Where has my country gone?

I vote, pay taxes, buy Polish food and even bus and train tickets. I also encourage my friends from around the world to visit Poland, I admire Polish art, and still according to the new government, I’m not considered a good patriot. I am, in fact, the opposite: a traitor.

Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Poland


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I love Poland, and I have always been proud to say that I am Polish. I have always thought of myself as a modern patriot. I take part in elections, I respect the law. I try to support national economy, and I hate when employers do not abide by labor laws and avoid paying taxes. No matter if I am in Poland or in another country, I look for Polish products in shops; I support local and regional producers.

As I am studying abroad, I constantly encourage my friends from all around the world to visit Kraków, Warsaw, Gdańsk, the Polish coast and the mountains, forests and castles. I proudly talk about Polish culture and traditions, cook pierogi and serve the finest drinks to my classmates. At the parties I ask DJs to play Polish songs and I teach others some of Poland’s national and regional dances; I know the whole Polish anthem by heart. I admire Polish art and heritage; I tell my friends about the Polish Nobel Laureates, and quote Polish writers and great minds. Whenever a Pole achieves a success in the international arena, no matter whether in sports, technology, business or art, I feel a sense of pride. I teach others the Polish language and care for its beauty, showing others that there are more amazing words in the Polish language, than the curses most foreigners know. I also explain to fellow students Poland’s complicated history and  current affairs.

But apparently this is not enough that I might call myself a patriot, or even a Pole really.

Why you may ask?

According to the Chairman Jarosław Kaczyński of the Law and Justice (PiS), the governing political party that now has the parliamentary majority, I am a Pole of the worst sort. “In Poland, there is a horrible tradition of national treason; a habit of informing foreign bodies on Poland, as if it’s in their genes, in the genes of the worse sort of Poles, and that’s what it is,” he said in the interview for TV Republika 1. Many supporters of the current government said that this is a fragment taken out of context, so I decided to watch the whole interview, and unfortunately, it is not. There were also many other disturbing speeches by the current government dividing Polish society about the “best” and “worst” Poles. Apparently, I am one of the traitors, because the situation in my country bothers me and I am not afraid to speak up. Moreover, I think it my patriotic obligation to react when things are going wrong.

This last semester I studied at a Hungarian university, and I heard many times over that Poland is heading in the same direction as our fellow V4 country under the leadership of Viktor Orbán. I realize that there is some truth to this, however painful it is to hear.

According to the new government and its supporters the recent protests in the defense of the constitution were organized by the people, and paid for by the former government, the communists, bankers and all other “enemies of the nation,” including the Germans, Russians, Jews, the European Union and generally, anyone who did not vote for Law and Justice. Although, it must be said, some of the people that voted for PiS are now joining the groups protesting actions taken by the new government, like the overnight takeover of the Constitutional Tribunal. According to a December poll by Ariadna, 64% of Poles assess their country’s current political situation negatively. 2 Also, 51% of respondents think the government is violating democratic standards with their actions related to the Constitutional Tribunal.  3

Although the Constitutional Tribunal takeover has been the most discussed issue, it is not the only worrisome step taken by the ruling party. The new Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Piotr Gliński, tried to block the production of the Nobel prize-winning Elfriede Jelinek’s play by a Polish theatre company, claiming that it was, “pornography.” The public media journalists are also being fired one by one, and replaced by pressmen who foster government interests.

I do not like that Europe and the world is laughing at us, because we are more than just a joke, and we can do way better than this. Simply put, it worries me that the only good Google Alerts about Poland I have received recently are news stories about Poland, Ohio, in the US.

To me, being a good patriot means saying “no” when basic laws are broken and the state is slowly being destroyed by the current authorities. I know that I am a good patriot, even if at the moment, I am considered the worse kind of Pole. Ironically, I am quite proud of this.

Notes:

  1. “Kaczyński: Resortowe dzieci się bronią i dzisiaj wybrały sobie za główną twierdzę Trybunał Konstytucyjny,” Telewizja Republika, December 11, 2015, http://telewizjarepublika.pl/kaczynski-resortowe-dzieci-sie-bronia-i-dzisiaj-wybraly-sobie-za-glowna-twierdze-trybunal-konstytucyjny,27220.html (accessed January 22, 2016)
  2. “Sondaż: równie złe oceny prezydenta i rządu PiS jak PO w 2015, pesymizm w 2016,” Tajniki Polityki, January 1, 2016, http://tajnikipolityki.pl/sondaz-rownie-zle-oceny-prezydenta-i-rzadu-pis-jak-po-w-2015-pesymizm-w-2016/ (accessed January 22, 2016)
  3. “PiS łamie standardy, ale Polacy nie chcą być „pouczani” przez Komisję Europejską,” Tajniki Polityki, January 20, 2016, http://tajnikipolityki.pl/pis-lamie-standardy-ale-polacy-nie-chca-byc-pouczani-przez-komisje-europejska/ (accessed January 23, 2016)
Agata Mazepus

Agata Mazepus

is a journalist specializing in Central and Eastern Europe. She is a graduate of the joint master degree programme "Europe in the Visegrad Perspective."