A house divided… Poland of today.

hussarsWhile for the most part this blog deals with quite different issues, I thought I need to weigh in on a problem which became so evident in recent years, and it really makes my blood boil and cry at the same time. Polish people are split right down the middle and it wouldn’t be all that surprising, but there is so much hostility and bitterness between the two groups that it feels like the nation is going to fall apart any moment now. At first glance, the division has a political character, but its roots go much deeper than that.

1989 brought about huge changes – Poland broke free from the sickle and hammer rule and the first democratic election took place since the Second World War. The communists suffered a total defeat and the event immensely contributed to the fall of the USSR. Similar revolutionary actions happened in Czechoslovakia and Hungary. In December the Berlin Wall fell. Other Baltic nations also joined in, Yugoslavia came apart in 1991.
The economical and political confines imposed by the Soviet Union drove peoples of Central and Eastern Europe to their limits and made them start this chain reaction. I’m not a historian but the scale and the manner of these events really were unprecedented.
Newly-formed Polish government introduced a number of reforms which transitioned the political system of the country into a democracy and the economical one into free market. Poland began to slowly open up to the Western hemisphere. Again, I’m no expert to go into much detail, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize how big of a transformation occurred. The politicians and the economists at the time were faced with incomparable responsibility.

okraglystolI’m not the one to judge how honest and righteous each of them was. We know for a fact, that there were plenty of communists who for some reason were still allowed into the rooms where the country was being formed anew. I’m tempted to say that certain controversies couldn’t be helped. Nonetheless, the decisions made by a quite small group of people affected the course Poland has taken in the years to come.
Now, over a quarter of century later, I believe we’re still learning democracy. There are plenty of issues with the state of our country which need to be addressed as soon as possible. The unemployment rates, the emigration of the young people, the corruption on all levels of administration… Instead, the government comes up with substitute topics which may be important, but they’re not crucial, and what’s worse these things only serve as a way to stir the public opinion. Deciding on whether 5- or 6-year-olds should go to school, the subjects of abortion or euthanasia, regulations related to civil unions – the topics like that cannot be ignored, but when the country is on a brink of crumbling, these really should not be taking the entire spotlight. Millions (!) of young Polish people go abroad and many have no intention of coming back because nothing awaits them here. Millions are unemployed or live in poverty. I really avoid watching or listening to any news because every day brings more information about frauds or embezzlement committed even by high-ranked government officials, it’s sickening.
The shadows of the past still haunt us. Memories of major predicaments should be kept alive, but more often than not they are being used as means of advancing unhealthy political propaganda.

How can commemorating the soldiers killed during World War II and later on, those in the opposition who were purged by Soviets during 1950s be a source of discord for the Poles?
Why is the celebration of the Independence Day always bringing hostile manifestations of extreme nationalists and the skirmishes between hooligans and the police?

Last but not least, religion became something absolutely contestable.
Since the Baptism of Poland in 966, this country has been a place where the Roman Catholic Church has had a very strong standing. When in peril, the Poles always sought the help of God. The cult of the Virgin Mary is particularly prominent. Millions of pilgrims annually travel to Jasna Góra Monastery (miraculously defended against Swedes in 1655), Kalwaria Zebrzydowska or here in my region to Tuchów, among many other places, to worship revered icons of Mary.

jasnagoraWhen Karol Wojtyła became a Pope – John Paul II, the people in Poland believed that changes are going to come in the communist-controlled state. John Paul II is attributed to influence the transformation changes as a figure of great authority and a spiritual leader.

Let your Spirit descend! Let your Spirit descend! And renew the face of the earth. The face of this land!

 

These words, uttered during his first travel to Poland in 1979 echo to this day in Polish churches.

The definite majority of Poles proclaim themselves as Roman Catholics even today, but definitely the numbers went down by a fair amount in last 25 years. With more and more people turning into atheists the views change in quite an extreme fashion. The advancement of atheism is a global trend, but considering the conservatism of Polish Catholicism the rift between the two is more evident here. The worst thing is that it is reflected by the two major political parties in Poland – more liberal Platforma Obywatelska and Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, which has more connections to the Church. Politics are the stage of conflict on all possible levels – religion, economics, ethics – all these separate branches come into play when discussing e.g. taxes. It’s ludicrous.
Now, here’s a bit of my insight. I am a Roman Catholic. I describe myself as such, although I’m nowhere near as faithful as my mother or many, many others. I refuse to do religious acts for show like many hypocritical individuals do.
I despise the way the Church handles cases of pedophilia or other abuse. I loathe the Polish government and the subjective media we have here. I hate the ubiquitous corruption.
I hate these things, and they are unacceptable, but some of them, like corruption or unemployment, occur all over the world. As I said, we’re still kind of ‘under construction’ as a country. Things take time.
What I can’t possibly comprehend is the scorn between us. People on both sides of the spectrum are so horribly brainwashed, blindly following their leaders. They do not think for themselves but get entangled in these hate wars.

A person who screams about prejudice against homosexuals will at the same time attack simple folks who go to church every Sunday and seek redemption.
On the other hand, not so long ago I participated in a mass and this priest was giving a sermon. He spoke about his aunt who beaten to a pulp every day by her husband and she didn’t divorce him because that would be against the religion. The preacher said that we ought to just accept it and it’s admirable. Accept the punches and kicks of your loved one…

These two examples are extreme, but this is how Poland functions these days, no one is coming forward to find the middle ground. I’m just glad that I have a few friends who notice these things; otherwise it would be so depressing.
I guess I need to wait 20 years or so for a generation shift to take place and maybe then things will start to look brighter.

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