Geopolitics

The Train Wreck That Is Poland Right Now

Everything is collapsing: The zloty is sinking, a virus is spreading, diplomacy has disappeared, and so has the rule of law. And the government claims everything is going just fine.

-OpEd-

WARSAW — Everywhere we look, there is a disaster.

The zloty is sinking because of inflation, which we owe to the head of Poland's central bank Adam Glapinski, a political ally of ruling PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski since the early 1990s when the pair demonstrated against then President Lech Wałęsa and joined in burning his effigy.

At the same time, we also have a COVID-19 catastrophe. As we've witnessed, 25,000 daily cases and hundreds of deaths are not enough for the government to introduce any kind of restrictions. The Prime Minister is afraid of demonstrations that could lead to deaths from COVID-19, while tens of thousands of people recently attended the National Stadium without masks and nobody checked whether anyone was vaccinated.

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Diplomacy 101 In Belarus: Talking To Bad People Is Part Of The Job

A German politician lashed out after Angela Merkel spoke on the phone with Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko. But like in other hot spots, avoiding the worst along the Belarus-Poland border means casting aside moral superiority and naiveté.

BERLIN — It may well be that in just a few weeks there will be a Green Party politician at the helm of the German diplomacy. It may be co-party leader Annalena Baerbock, or someone else. Either way, what would it mean if the foreign minister was from the Green Party?

Well, we may get a hint of what could happen by looking at Green politician Omid Nouripour's reaction to outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's actions regarding the refugee crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border. It does not bode well.

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Modi Bows To Farmers, Belarus Camps Cleared, Extra-Long Eclipse

👋 Dia dhuit!*

Welcome to Friday, where Indian farmers win a major victory against the Modi government after a year of protests, Austria announces a full lockdown and mandatory vaccines and the world is treated to the longest lunar eclipse in nearly 600 years. We also have a feature story from Jeune Afrique magazine that traces the international origins of twerking.

[*Gaelic]

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Russia Space Blast Endangers Astronauts, Belarus Border Clashes, Leo’s Beach

👋 ሰላም!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Russia is under fire for blowing up a satellite in space, clashes erupt at the Poland-Belarus border and Leo's Beach opens again. Courtesy of German daily Die Welt, we also look at the reasons behind the major discrepancies in COVID-19 vaccination rates across Europe.

[*Selam, Amharic - Ethiopia]

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Ideas
Marek Beylin

Polexit Is Path To Dictatorship, A Cry To Keep Poland Free

EU membership is not in line with Poland's values, say the current ruling party. Will that mean Poland's Exit (Polexit) from the European Union? Everything is riding on where the long-serving conservative government of PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński will do as they run counter to popular opinion on the EU question.

-OpEd-

WARSAW — They left it to Julia Przyłębska, President of Poland's Constitutional Tribunal, to state where the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) stands: the country should no longer be in the European Union since EU values are contrary to the party's rule.

This was the decision reached by this pseudo-Constitutional Tribunal last week, while nearly 90% of the public wants to remain in the EU — according to a recent Ipsos poll for Gazeta Wyborcza and OKO.press. It means that on this fundamental issue in Poland, the PiS is looking to bypass the absolute majority of Poles.

According to the same Ipsos poll, more than half of us fear that the PiS is preparing a Polexit for us. After the decision of the pseudo-CT, this fear is likely to grow.

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GAZETA WYBORCZA
Anna Mierzyńska

Poland, A Case Study In Modern Political Tribalism

Poles are divided into hostile tribes. Radicalization is on the rise, and institutions do little to support those trying to tame it.

-Analysis-

WARSAW — If you're not with us, you're against us. The enemy must be destroyed. He has no rights or dignity. This way of thinking is, unfortunately, becoming more and more popular in Poland. It justifies hate speech and violence. And even though we know that polarization and radicalization is a growing problem, almost no one is working to slow down the process. Those who are trying to confront the issue get little support in Poland.

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GAZETA WYBORCZA
Marek Beylin

The Cracks In Kaczyński's Grip On Poland Are Starting To Show

The right-wing leader is struggling to appease his coalition partners, raising the possibility of a realignment among the country's various political factions.

-Analysis-

WARSAW — Polish leader Jarosław Kaczyński of the hard-right Law and Justice Party, the PiS, has long followed one simple rule: "I am Kaczyński and I can do anything I want."

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GAZETA WYBORCZA
Piotr Beniuszys

A Smoking Ban On Balconies? Warsaw Tests The Edges Of Freedom

Proposals to ban smoking on private balconies are led by activists trying to modify citizen’s lifestyles and fight 'ideologically different phenomena,' even when the real harm of these divergent behaviors is negligible.

-Essay-

WARSAW — Could there soon be a ban on smoking cigarettes on balconies in Warsaw? Or maybe one day even smoking inside private apartments? A smoking ban on balconies has already been introduced in Lithuania, so there is a precedent and nothing seems to stand in the way of a Polish version. Renata Niewitecka, a council member of the city of Warsaw decided to consult the residents on the issue. If the majority wants to ban the minority from smoking on balconies, will the council democratically vote for such a ban? Only time will tell.

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GAZETA WYBORCZA
Eliza Michalik

Religion In Times Of COVID: A Polish Story Of Mass Hypocrisy

The presence of the faithful at Mass, regardless of the threat to their health and lives, is essential for the Church to physically survive. And the state is an accomplice.

-Essay-

WARSAW — We're going through another complete lockdown in Poland, which costs the economy 1.3 billion zlotys (280 million euros) a day — and churches are still open. What's more, before Christmas, the nation's Catholic bishops issued a statement encouraging the faithful to attend mass "out of concern for their health."

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GAZETA WYBORCZA
Paweł Wroński

What Ireland Can Teach Poland About Abortion Rights

The 2012 death of Savita Halappanavar, who was unable to get an abortion in Ireland, set off nationwide opposition to a ban on the procedure. What happens when a similar case arises in Poland?

-Analysis-

WARSAW — Have Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his PiS political party allies ever heard about the tragedy that happened in Ireland eight years ago? Do they know what unfolded in a waiting room of the Galway Roscommon University Hospital?

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Geopolitics

Photo Of The Week: This Happened In Warsaw

Poland is a nation divided. On October, its constitutional tribunal ruled that terminating pregnancy due to fetal defects was unconstitutional, making abortion almost completely illegal in a country with strong influence of the Catholic Church and among Europe's most restrictive laws on this and other social issues.

The abortion ruling sparked massive protests across the country, led by a young generation of Polish citizens. What is most notable, perhaps, is that the demonstrations continue, including Dec. 13 when a general strike was organized to coincide with the 39th anniversary of the introduction of martial law in Poland during the Communist era.

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Geopolitics
Philipp Fritz

COVID-19 Be Damned: How Poland Is Beating Another Crisis

Compared to other EU member states, Poland was barely affected by the international financial crisis or the refugee crisis of 2015. Now, the country could emerge from the coronavirus pandemic in a stronger position than before.

WARSAW —There were ten Polish flags fluttering in the background but no sign of European stars when Polish president Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki laid out the positive results of a Europe-wide investment program. The red-and-white flags showed that they considered it their achievement— a Polish achievement. "We wouldn't have had such success," said Morawiecki, "if we'd continued to rest on our laurels."

According to President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, 750 billion euros will be pumped into Europe's economies to guard against the danger of a post-coronavirus economic crisis. Poland is set to be one of the main beneficiaries, receiving 63 billion euros. Only Italy and Spain, which have been hit particularly hard by Covid-19, are due to receive more.

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Sources
Florian Hassel

Final Auschwitz Survivors Return To Poland To Bear Witness

Ephroim “Johnny” Jablon's entire family was gassed to death. At 94, he can't forget the smells and so many other details of the camps. Such memories are dying away.

AUSCHWITZ — Jan Rothbaum remembers the day he lost his family like it was yesterday. It only took a few minutes for the SS commando to drag his father Schulem, his mother Dora and his brothers Roman and Joseph out of their apartment in Krakow, Poland, one October day in 1942. Jan resisted, striking one of the SS troops, who then beat him unconscious. The SS apparently assumed Rothbaum was dead and left him lying on the floor. When he came to, the rest of his family was gone.

Later, Rothbaum was also captured by the Germans. He managed to survive a year in the Plaszow concentration camp, near Krakow, thanks to his skills as a carpenter. In early 1944, he was transferred to Auschwitz. Seventy-five years later, Rothbaum, now a Canadian citizen who goes by the name of Ephroim "Johnny" Jablon, is standing inside Block 27, where he finds his family's entries in the "Book of Names' of murdered Jewish victims. All his relatives were gassed to death in Belzec extermination camp. "There are lots of other names of my relatives in this book," Jablon says slowly. "I lost sixteen aunts and uncles, and more than 20 cousins. No one survived except me."

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Sources

Watch: OneShot — 75 Years Ago, Liberation of Auschwitz

It was 3 p.m. on January 27, 1945, when the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by the Soviet Army. The full scope of the Nazi barbarities, which included the extermination of six million Jews, was about to be exposed to the world.

That January afternoon 75 years ago also marks the beginning of the documenting process, the painful but necessary gathering of evidence, accounts, photographs and film that would later be used in the Nuremberg war crimes trials, and stand as the historical record of the Holocaust.

About 1.3 million people (mostly Jews) had been deported to the Polish camp by the Nazi regime. In Auschwitz, 1.1 million people were exterminated. Before they were taken to the gas chamber, they would leave their personal effects behind; eyeglasses, clothing, shoes. These objects were found after the liberation, piled up in the warehouses at the camp.

Liberation of Auschwitz © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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GAZETA WYBORCZA
Marek Beylin

Why Kaczynski Isn't Smiling: Poland's Mixed Election Results

WARSAW — Poland's ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) won last weekend's parliamentary elections. So why was longtime party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski so obviously glum during his victory speech?

The first answer is in the performance of other Polish political parties: combined, the three main blocks of the democratic opposition received more votes in total than the conservative forces of PiS. This outcome is the clearest sign that Kaczynski's plans to cement total political control over the country will be harder to achieve than he hoped.

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GAZETA WYBORCZA
Monika Olejnik

Deep Fears For What Kind Of Poland Is Coming

The expected reelection of the conservative 'Law and Justice' (PiS) party could usher in new restrictions against the rights of people to live as they choose.

-OpEd-

WARSAW — By all indications, Sunday's national elections in Poland will bring another victory for Jaroslaw Kaczynski's "Law and Justice" (PiS) party, the national-conservative, Christian formation that has ruled the country for the past four years, and been in and out of power for nearly two decades. So, what will they do next?

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