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GAZETA WYBORCZA

Refugees, The Moral Failure Of Poland's Leaders

The recent visit by Pope Francis highlighted how little Polish leaders care about the emergency of Europe's refugee crisis.

Anti-immigration protests in Warsaw last February
Anti-immigration protests in Warsaw last February
Jakub Halcewicz

-OpEd-

WARSAW — The current Polish government is not fit to have talks with the leaders of the modern world — be it Barack Obama or Pope Francis.

While on board his plane to Poland for last month's World Youth Day celebration, the pope told journalists — not for the first time — that "the world is at war" because it has lost the way to peace. Can he count on the Polish people as allies to find that peace?

During his first speech at Wawel Castle in Kraków, Francis said the world needs "a spirit of readiness to welcome those fleeing from wars and hunger, and solidarity with those deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to profess one's faith in freedom and safety."

Now let's go back to reality. Our reality.

Are we Poles and the Polish political elite ready to accept those people fleeing from wars and hunger? We are one of the biggest European Union countries — for many, a symbol of freedom and democracy regained, belonging to the happy and wealthy part of the world. Are we aware of the responsibility that this entails?

Unfortunately, it's highly doubtful. The refugee crisis did not begin yesterday, yet until now we as a country and as citizens did not do much to prepare for it, or in any way tried to resolve it. During parliamentary debate over the past four years, development assistance has barely ever been mentioned (as verified by the fact-checking website MamPrawoWiedzieć). Not once did members of Parliament discuss the main aim of the development assistance, which is fighting poverty.

Under the current government, anger towards foreigners has multiplied, and our involvement in crisis solution has been nearly non-existent. At a global conference aimed at helping territories around Syria hosting refugees, we pledged less financial assistance than Hungary, the Czech Republic or Slovakia. And the Polish officials sometimes explain that instead of accepting refugees, they should be helped at places from which they are coming.

On his recent trip here, the pope tried to bring us closer to the problems of war, refugees and migration. Regardless of how we interpret his words, he said much worth remembering. President Andrzej Duda and his government have thus far shared no insights into how Poland can take part in resolving the problems of Europe and the world. Perhaps there isn't any plan to do so.

Luckily a country is something more than just the government. Francis urged young people to get involved and try to change the status quo. ""People may judge you to be dreamers, because you believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centered or small-minded. Don't be discouraged."" What will Poland do now that the pope has returned to Rome?

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Society

Parenthood And The Pressure Of Always Having To Be Doing Better

As a father myself, I'm now better able to understand the pressures my own dad faced. It's helped me face my own internal demands to constantly be more productive and do better.

Photo of a father with a son on his shoulders

Father and son in the streets of Madrid, Spain

Ignacio Pereyra*

-Essay-

When I was a child — I must have been around eight or so — whenever we headed with my mom and grandma to my aunt's country house in Don Torcuato, outside of Buenos Aires, there was the joy of summer plans. Spending the day outdoors, playing soccer in the field, being in the swimming pool and eating delicious food.

But when I focus on the moment, something like a painful thorn appears in the background: from the back window of the car I see my dad standing on the sidewalk waving us goodbye. Sometimes he would stay at home. “I have to work” was the line he used.

Maybe one of my older siblings would also stay behind with him, but I'm sure there were no children left around because we were all enthusiastic about going to my aunt’s. For a long time in his life, for my old man, those summer days must have been the closest he came to being alone, in silence (which he liked so much) and in calm, considering that he was the father of seven. But I can only see this and say it out loud today.

Over the years, the scene repeated itself: the destination changed — it could be a birthday or a family reunion. The thorn was no longer invisible but began to be uncomfortable as, being older, my interpretation of the events changed. When words were absent, I started to guess what might be happening — and we know how random guessing can be.

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