduced bio-assecuration measures. So the plan was that instead of forcing farmers to observe hygienic requirement, the government will order mass hunt, marking action against ASF and keeping both farmers and hunters happy… It just didn’t work as planned.

The other thing that government had to back down from recently was the reform of domestic violence law, according to which it would be a crime to beat your wife only if you’ve done it more than once. After an outcry government not only made a u-turn but even started to lie that they never wanted to introduce such changes. Their desperate efforts to cover a scandal in the National Bank, where two unqualified blonde females, nicknamed by the media “court ladies of the bank” turned out to be one of the best-paid government officials in Europe (earning more than president Macron or British Prime Minister, not to mention any of Polish politicians) is also not going well. While the bank chairman called the whole thing a “shameful, brutal, primitive and sexist tormenting of two mothers, their husbands and families”. The bank representatives accused media of “stalking”, “humiliating” and “breaking human rights”. This only caused further scandal after it has emerged, that the legal firm assigned to defend the bank has been well overpaid as well – at the rate that is a few times higher than those of the most expensive lawyers in Poland. But apparently “defending national interest” has to be expensive…

But at least they are doing something for that money. One of the overpaid ladies is employed as “communication manager” and her duties make her, de facto, a banks spokesperson. But since the scandal emerged (or, actually even before) nobody was able to hear any communication from her…

Apparently, PiS don’t like cheap things. But it does not necessary means that they got value for their money. The delayed program of so-called “independence benches” has also turned out to be a total disaster. The impractical “multimedia benches” that are of little use if you want to seat on them, but play patriotic songs and Piłsudski speeches from the speakers, turned out not to be a terrible eyesore (see the pic below) but also of really poor quality.

In just a few weeks they started to rust, and the paint is peeling off them. And all that at only 30 000 zł a piece or more (depending on location) – the total budget allocated to the program is 4 000 000 zł. The local businessmen from a small town decided to shame the government and funded a practical and aesthetically pleasing bench for a fraction of the price

And that was PiS flagship project, yet it came delayed, overpriced, ugly and of terrible quality. It’s perhaps because they don’t’ have any specialists or people of any managerial skills. Which of course don’t stop them from appointing their political nominees whenever possible. The world famous Arab Horse Studs in Janów Podlaski, that during its 200 years old history survived two wars and 45 years of communism after just 3 years of PiS management found itself at the verge of bankruptcy. Now the similar scenario is expected in Koleje Dolnośląskie, regional rail operator based in Wrocław considered to be one of the best railway operators in Poland. This company, thanks to the smart management and wise investments broke every record – during just the last 5 years they recorded growth in passenger numbers of 480%. Only in 2018, they carried 2.2 million more people than just a year before. The company chairman has been praised for re-opening many abandoned rail lines and improving the quality of the rolling stock, as well as customer experience. Yet with PiS taking power in the regional parliament, he has been sacked for no reason and replaced by PiS nominee without any railway experience – to such extent, that he admits even not riding a train for more than a decade. But perhaps he will run his railway in the agreement with “patriotic values”, as this seems to be the direction for the railway promoted by the government

What values guide Polish foreign politics seems to be unknown. One thing remains stable: it’s a never-ending chain of disasters. Since the New Year Polish government managed to enrage Ireland by suddenly breaking the common EU front in Brexit negotiation and supporting British impossible demands. There is a diplomatic crisis with Norway, that demanded Polish consul to be withdrawn claiming, that his interference in the work of their Social Services go well beyond his diplomatic role and accusing him of “improper behaviour towards public functionaries”. The government and Polish diaspora in Norway back the consul, pointing out that Norwegian Barnevernet, an institution fighting child abuse, is too trigger happy when it comes to taking children from their Polish parents. This is not the first situation, a previous consul had to be withdrawn from Norway in 2011 after comparing Barnevernet to Hitler Jugend. The fact, that Poland recently granted an asylum to a Norwegian citizen, who fled to Poland after Barnevernet wanted to take away her second child, accusing the mother of being a drug user, will not help to settle the crisis.

As if it was not enough to anger our European neighbours, Poland decided to back Donald Trump and host his conference on Iran in February. Iranian ambassador said that while Iran “don’t consider Poland to be its enemy”, its recent actions put 540 of Polish-Iranian friendship at risk… A festival of Polish movies in Teheran has been cancelled and there are some rumours about Iran refusing visas to Polish citizens…

But we also have new friends. After meeting Jair Bolsonaro, president Andrzej Duda said, that he shares his Brasilian counterpart’ “conservative values and ideology”.

God help Poland! The only hope is that PiS will lose this year’s election. Which they just came a big step closer: Just days after it had emerged, that Kaczyński’s protegee was involved in the corruption scandal in the mining conglomerate KGHM Polska Miedź and it was swiped under the carpet and the whistleblower who reported it had lost his job, a secret recording of Jarosław Kaczyński have been published. On those tapes Kaczyński negotiates business deals on behalf of the company, that for a long time was suspected to be PiS’ financial powerhouse, thus proving beyond any doubt, that PiS runs the business, which is illegal for political parties in Poland. The conversation relates to their secret business plan, in which they planned to build office towers on the land acquired in a suspicious manner by Kaczyński’s previous party and then taken over by the network of companies and foundations run by his trusted figureheads. The matter is complicated, but it included plans to change political decisions in favour of the project and obtaining a huge credit from state-controlled banks. From the recording we can see different face of Kaczyński – a cynical, dexterous negotiator, fully aware about, let’s call it, complicated legalities of his businesses, with a knowledge about other people’s deals and happy to use institution of the state for his own gain – he even refuses to pay his business partner for the work already carried, telling him to go to the court (which, if all went according to Kaczyński’s plan, would be by then already under full control of PiS). But the scariest thing is that from those recordings Kaczyński emerges not as a cynical oligarch, but as a man so detached from reality, that he sees nothing wrong with his actions.

It seems that even throwing Batrłomiej Misiewicz, a young protegee of former Defence Minister, under the train (he has been arrested on corruption charges just a day before Kaczyński’s tapes went public) might be not enough to contain the crisis. The shit has already hit the fan.

When a mountain hostel in Tatra mountain had to be evacuated by a helicopter after it had been covered by snow, one of the tourists demanded to be left there, saying that being snowed in in the wild with just a few hostel employees as the company is his only chance to enjoy peace and quiet. Pal, with what is going to happen in Poland now, I wish you that winter in Tatra mountains last really, really long this year!

This piece was published in Britske Listy
Photo: Adam Wajrak (used with permission).



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