From Poland with Love. January

From Poland with Love
© FNFreiheit 

Topic of the Month

Former Ministers Go to Prison

In December, former interior minister Mariusz Kamiński and his deputy Maciej Wąsik (both PiS) were sentenced to two years in prison for abuse of power in previous posts. Already in 2015, before the end of the final judicial verdict, president Andrzej Duda issued a pardon to Kamiński who had been found guilty of abuse of power while serving as head of the anti-corruption agency (CBA). However legal experts questioned whether Duda could have pardoned him before a court issued a final ruling in his case. In 2023, the case was reopened and ended with a verdict that cannot be appealed against (read more in the last issue of the Newsletter).

Last month, the court issued a warrant to police to detain both men. The police went to find them and arrest them. President Andrzej Duda decided to give them refuge in the Presidential Palace, officially inviting them to attend a ceremony to swear in two of their close colleagues as presidential advisers. Donald Tusk suggested that President Duda was helping the men evade justice. "There is no rulebook for the prime minister or interior minister on how to act when convicts are in the Presidential Palace. This is clearly taking advantage of a situation in which no one will use force against such an institution as the president", the prime minister added.

It seemed that Kamiński and Wąsik were ready to spend days in the Palace, but the situation took an unexpected turn. When Andrzej Duda left to his another residence, the police entered the Palace thanks to cooperation with one officer of State Protection Service (SOP; special service for protection of top members of public administration) and arrested both convicted men. It was commented that Andrzej Duda went furious and lost trust to people responsible for his security.

Kamiński and Wąsik were sent to two different facilities. Kamiński announced he was going on hunger strike, "as a political prisoner, from the first day of my imprisonment". PiS brought its supporters to protest against the arrest, whom they called political prisoners, and demand their release. PiS called an anti-government rally in Warsaw.

Andrzej Duda declared that Kamiński and Wąsik were arrested illegally, as they had been pardoned. He added that from now on he’d be saying everywhere in the world that they are first political prisoners in Poland after 1989. He talked about the situation, among others, with European Commission’s Vice President Věra Jourová, but didn’t find acceptance. It is important to underline that Duda could have released them from prison with immediate effect by issuing pardon again. But he refused. Jarosław Kaczyński and PiS were putting pressure on the president to free their jailed colleagues as soon as possible. The tension between the president and the PiS leader have raised and it is commented that they stopped talking to each other.

Eventually, Andrzej Duda though he found a compromise between saving his reputation and expectations of his political patron. He announced that after being asked by Kamiński and Wąsik’s wives he started a new pardon procedure for humanitarian reasons. He didn’t pardon them (even if he could) but started a long process trying to force the justice minister to release Kamiński and Wąsik for the time of procedure. "For me, they have always been pardoned, but taking into account the social unrest, I decided to initiate the pardon proceedings", the president said in a statement. "I appeal to the justice minister for the immediate release of both gentlemen from prison", he added. The minister refused, and Duda was still seen in his own political camp as the one who is keeping their prominent colleagues behind bars. He didn’t take the heat and pardoned them again with immediate effect. It was yet another lost political battle of the president which adversely affected his esteem and credibility.

Kamiński and Wąsik left the prisons and announced political revenge. Even though parliamentary speaker Szymon Hołownia revoked their MP mandates, PiS claims that they are still members of the Sejm. It was expected that they would try to enter the parliament and the plenary hall by force during the last session but they did not show up.

Andrzej Duda decided to prologue the game over Kamiński and Wąsik to rebuild his political position, using his powers to damage the new government. When the new budget law was sent to him from the parliament, he signed it (the only law he cannot refuse to sign) but at the same time he sent it to the PiS-loyal Constitutional Tribunal (TK) for review. He argued that the parliament could have violated the Constitution when passing the budget bill not allowing "MPs Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik" to take part in the vote. Duda also said that he will be sending all acts adopted in absence of the two convicted politicians to the TK. The new majority reminds that by law they lost their mandate when they were sentenced and it is not possible to restore them. They also remind that PiS in the past adopted state budget in the Sejm by blocking access of all opposition MPs to the plenary hall. Prime Minister Donald Tusk commented on X "The budget is approved and that was the goal. The rest doesn't matter".


Andrzej Duda pardoned Magdalena Ogórek and Rafał Ziemkiewicz, two TV celebrities loyal to PiS, stars of the most politicized state-won channel, TVPInfo. They were found guilty for defamation of LGBTQI+ activist Ewa Podleśna and ordered to pay her PLN 10.000 (EUR 2.300) each.


‘The Terror of the Rule of Law’

Justice minister Adam Bodnar put himself in the center of the battle for the rule of law, and EU funds for Poland. Many people doubt that a well-behaved human rights lawyer and former Ombudsman can become a determined politician, but he proved he has courage and will to clean up the mess PiS left.

His first move on taking office was to sign a motion for Warsaw to join the EU prosecutor’s office. The former government had refused to do so. “The EU is extremely important for us”, the minister stressed. “Brussels is an instrument for good, not a destroyer, so we have a great loyalty to it. It can be an agent of transformation”, he added. Later, he became a central figure in the Kamiński and Wąsik’s case (read amore in the Topic of the Month section).

Recently, Bodnar removed from office national prosecutor Dariusz Barski. National prosecutors are officially deputies of the general prosecutor-justice minister, but PiS in its last months in power changed the law and it is not possible to remove national prosecutors without the consent of the president. PiS passed the law to make it impossible for the new majority to dismiss their loyalists from this key institution. And Barski was very close to former hard-right justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro.

Bodnar found a procedural way to get rid of his enforced deputy. According to the minister and legal professors who wrote analyses for him, Barski had been illegitimately appointed to the position in 2022 under the PiS government. Barski’s return from retirement was done in violation of regulations.

Subsequently, Bodnar appointed a new acting national prosecutor, Jacek Bilewicz. This caused a protest by seven deputy prosecutors general and regional prosecutors, who were also appointed by PiS government. The latter ones published a letter “expressed strong opposition to the actions taken by Adam Bodnar, which have no legal basis”. Jarosław Kaczyński commented: “This is another scandal and violation of the law”. Donald Tusk responded on X: “just as the PiS occupation of Poland ended, the PiS occupation of state offices will end”.

Some lawyers fear that the situation can bring chaos to the Polish justice system, since all decisions of the national prosecutor who had been illegitimately appointed can be now questioned. Moreover, it can result in a situation where some people and institutions will recognize some prosecutors and their decision while other people and institutions will recognize other prosecutors. Ziobro-appointed prosecutors have launched an investigation against Bodnar’s decision

Justice minister’s steps have been harshly criticized by PiS. President Andrzej Duda warned of the “arrogance” of Bodnar and Tusk leading to – in his words - “the terror of the rule of law”. “We have to get away from PiS’s competitive authoritarianism,” Bodnar responded. “They wanted a new Poland that would be like Hungary, where law and media are political tools. There was a strong ideological dimension to it, the formation of a new elite following traditional values and with many benefiting financially”, he concluded. 

European Union Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders praised Bodnar to restore the rule of law and said they may lead to the release of billions of eurs in EU funds.

New Abortion Law(s)

Two coalition parties have presented separate bills to liberalize the abortion law, proposing to make the procedure legal up to the 12th week of pregnancy. The Left presented its proposal already in November, the Civic Coalition (KO) – in January.

It may look suspicious that there are two separate bills, and that Donald Tusk simply did not embrace the Left’s project. Civic Coalition explain that the prime minister promised in the campaign that his party would present its own proposal and wanted to keep his promise. MPs from KO and the Left comment that they will agree on a common text in the course of parliamentary work.

But it’s not clear if the liberalization will become a reality. The third coalition partner, more conservative Third Way (TD) composed of Poland 2050 and the PSL, does not support the legalization of abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy. Some of the TD leaders talk about a referendum on abortion or coming back to the pre-2020 law – before the Constitutional Court’s nearly full abortion ban – which was already one of the most restrictive laws in Europe. These ideas seem unacceptable for the Left and KO. “I do not intend to change my views under the current fashion”, commented Marek Sawicki from the Third Way.

The Left put forward one more bill related to abortion. It decriminalizes the act of helping a woman obtain an abortion, which is currently a crime that can carry a prison sentence of up to three years.

In addition, Polish government approved a bill to restore prescription-free emergency contraception, reversing a restriction introduced by PiS in 2017. Donald Tusk announced that this form of contraception would be available for women over 15 years of age.

National Bank Governor Safe for Now?

The Constitutional Tribunal (TK)- packed with PiS loyalists - has ruled unconstitutional the provision that a resolution of the Sejm adopted by an absolute majority to bring a case before the State Tribunal results in the suspension of National Bank of Poland (NBP) governor. The TK also rules that the bringing of the NBP's governor to accountability before the State Tribunal should take place by a resolution of the Sejm adopted by at least a 3/5 majority of votes and the legislator should amend legal acts in this regard.

Prime minister Donald Tusk vowed during the election campaign to ask the State Tribunal to investigate current NBP governor Adam Glapiński. The State Tribunal can impeach senior officials if a majority in Parliament votes for it. The current ruling coalition does not have the 3/5 majority to bring former ministers to justice, but an absolute majority is enough in case of the NBP governor. Or it was, until the new TK’s opinion.

Glapiński, a personal friend of PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński, accused by the current ruling majority for incompetence and acting in favor of PiS rather than playing its role of an independent guardian of the currency.

No More Homework

From April, compulsory graded homework will be banned in Polish primary schools. The pledge to ban them was part of the 100 promises announced by Donald Tusk in the election campaign. It was subsequently incorporated into the coalition agreement.

Education minister Barbara Nowacka said that currently primary school students have “an excess of things to learn, to memorize, also at home, at the expense of free time, at the expense of extra-curricular activities, at the expense of meeting friends”. The change will cover grades 1 to 3, and for older age groups only those who want to do additional work at home would be given it and it wouldn’t count towards their grades. In the case of high schools, homework would be maintained for now. "I am sure that after a few years without homework in elementary schools, it will also be abolished in secondary schools", commented Nowacka.

According to the education ministry, new homework policy is a part of the reduction of the curricula in general. New, lighter curricula, will be designed by experts for subjects such as history, social studies and natural sciences. Students, teachers and parents have been complaining that the curricula are too loaded with material and it is not possible to go through it in class, so students have to spend a lot of time catching up at home.

The changes are criticized by PiS. Former education minister Anna Zalewska said that banning homework is not giving teachers more freedom, as it was promised by Tusk. But also many experts and unions have doubt if ‘no homework policy’ will be beneficial for Polish children and teenagers.

Internatinal Affairs

Tusk in Kyiv

Prime minister Donald Tusk went to Kyiv to meet Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to tackle political disputes that have recently hampered relations between both countries. Tusk confirmed Poland will maintain its military and political support for Ukraine. "Poland will do everything to increase Ukraine's chances of victory in this war", he said. “Poland is ready to produce and support Ukraine with equipment and supplies”, Tusk concluded. Polish prime minister assured that he would be doing everything that it takes to support Ukraine on the EU forum, in all aspects of the accession proceedings. Warsaw will also join the G7 declaration, stating, they would provide Ukraine with long-term support, on its way towards NATO membership.

The leaders tackles also the issue of export of Ukrainian agricultural products and truck drivers’ protests (read more in the previous issue). Tusk and Zelenskyy announced they "have reached a common understanding" regarding the protests. “We understand the reasons that led to this situation, but we pay attention to the threats to our nations that are very close to us, so we must solve all problems in the most pragmatic way”, Zelenskyy said. Polish truckers suspended their blockade


Paweł Kowal would be appointed the Plenipotentiary for the Recovery of Ukraine. Pawel Kowal is a member of the Polish parliament who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee.


Slower than Expected

In 2023, Poland’s GDP grew by 0,2%, following an increase of 5,3% in the previous year.

Flash estimate shows that gross value added in the national economy advanced 1%. Within this, construction output increased by 3,4%, while the industrial sector showed a contraction of 0,7%. Household consumption declined 0,8% and gross capital formation grew at a faster pace of 1,8%.

Inflation came in at 11.4%.

The economy is now expected to grow around 3% in 2024.

Poland & Germany

Not Welcome Anymore

Polish Senate has canceled the invitation for Manuela Schwesig, president of the Bundesrat, to visit Warsaw in February. Earlier in January, Schwesig announced she was invited by Małgorzata Kidawa-Błoński, the speaker of the Polish Senate. “I am very happy to accept this invitation” she then commented, adding: “I am very glad that the people of Poland have decided on a pro-European government”.

Bundsrat president’s visit was criticized by PiS politicians. Kacper Płażyński MP asked on X: “Who is next? Schroder? Or maybe Putin? Unbelivable.”. PiS has voiced concerns over Schwesig’s advocacy for German dialogue with Russia, and her support for the construction of the Nord Stream II pipeline. Politico Europe named Schwesig as one of “12 Germans who got played by Putin”.


Homophobus Punished by Court

Mariusz Dzierżawski, a board member of the ultra-conservative Pro-Prawo do Życia (Right to Live) foundation has been convicted for slandering the LGBTQI+ community. He was sentenced for organizing a campaign that equated homosexuality with pedophilia. Dzierżawski will have to pay PLN 5.000 (ca. EUR 1.100) perform 20 hours of community service per month for the next year. He must also apologize to the individual plaintiffs and an association representing them.

The court case was initiated by a queer NGO Tolerado. Tolerado accused Dzierżawski of defamation and "humiliation in the eyes of public opinion".

Pro-Prawo do Życia has sponsored and coordinated a campaign named “Stop Paedophilia”, in which it claims, among others, that the “LGBT lobby” wants to use sex education lessons in schools to “sexualize” children. The campaign is promoted mostly by vans which are driving around Polish cities recording homophobic propaganda from loudspeakers. According to the court, there is no sound scientific research to support the theses propounded by the accused. The court called the slogans displayed on the vans “hate speech”, stressing that the right to protection against defamation applies not only to specific individuals but also to groups of individuals with a specific characteristic.“These words led to stigmatization, aggression, a desire to eliminate these people from society, and therefore constituted an example of hate speech that exceeded the limits of acceptable criticism or freedom of expression”, the judge highlighted.


Love Letter to Poland

Jesse Eisenberg's drama A Real Pain tells a story about a pair of cousins on a Holocaust tour through Poland premiered at Sundance Film Festival. The screening ended with standing ovation and critiques have been very enthusiastic about the picture.

A Real Pain follows two cousins on a Holocaust tour through modern-day Poland. Eisenberg  stars as David Kaplan, a neurotic New Yorker who joins his extravert cousin Benji, played by Kieran Culkin, on a guided ‘memory tour’ to the land, where their grandmother survived the Holocaust.

Culkin, recently the recipient of an Emmy award for his role in Succession, has been praised by The Guardian for his “scene-stealing, live-wire intensity.” The Guardian added “Filmed on location in Poland, including at the Majdanek concentration camp, A Real Pain has an alluring, unforced sense of place; Eisenberg and the cinematographer Michal Dymek capture Warsaw, Lublin and the Polish countryside with a curious eye, and not always glamorously. Returning to such a haunted, hallowed place also means plenty of graffiti, Communist brutalism, nondescript hotel rooms and trains”. Eisenberg described the Polish team, based on filmmakers from the Łódź Film School, as “the greatest craftsmen I have ever met”.

The filmmaker called the film his “love letter to Poland”. Speaking on YouTube, he said: “…a lot of the movie is based on my family’s personal history, we even filmed a scene at the little apartment my family fled from in 1938."

The film was inspired by a backpacking trip to Poland Eisenberg embarked on in 2007. The film is intercut by photographs from that journey, e.g. from the small town of Krasnystaw in which Eisenberg’s ancestors once lived.

Watch Jesse Eisenberg talking about the film at Sundance here.

Party Support

United Surveys for, 30.01.2024

PiS                              28,3%

Civic Coalition           28,2%

Third Way                 18,9%

Left                             9,6%

Confederation           7,6%


Happy Poland, Happier Gdańsk

Gdańsk, together with German Leipzig, has been rated as Europe’s fourth-best city to live in according to the European Commission’s Report on the Quality of Life in European Cities. The report examined 83 cities and conurbations in 36 countries, both in the EU and beyond.

Gdańsk noted 95% of satisfied people. Moreover, 87% of residents said Gdańsk is a good place for immigrants to live, which was the fifth highest figure in the ranking. In the same report we can find that eastern city of Białystok has Europe’s highest proportion of residents believing that their quality of life has improved in the last five years; Gdańsk came second in Europe in this category (two remaining Polish cities in the ranking, Kraków and Warsaw are also in the top 10).

The 112-page report is based on the results of a survey conducted between January and April 2023 with over 70 thousands residents from cities across the EU, European Free Trade Association countries, the UK, the Western Balkans and Turkey. According to this year’s edition the best cities to live are Zurich, Copenhagen and Groningen, and the worst: Skopje, Miskolc and Podgorica.

In another ranking, Eurostat concluded that Poland is among three happiest nations in the EU. On a scale of 1 to 10, Austrians rated their overall life satisfaction at 7,9 and won. Three runner offs are Finland, Poland and Romania, each scoring 7,7. The EU average was 7,1.

Top Names 2023

Zofia was the most common female name assigned to children born in Poland in 2023, with over 4,9 thousand registrations. Zuzanna and Laura were next, with 4.800 and 4.602 registrations, respectively. Nikodem was the top choice for boys, with over 6,5 thousand registrations. Antoni and Jan were next, with over 5.663 and 5.638 registrations, respectively.

The full lists look as follows:


  1. Zofia – 2.626 times
  2. Zuzanna – 2.489
  3. Laura – 2.450
  4. Hanna – 2.389
  5. Maja – 2.255
  6. Julia – 2.138
  7. Oliwia – 1.983
  8. Pola – 1.844
  9. Alicja – 1.798
  10. Maria – 1.586


  1. Nikodem –3.317 times
  2. Antoni – 2.930
  3. Jan – 2.848
  4. Aleksander – 2.824
  5. Franciszek – 2.525
  6. Leon – 2.430
  7. Jakub – 2.366
  8. Mikołaj – 2.056
  9. Ignacy – 1.994
  10. Stanisław – 1.975