Poles' fears shared across continent

Torn between a largely impressive success story and conflicting passions about national identity, Poland must decide where it stands.

May 23, 2019 02:10
2 minute read.
European Union and Poland's flags flutter

European Union and Poland's flags flutter. (photo credit: INTS KALNINS / REUTERS)


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KORWIN politician Konrad Berkowicz recently raised a kippah over the head of Law and Justice (PiS) Party member Anna Krupka in a debate. This, he claimed, was to remind viewers “who is kneeling before whom.”

The two appeared in a televised debate to represent their parties before the European Parliament elections on May 26. With 52 seats in the EU Parliament, Polish fears and hopes are connected to what is taking place in Europe and the world. Young people, used to the ease of travel and work in the EU, might not show up at the ballots to defend it, or vote for radical parties.

The fear that the Polish nation might be replaced by Jews isn’t new, and this isn’t the only fear lurking in what PiS calls “the heart of Europe.”

There is the fear of being subjected to German interests, of being violated by Russia as Ukraine was, and of being abandoned by Western allies again as, from a Polish perspective, Poland was during World War II.

Should Poland accept refugees from Muslim countries, some warn, it would suffer from “Sharia zones” where Polish norms will not exist. Catholic values, others claim, are “attacked” by feminists and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists eager to “destroy” Poland – and the West.

These fears, not shared by the majority of Poles, recently found an outlet in the coalition that Berkowicz is a member of, the Confederacy, a collection of extreme right-wing parties.

Led by the iconoclastic Janusz Korwin-Mikke, a colorful man who once ate his tax return in front of the Polish Revenue Service and repeatedly ran for the office of president (he lost), the coalition challenges PiS from the Right while schooling other parties in the ways of the new media.

If some Americans march chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” some Poles march with banners claiming, “this is Polska [Poland] and not Polin,” the Hebrew name for Poland.

Krzysztof Bosak of the National Movement is running in these elections for the coalition. His supporters often warn that Poland will be under “Jewish sovereignty,” unless measures are taken.

The Razem Party’s Adrian Zandberg is also running in the May 26 elections. His party ran a 2018 campaign under the slogan “this is a land for everyone,” including messages in Yiddish and Hebrew. Despite inspiring many young left-leaning Poles, a recent poll by Fakt news predicted it will not reach parliament.

Robert Biedron, who leads Wiosna (Spring), a Liberal Democratic party, is expected to win 8% of the vote, more than the Confederacy (an expected 6%). Biedron is an openly gay politician in a country in which LGBT discourse can be toxic.

Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (PiS) is an established pro-EU and Russian-skeptic figure, not unlike Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) politician Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, who is popular for his fight against corruption. Both represent the existing establishment and are expected to gain the majority of the votes.

Stanisław Tyszka from Kukiz’15, a party noted for being created by former punk rock musician Paweł Kukiz and mostly for being anti-establishment, is also in the running.

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