From Poland with Love - May
Topic of the Month
Far-Right against Holocaust Researchers
Polish far right MP Grzegorz Braun violently disrupted a lecture on Holocaust by Professor Jan Grabowski. The lecture took place at the German Historical Institute in Warsaw.
Grabowski is a world famous Polish-Canadian Holocaust researcher (University of Ottawa). He is a son of a Holocaust survivor. His publications have been controversial among the Polish right wing. In particular, the 2018 book "Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in German-Occupied Poland", co-authored by Barbara Engelking, triggered a wave of protests as it talks about violence of Poles against Jews during the World War II.
When Grabowski started his lecture, the far right lawmaker stood up shouting “enough” and ripped out the microphone. Later he tore out the cables and knocked over the loudspeaker. When the president of the Institute, Milos Reznik, asked him to leave, Braun said: “A German in Warsaw is not going to tell me I shouldn't damage something. Get out of Warsaw, now!" (Reznik is in fact Czech.). Security guards and the police didn’t do anything as Braun was waving his MP ID that guarantees him parliamentary immunity. The politician claims he had to defend Poland’s good name against the “historical propaganda.”
Braun is known for his anti-Semitism and radical behavior, e.g. actions against vaccinations. He is one of the leaders of the Confederation group in the Sejm. But lectures of Grabowski have been also protested by, among others, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), the minister of education Przemysław Czarnek or former advisor to president Duda.
Also Barbara Engelking is under fire from the side of the Polish government after she had said in an TV interview that Polish Jews felt disappointed in Poles during World War II, referring to what she described as “widespread blackmailing” by Poles during the Nazi occupation. “Jews knew what to expect from the Germans. Germany was the enemy. The relationship was very clear. The relationship with Poles was much more complex”, she said. After the interview was aired, both the historian and the TV station were threatened with consequences by government institutions.
The latter ones accuse her of not giving due credit and respect to the Poles who lost their lives to help Jews. Prime Minister Morawiecki called Engelking’s opinion “scandalous” and “anti-Polish”. Education minister Przemysław Czarnek warned that he might cut funds for the institute she works at. When 1.000 academics, based in Poland and abroad, have put their signatures to the letter expressing “opposition to the political attack on Prof. Barbara Engelking”, the minister said that he will analyze who they are. He added that Poland cannot “employ people who slander Poles”.
End of the ‘Moron Case’
A court in Warsaw has dismissed charges against a writer Jakub Żulczyk who called President Andrzej Duda a "moron". Żulczyk had faced a potential three-year prison sentence for insulting head of state on social media.
Judge Tomasz Grochowicz ruled to drop the charges against the writer and close the case. The court decided that continuation of the case could infringe free speech rights. He also said that it is important that public figures can be criticized for their actions by citizens.
Children Ombudsman Will Control LGBTQI-Friendly Schools
Polish Children Ombudsman Mikołaj Pawlak has announced he wants to inspect schools that were chosen the most LGBTQI-friendly by the students. He announced his plan at the Church-Education-Upbringing conference in a monastery in Wigry.
Pawlak said directly to the homophobic education minister Przemysław Czarnek, also present in Wigry, that he will send his controllers to the top 10-20 schools – mostly from Warsaw - listed in the ranking. He wants to know how the LGBTQI friendliness is manifested. "Unfortunately, it often turns out school principals or other institutions do not verify their employees in the pedophiles register. We must protect children from criminals and such verification is one of the key tools we should be using", he insinuated.
In May the fourth edition of the ranking was published; the first one covered only Warsaw, but the following three included schools from all over Poland. It is prepared by an NGO called LGBTQplusME project. This year’s winner is Collegium Gedanense from Gdańsk. After the announcement by Pawlak, LGBTQplusME has presented the Legal Shield, a document meant to support schools in case of aggressive inspections.
Morawiecki Wants Death Penalty Back
Prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki – surprisingly for many - has spoken in favor of the death penalty. He called its abolition in 1997 a "premature invention". “The penalties for the worst degenerates are much too low”, he added. In the same speech, he admitted he doesn't share the view of the Roman Catholic Church, that he belongs to, on the issue.
The comment came on during the nation-wide debate after the death of 8-year-old Kamil. The boy died after being in a coma for over a month after being tortured by his stepfather. Prosecutor’s office revealed that the man forced the child to stand atop a hot stove and poured boiling water on his body.
Morawiecki named Kamil’s murderer a “monster”, just like the public opinion does, and called his justice minister to recommend amendment to the penal code. Deputy Minister of Justice Marcin Warchoł quickly supported the idea.
But prime minister’s views on death penalty are not shared by all PiS politicians. Piotr Müller, spokesperson of the government, stressed it was a private opinion of his boss. According to a recent poll, 48,3% of respondents said they support the prime minister’s position, and one-third of them strongly believe capital punishment should be reinstated.
Poland’s Best Referee at Far Right’s Event
In Poland, football has often influenced politics, but never before any referee have united so many political parties.
Referee Szymon Marciniak was supposed to officiate the final of the Champions League, making many Polish football fans very proud. But only a few weeks before the big game, the anti-racist association Nigdy Więcej (Never Again) informed UEFA that Marciniak was a special guest at an event organized by the leader of Polish far-right, Sławomir Mentzen. The latter one is known for his slogan: “We stand against Jews, gays, abortion, taxation and the European Union”.
UEFA launched an investigation. Quickly multiple articles appeared in the Polish internet that the decision was taken and Marciniak, who refereed the World Cup final between Argentina and France in December, will be pushed away from the prestigious event.
The Polish referee issued a statement where he claimed he was misled about the character of the event. “I want to express my deepest apologies for my involvement and any distress or harm it may have caused”, he wrote in a statement. “Upon reflection and further investigation, it has become evident that I was gravely misled and completely unaware of the true nature and affiliations of the event in question. I had no knowledge that it was associated [with] a Polish extreme-right movement”, he concluded.
Marciniak was backed by the highest state authorities. He received words of support from the Polish Football Association (PZPN), sport ministry and ministry of foreign affairs. Even Prime Minister Morawiecki decided to speak on the matter. He tweeted: “all political forces in Poland speak with one voice regarding Marciniak, the best referee in the world [who] respects every human being…[and] cannot be judged on the basis of one unfair opinion”. Surprisingly, opposition politicians also commented that Marciniak should not be punished. Many remembered his active anti-discrimination efforts, e.g. in 2019, he became the first referee in Polish highest league to implement anti-racism protocols and when one of the player of foreign origin became a subject of racist attacks by fans, he stopped the match.
The biggest critique fell on the Nigdy Więcej association. Anti-racist activists were blamed for triggering a storm in a teacup and anti-patriotic behavior. They received threats and became victims of massive hate speech campaigns online.
UEFA has announced that Marciniak will take charge of the Champions League final.
Poland and Germany
The outgoing German ambassador to Warsaw Thomas Bagger warned Polish authorities not to “open Pandora’s box” by pressing claims for EUR 1,3 trillion in war reparations from Berlin. Bagger added that that the Polish government’s hostile “tone” towards Berlin is damaging bilateral cooperation. He repeated that for the German government the topic of reparations is closed. “Nothing good would come of this for Europe. And a united Europe is our future, not only the future of Germany, but also of Poland”, he said.
“Nothing is easy in Polish-German relations apart from misunderstandings” and the latter ones are a result of “completely different historical experiences”, Bagger summarized his short service in Poland. “After a year spent in Poland, I can say that in no other society that I have been able to get to know does history play such an important role as here”, he added. “Remembering the past, you should have your face turned towards the future. And this is something I miss in the Polish debate. Constantly looking back can distort the perception of the present and the future”, he concluded.
Polish embassy in Berlin announced it is “appalled” by educational material for teachers published by Germany’s Independent Commissioner for Child Sexual Abuse Issues . It includes a section about a fictional Polish mother whose son is afraid of “coming out” because „as a faithful Catholic, she hates gays and will reject him”. The material has been promoted on the web site of Federal Ministry of Family Affairs.
Polish ambassador Dariusz Pawłoś described the publication as dangerous since it reproduces “anti-Polish stereotypes”, including the one that all Poles are homophobic. According to Pawłoś, “even more dangerous issue is introducing into the minds of German youth the belief that the Catholic faith is based on hatred”. He also viciously reminded that homosexuality was a criminal offence in West Germany until 1969 under a Nazi-era legislation.
Poland’s embassy in Berlin said that consulates in German states would be taking action to eliminate questionable materials. The consulate in Munich has already initiated an intervention against the publication.
It is worth remaining here that Poland, once again, is in last place within the European Union in the Rainbow Europe ranking. Poland meets just 15% of the ILGA-Europe’s ranking criteria. According to the organizers, Poland lacks a number of legal rights and protections for LGBTQI people, including no form of recognition of same-sex partnership and no hate crime laws relating to gender identity and sexual orientation. Additionally, in order to improve the legal and policy situation of LGBTQI people in Poland, ILGA-Europe recommend removing obstacles to the effective exercise of freedom of expression of LGBTI people at national and local levels and prohibiting medical interventions on intersex minors when the intervention has no medical necessity and can be avoided or postponed until the person can provide informed consent, and expressly including references to sex characteristics in anti-discrimination legislation.
Dispute about Cross-Border Trash
Poland will sue Berlin in the European Court of Justice over Germany’s reluctance to remove 35.000 tons of waste illegally deposited in Poland. Deputy environment minister from the hard-right Sovereign Poland Party (formerly known as Solidarity Poland) Jacek Ozdoba said "The Federal Republic of Germany has been evading some very fundamental things, like environmental care". He added that in this case Germany violates European treaties. According to the deputy minister, the issue had been fruitlessly discussed during bilateral talks over two years ago. He called the German approach “disgraceful”.
Polish environment ministry claims that the government is actively combating the illegal export of waste by implementing stricter penalties for ecologic offenses. Germany is Europe’s biggest exporter of waste. From the other side, 70% of Polish waste imports comes from Germany, much of it is illegal as operators often don't have a permit to accept or recycle the type of waste they receive. German companies regularly declare as plastic waste that is impossible to recycle, saving 50% of their waste management costs in the home country. Environmentalists have been calling for better monitoring of where their waste is going.
Concerns over Surveillance of the Opposition
European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry to investigate the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware (PEGA) adopted its final report. The Committee raised deep concern about spying on the opposition and free media in Poland. MEPs wrote that Poland’s use of the Israeli spyware Pegasus was part of “a system for the surveillance of the opposition and critics of the government -- designed to keep the ruling majority and the government in power”.
European lawmakers call on Poland to comply with European Court of Human Rights’ judgments and restore judicial independence and oversight bodies. They should also ensure independent and specific judicial authorization before the deployment of spyware and judicial review afterwards, launch credible investigations into abuse cases, and ensure citizens have access to proper legal redress.
Members of the Committee noted that EU governance structures cannot effectively deal with such attacks and say reforms are needed. Liberal Dutch MEP Sophie In‘t Veld commented: “Do we have evidence? No, because none of the authorities are cooperating”.
Other countries names in the report are Hungary, Spain and Greece.
Russia Is Sending Poland a Bill for WWII
The State Duma, lower chamber of Russian parliament, adopted a resolution calling on the government to ban Polish trucks from entering the country. According to the proposal, Polish trucks will be able to enter Russia only to unload goods at the closest custom point. What is more, the Duma wants to impose a special petrol fee for Polish truck drivers. How Polish drivers use Russian petrol stations if they won’t be able to operate in Russia, is unclear.
According to the Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, such move would cost Poland USD 8,5 billion and 20.000 jobs. Volodin added that Poland must be punished for having “betrayed the historical memory” of the Soviet Union liberating Poland from Nazi Germany with a series of hostile acts against Russia. He reminded that Poland exists only because of the military success of the Red Army. “If they have any problems with that, they should give back the territories received after World War II by the Soviet Union’s decision”, the Duma speaker said. He called Warsaw to pay Moscow USD 750 billion for “liberating” and “rebuilding” Poland after the war.
Kremlin’s anger at Poland is raising with every month of Poland’s unwavering help to Ukraine and actions taken against Russian administration. And last month Warsaw gave some extra reasons… Polish secretary of state Marcin Przydacz told the Financial Times that Poland could demand World War II reparations from Russia if it persuades Germany to pay a similar bill first. What is more, Polish government has recently said there is a big disparity in the number of diplomatic buildings each has in the other's country, indicating that the quantity of real estate managed by Russian embassy in Warsaw should be reduced. Finally, Warsaw city authorities closed down a secondary school, which had been run by the Russian embassy in Poland.
Kaliningrad Not Anymore
Poland's Committee on Standardization of Geographical Names outside the Republic of Poland announced it was recommending with immediate effect that the city of Kaliningrad should be known in Poland as Królewiec and the exclave's wider area as Obwód Królewiecki. The Polish Development and Technology Ministry supported the proposal. Therefore, Polish officials will from now on refer to the city with its Polish name only.
Polish authorities say that Królewiec is the city's traditional name, and the “imposed name” should not be used any longer. Kaliningrad was known as Königsberg (or King’s Hill in German) for most of the time since it was founded in 1255 by Teutonic Knights. Polish name Królewiec is a general translation of the original name and was in particular in use when the area was a part of the Kingdom of Poland.
After World War II, the Soviets renamed it Kaliningrad after Mikhail Kalinin, one of the leaders of the Bolshevik revolution. “The fact of naming a large city close to our border after M. Kalinin, a criminal co-responsible for issuing the decision on the mass murder of Polish officers in Katyń in 1940, evokes negative emotions in Poles”, minister of development and technology Waldemar Buda commented.
Polish decision sparked anger from Russian authorities. Dmitry Medvedev commented: “Should Poland not like the name Kaliningrad, the names of Polish cities previously occupied by Germany should be replaced by German ones”. Such comments will only help Poles to forget about the post-Soviet name of the city even faster…
Miracle on a Tree
Dozens of faithful Poles have been coming to the town of Parczew in Eastern Poland to see an apparition of Jesus Christ on a tree outside a block of apartments. To present the full picture, it should be stressed that some people see rather Virgin Mary on that tree.
The ‘face with a halo’ appeared on a tree on May 14. Many people say it is a miracle and pilgrim to Parczew. Prayers and singing don’t stop. The tree-mania flow up upon Poland, a leaf from the tree was sold online for PLN 720 (ca. EUR 160)
Not all Catholics in Poland believe in the ‘miracle from Parczew’. Among the skeptics, there is the spokesperson for the local diocese of the church, who said that the image reminded him more of 2014 Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst.
Poland and Ukraine
On the Volhynian Massacre
The speaker of the parliament of Ukraine Ruslan Stefanchuk offered condolences to the descendants of Polish people massacred by Ukrainian nationalists in Volhynia during World War II. He said in the Sejm: “We understand your pain after losing your dearest ones. To all families and descendants of the victims of the events in Volhynia, I express my sincere condolences and gratitude for maintaining a bright memory of your ancestors. A memory that does not call for revenge or hatred but serves as a warning that such a thing should never be repeated between our nations”.
The Volhynia massacre has for long been a point of controversy and disagreement between Poland and Ukraine, in particular between nationalist groups in both countries. The dispute has been used by Russian propaganda to divide both nations, and it was expected that more tensions will appear ahead of the 80th anniversary of the events. The emotions have been recently heated in this regard by the Polish ministry of foreign affairs. Its spokesman suggested that president Volodymyr Zelensky should apologize for the massacres. These words were condemned as unacceptable by Ukraine’s ambassador to Warsaw.
The Stefanchuk’s speech was welcomed by politicians from both the government and the opposition as reducing tensions and opening space for dialogue. Only representatives of the far-right and anti-Ukrainian Confederation party commented the speech with great skepticism calling it “vague”.
The Volhynian massacre was anti-Polish ethnic cleansings conducted by Ukrainian nationalists culminated in the summer of 1943. The massacres were exceptionally brutal and affected primarily women and children. The actions resulted in about 100.000 deaths.
Polish Children Among Best Readers
The results of the latest Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS 2021) were presented by the Polish ministry of education. “Poland and Finland top the EU’s league table for literacy” among fourth graders, minister Dariusz Piątkowski said. According to the data, only four countries in the world reached better result, namely Singapore, Hong Kong, Russia and Great Britain. The worst EU performers were Belgium, Cyprus and France.
Poland has improved considerably in the ranking, rising from 29th in 2006 and 28th in 2011 to 6th in 2016 and 5th in 2023. Polish girls scored higher than boys, and the difference between them was among the highest, first among EU countries.
The PIRLS 2021 study surveyed over 367.000 pupils of the same age from 12.000 schools in 57 countries and eight additional cities and regions. Besides comparing the reading ability of children in various countries, the research also interviewed parents, native-language teachers and head teachers. The survey is conducted every five years by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).
Visa decided to open a new global Technology and Product Hub in Poland that will be the first of its kind for Visa in Central and Eastern Europe. The Hub will house as many as 1.500 new tech and product hires over the next few years.
“Poland’s highly skilled workforce and vibrant IT sector make it an ideal location for us to recruit and collaborate with partners and businesses to develop new payment solutions”, said Rajat Taneja, president of technology at Visa. “It is exceptionally good news that Visa, with its unique global experience and know-how, has chosen our country out of all possible locations, thus building Poland's position as the best place for investments in the new technology sector”, commented prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki. “Some of the factors that pointed to Poland as a location for this investment were the high qualifications of our IT staff and the significant pool of talent on the labor market. We have great potential to bring highly innovative investments to our country", he added.
The Little Prince of Languages
‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has been translated to Polish dialects to promote cultural diversity of Poland. It was an initiative of the Media Rodzina publishing house from Poznań. The book has been translated to Silesian (Mały Princ), the Podhale dialect (Mały Królewic), the Greater Poland Dialect (Książę Szaranek), Kashubian (Môłí Princ), Lemko (Малий Прінц), Mazurian (Małi Princ), Kurpie (Mały Kśić) and Karaim (Kiči Bijčiek). Some of the editions have an extremely limited number of potential readers, e.g. the Prussian one (Līkuts Princis) was printed in 200 copies by the Prusaspirā Association, which unites people reviving the Old Prussian identity.
Translations of the book into local languages and dialect was a topic of a linguistic conference that was organized in the village of Kadzidło in Mazovia. One of the speakers was liberal MP Monika Rosa (Nowoczesna party), a tireless fighter for recognition of the Silesian language in Poland.
‘The Little Prince’ has been translated to over 400 languages globally. In fact, Polish was the first language it was translated to, apart from English. It happened in 1947, only three years after the book was published in French and in English.
Trends & Polls
Kantar for Fakty TVN
Civic Coalition 32%
Poland 2050-PSL 10%