Warsaw: a city that disppeared

21 06 2008

[source: Gazeta Wyborcza daily 20. June 2008; author: Dariusz Bartoszewicz. photographer: Aleksander Prugar]

Don’t come to Warsaw! Poland’s capital doesn’t exist any more. Someone has hidden it from us – for good. Here is a unique look at a city covered with a curtain of advertisements.

Ściana Wschodnia

There was no war, that the world forgot to notice, but Warsaw is gone. Adverts ate it. While city council and residents have given up.

There is a battle in Warsaw again: for every house, for every block, for every street corner, for every look. Those attacking and fighting one another are media houses, advertisement agencies and global brands. See, buy, taste – you’ll be happy.

Should the city be reduced to an advertising pillar – and its inhabitants to consumers?

‘They are like cockroaches – you spray them, spray, and they get immune’ – that’s how David Lubars from Omnicom Group talked about consumers and advert.

That’s why it isn’t enough to put adverts to newspapers, on posters, billboards. That’s too little. Too soft. The message needs to be stronger… and best when ad moves through the streets.

That’s why we there are huge tubes of toothpaste, chocolate bars and washing powders driving around the city. Previously these were busses and trams. And you could even see the world through their windows. Now all you can see – more adverts.

Residents are having their windows covered with them. Why would you look out of the window? What could be better to look at then a mega-billboard outside your window in the morning?

There are those who try to protest… They complain they don’t get enough sunlight. The most desperate among them cut holes in huge adverts covering their windows – so that they are able to open windows and let some air in.

But what can an ordinary citizen do confronted with the ultimate argument that “adverts on our building will pay for renovation”…

Warsaw is gone. Instead of coming to Warsaw, you better dig old postcards and photo albums from your closets. Or visit Paris, Berlin. Maybe you can still see something there.

Marszałkowska

Rondo De Gaulle\'a

Marszałkowska

JPII/Solidarności

AVON

Centre

Sezam

Let\'s play

R

Toshiba





Poles find their Lebensraum in the West. Drang nach abandoned East Germany is the new trend.

16 02 2008

Authrs: Jolanta Kowalewska, Adam Zadworny, Alex Kuehl
Source: Gazeta Wyborcza
Translation from Polish for this blog: MoPoPressReview

* * *

A for pre-war 200m house with 5,500 metres square of land in a tiny German village of Hochenseldoff, several kilometres away from the Polish-German border, costed Piotr Wychadończuk 50,000 zł (nearly $25,000). ‘I can’t afford an appartment in Poland. In Szczecin metropolis this money would buy me a garage’, he says. ‘Besides, my wife and I are having twins and we need more Lebensraum’.

‘Eurosceptics from right-wing parties were threatening with the Germans coming and buying our land when we join the EU – and it’s the total opposite’, laughs Bartłomiej Sochański, a barrister from Szczecin and honorary consul of Germany. Even before the Schengen Agreement came to effect in Poland, Poles had been settling on the other side of the Oder river.

Garden fire only with Fire Department permission

‘To live in Germany you need: a letter box, a blue barrel and a current account in a German bank’, Jacek reveals basic rules of living behind the border. He’s 31, owns a two-bedroom flat in Szczecin and a stationary selling business. In spring 2007 he bought 3 hectares of German land in Radekow together with a former firefighters’ station. He’ll move in this spring with his wife, 4-year-old son and parents. A shiny letterbox is already hanging on the fence.

‘That’s the first thing you have to get’, says Jacek, ‘in order to receive official letters from institutions. ‘Thank goodness first class letters in Germany don’t need to be delivered in person, therefore I never have to go to the post office’.

– And what do you need the blue barrel for?

‘German thrift. They all use rain water for their gardens rather then a hose.

– And an account?

‘I hired an architect, and it turned out he didn’t accept cash’.

Jacek shows me around other houses purchased by the Polish. Each of them is equipped with solar power screen. Solar energy heats houses and water. Only dog houses don’t have them. And Jacek’s place. It’s a long one-storey building, which soon will be demolished to make way for Jacek’s new semi-detached.

– How will you handle the commute?

‘Oh, it’ll be easier then now. Even a taxi can drop me here after a night out in Szczecin’.

– And how do you communicate with German civil servants?

‘I don’t speak any German at all’.

– Really?

‘The lady at the Department of Housing was surprised too’.

Jacek wonders whether to register his son to a German pre-school. So far his little son practices his language skills when he meets his neighbours. It’s an elderly couple, who are pleased to have new new people in the area. They brought their home-made jam for Jacek’s family to try.

‘Friends were warning me about some German neo-fascist parties. I haven’t seen anyone like that yet’.

– What surprised you here the most?

‘That you can’t make a fire in your own garden. You need a permission from Fire Department and you need to pay somewhat 10 euro’ for that.

Roe-deer feeding classes

Joanna and Tadeusz Czapscy moved to a forrester’s cottage near Tantow, which they bought together with three hectares of land, ten roe-deer, a bat, and a pond full with crucian carp.

Their estate lies around 25km from the Szczecin city centre. In Poland Mr and Mrs Czapski lived in one of the communist blocks of flats. ‘Commute from that flat and from Tantow takes the same amount of time’, Mr Czapski explains. ‘After Schengen, I pop into my car and drive. Keine grenzen!’.

The price was right as well. 90,000 euro.

Joanna and Tadeusz’s cottage looks charming with wooden fence and hedge. Pasturage for roe-deer is visible from a distance. Deer have 2 hectars of forrest for themselves. Only during the winter they need to be fed.

‘When I saw these roe-deer I knew it’s aither this house or none for me’ recalls Joanna. ‘Previous owner told us when they eat all the nettle, it’s the time to start feeding.

What surprised them the most, was the fact that if they wanted to keep the roe-deer they had to complete a course on how to take care of wild animals.

Joanna walks around the house repeating: “bread – brot”, “buns – brotchen”, “butter – butter”. – We’ll be doing the shopping on the Polish side, as it’s still cheaper. But when we run out of something I have to know the basic words – she says.

A neighbour is busy with something behind the fence. A German man in his thirties.

‘When my lawn-mower broke down, be was here to lend me his within seconds. That’s how we met. He’s a really nic chap’.

We have level pavements

‘This house was four times cheaper, then a similar house in a Polish village. Only the pavement here is level, there is street light, and it’s generally safe’, explains Bartek Wójcik.

House bult in 1865 roku is around 200 metre sq. on a 1000 metre sq patch. 23,000 Euro. For Poles a real Bargain!

Bartek and his wife Danka are running “OFFicyna” association in Szczecin, which is renowned organiser for cultural events like Szczecin film festivals. Last year they decided to get on the property ladder. They tried to buy a flat in Szczecin, or a house in the country. Too expensive. They decided to choose Germany.

Their haouse stands on a hill, the driveway covered with cobblestone. Spruce and thuja trees grow on sides. Red barn with massive door stands graciously in the middle.They’re discovering the rules of life in the village of Schwennentz. What surprised them the most was German’s thrift. For instance in autumn the whole village prepares one joint order for heating oil. Because it’s cheaper that way.

‘Before Schengen it took us 20 minutes to commute to work in Szczecin, and since Schengen it feels as if we lived in one of the city districts’.

Little towns becoming Polish

‘Poles usually seek houses between 100 and 200 metre sq., not further than 30 kilometres from the border’, says Mariola Dadun, who together with her German husband run a real estate agency serving both sides of the border.

It is estimated that around 2000 Polish families purchased houses in Meklemburg and Brandenburg recently.

Penkun, Gartz and Loecknitz are the towns with largest Polish population – around 200 live in the latter. A Polish-German middle school has been open in Loecknitz for several years. One third of students, around 160, are Poles. A businessman from Szczecin launches a new Petrol station in Loecknitz. Polish company builds a new residential development. One of towns hotel is town-house converted by a Polish couple. Hair-dos in Locknitz are also Polish-made. A Polish businesswoman opened there a hair salon.

It is amazing how the West European borders, previously both so desired and hated, are simply disappearing. Just like that.

* * *


If you enjoyed this post why not visit Polandian, a collaborative blog on Poland.

 





The BIG question people are asking this week: What’s with those Russian threats again?

5 02 2008

This is the first episode of our new, lighter, column ‘The BIG question people are asking this week’, in which we will not exactly translate the news like we do, but analyse and/or synthesise and/or explain and/or (most likely) comment the things people in Poland are getting excited about in the media, and generally.

The big question people are asking this week is

What’s with those Russian threats again?

Russia’s representative to NATO Dmitriy Rogozin warned Poland this week, saying he ‘would like to remind his Polish colleagues of their recent history, which proves that positioning Poland on the confrontation line have always brought tragedy to them’ and he continued saying ‘that’s how Poland lost one third of her population during the Second World War.’

That’s not exactly the kind of language you would expect from a diplomat, is it? But that’s Russia for you. Is this a suggestion they would attack Poland like they did on 17th September 1939 collaborating with Hitler?

Two days later the chairman of foreign affairs committee at the Russian Duma Konstantin Kosachov was kind enough to make such a statement, ‘certain American installations will be becoming an object of control, and, at worst, targets’.

Of course what they both are talking about is the anti-missile shield scheme, elements of which are planned to be installed in Poland, and which is thought to be able to shoot missiles down when they’re still in the air, and prevent them hitting America, and – maybe (this is not clear yet) – some other places as well.

Why would Russia oppose a DEFENSIVE system, anyone? Any ideas? Not to protect their own citizens, as this has always been the least worry there…

Frankly they’re not doing themselves a favour here – if they really don’t want the American anti-missile shield elements installed in Poland. Most people, including me, were not in favour of this anti-missile project. But hearing such threats from time to times makes me, and many other people, twice more cautious about Russia and twice more eager to tighten cooperation with Western allies, in case Russian enlightened leadership actually decided attack us militarily. Will Russia ever change? Will Russia ever become a normal, democratic, friendly country governed by the rule of law?


If you enjoyed this post why not visit Polandian, a collaborative blog on Poland.





Braveheart vs ruthless system 0:1. Scottish teacher gives up on teaching in a Polish school.

1 02 2008

Source: Gazeta Wyborcza, 1. Feb. 2008
Authors: Małgorzata Kozerawska, Marcin Markowski
Translation from Polish for this blog: MoPoPressReview

* * *

Iain comes from Scotland. He’s 34. Loose-fitting sweater and jeans. He switches to first-name terms immediately. He’s been living in Poland for the last four years, teaching English in private schools in Łódź. He’s a native speaker of English, wanting to teach in a state-run secondary school as well. He found work at the reputable IV Liceum Ogólnokształcące where he taught to an elitist International Baccalaureate class. He lasted a week.

Iain tells his story

My first day at work, Monday. I had to wait 15 minutes to get to the staff room. I didn’t have a key, and there was no one to ask for it. Then it turned out photocopying paper ran out. I was told students have to pay for the paper.
Day two, Wednesday. I telephoned one of my students, as I didn’t know where’s my class going to be. The person responsible for contacting me was on a sick leave. Room 12 I was told. Teachers tell me there is no room 12. I telephone my student again. Turns out room twelve belongs to another school. And there was no blackboard.
Day three, Friday. I went to the headteacher to find out where’s my class going to be. She decided it’s going to be the computer room. There was a blackboard this time, but no tables.
Day four, another Monday. I came to the school earlier to prepare for classes and photocopy some material. There was no one at the reception, where they key to the staff room was. I opened the geography room at 8 and waited for students. No one was coming. After 15 minutes I was going to grab a cup of coffee, when my student rang. He was asking if I’m coming to classes, as everyone was waiting in the computer room. I was thinking: why is the lesson to take place in an inappropriate class, when a better class is free?

After classes I went to see a doctor for an obligatory medical check-up. I had to go private and pay, although the school has its (free) doctor. I wasn’t able to use his services, because I had to be at my other job when he receives patients. At the surgery I was told the school should have given me a standard form. No one told me about this at the school. I went back. Secretary said, sarcastically, that she’ll take care of me because apparently as a foreign teacher I was more important than other teachers.

Secretary sent me to accountant, who gave me several forms and asked not to get upset as “this is how things are in a state-run school in Poland”. Same with class registers. I’ve seen other teachers using them, I didn’t get to. Plus there weren’t many teaching aids.

Iain wrote about all this in a letter to the headteacher. He said goodbye to the students and left this job. ‘I would like to donate my wages to the the school, as it’s obvious the school needs it more than me’, he wrote.

The Headteacher

Katarzyna Felde, headteacher at the school where Iain worked. Energetic, practical mathematician, ‘I was seeking an Eglish teacher for the IB class, because the former teacher relocated to Britain. Students have found Iain. He had a friendly attitude. He asked to show him around the school. He wanted to know where his class was, where was the smoking room, where are keys being picked up from. I never had this before.
He got a huge geography room, in which he moved all tables to the middle. It wouldn’t make sense to move furniture there and back all the time, so I moved his classes to room 12. It belongs to the afternoon school. Yes, there was no blackboard. So I moved his class to computer room. And there was problem again. Everyone there sits facing the wall, turned back at the teacher. But Iain didn’t come to me to say he had a problem with something. How was I to know?
The staff room door has an automatic lock. Keys are to be picked at reception. Iain knew about this. I couldn’t have predicted he’d come to school at 7.15 am. There was no one at the reception yet. And none of the teachers. They don’t come an hour before lessons. They prepare to classes at home. At 7, there’s only the caretaker in the building.
Unfortunately students pay for photocopying. We don’t have money for that. As for the medical examinations: we have a contract with a specific doctor, and we directed Iain to him. I have no control over his opening hours. And we’re lacking teaching aids for all teachers. You have to organize it on your own. I told him. You need something – we’ll buy. But not now. We’re getting the money from the city council, and it has to be in their budget.

So what will happen with the class now? Headteacher: I’ll look for another teacher, probably not a native speaker this time. I got discouraged. After all it’s a different culture, it’s hard to fit to one another. A Polish teacher doesn’t need to be guided step by step and introduced to everything. And won’t go on complaining like a child.
Iain came from a country where everything is ready and prepared. He was, in fact, treated better then Polish teachers. Some of them have been upset with this. Yesterday one of the parents rang me asking what will I do to get him back. That’s over the board. I bear no grudge against him, but I’m not going to look for him, or say sorry, either. I have nothing to say sorry for. He’s worked eight hours in our school earning 160zł, which will be paid to him

* * *


If you enjoyed this post why not visit Polandian, a collaborative blog on Poland.

 





We razed a city to ruins. I’m sorry. Would you like more tea?

18 01 2008

Author: Dorota Wodecka-Lasota
Source: Gazeta Wyborcza – January 16th 2008

* * *

Romek, 28-year-old from Poland, goes on a personal quest to Germany to talk to soldiers fighting against the 1944 Warsaw Uprising and hear their story.

28-year-old Romuald lives with his parents near Opole. He’s a children’s stories’ author and gets his works published by a small literary publishing house. On weekends he works part-time in a delivery firm, handling larger parcels.
In 2004 his girlfriend gave him the Chronicle of the Warsaw Uprising as a present. He had never been in Warsaw before. The book gripped him.
‘But what it was missing was the story as Germans see it. I searched in libraries and in internet – but I haven’t found anything. Then I thought – since historians didn’t find anything – I will‘ , says Romek. ‘Why? I don’t know why. I just wanted to know’.

1944In 1989 a small Munich publishing house issued ‘Warschauer Aufstand’, containing a list of German soldiers fighting the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, together with their military rank and, where applicable, date of death. The low circulation publication received much attention from historians, who alarmed that there were many inconsistencies and errors. Germans protested too. Some of those included in the book have never been to Warsaw. Some were declared dead by the book, while they still were alive and well. Under the threat of court action, publisher withdrew the 3000 copies from bookshops.

Romek managed to find the publication with help of a friend in Berlin. Another friend, IT specialist, searched the internet to find out who, from that list, is still alive. In Germany personal information is not protected. After ruling out those who passed away, 42 people were left.

2000sRomek contacted them last summer holiday: six agreed to meet with him. On weekends, as Romek was busy with work on weekdays.

However, he shouldn’t have bothered visiting three of the six.
Johann said he’s never been to Poland. Joseph’s been in Poland twice – to do shopping in a border-town. Heinrich, on the other hand, was talking about the fights on Warsaw’s Triple Crosses Square like he was reciting a story learned by heart. He received Romek in his entrance hall and wouldn’t even let him ask the firt question. ‘I regret I agreed for this meeting. In your country this rising is a national myth, and whatever I’d say your Polish propaganda will transform my words so that Germans seem like pigs. That’s how you do it’, he said, asking Romek to leave.

Erich in Thuringia, next on the list, told Romek he’d arrived in Warsaw after the end of the uprising – on October 4th 1944. We was eighteen. ‘We worked in a brigade, which for seven-eight hours a day walked around with flamethrowers and burned down the ruins’, he recalls.

Old Town Market Square - 1944He was surprised they were ordered to burn what was already burned. The petrol they were supposed to use wasn’t the right quality either. Townhouses woldn’t burn easily. After work they went back to Mokotów district, where they lived several soldiers in one room. They felt safe there: the gates to German-controlled part of the city were guarded by 50 German soldiers.

Yet everyday they drank spirit. One friend of his couldn’t cope with this work. He poured petrol over himself and set himself on fire.

Prudential BuldingWhen Erich watched Polanski’s Pianist on tv, things came back to him. ‘It wasn’t at all as showed in this movie. Many people lived in ruins – not only Szpilman. Several hundred at least’, he convinced. ‘They walked out at night. I saw them, when we went out to the ruins, driven by curiosity, once. We saw how they pull burned potatoes from cellars. There were no orders to shoot at these people’.

Today he is ashamed of what he then called a good fun, ‘We razed a city to ruins. I’m sorry’, he says, ‘would you like more tea’?


First day each month at 10 we received our soldier’s pay. August the 1st wasn’t therefore the best time for an attack, as by 5 pm we were at least a bit drunk‘ – says Romek’s next interlocutor – Dieter. Romek visited him on the outskirts of Berlin. He didn’t want to say much though. He was a marksman near Teatralny Square. He wouldn’t say how many times his shot was well-aimed, but there are diplomas for marksmanship, he received before the war, hanging on the wall. Dieter is not making an effort to be polite, he murmurs… maybe because partisans killed seven of his colleagues? – ‘Eight of us walked, and then these people approached us wearing German uniforms. They started shooting when we were very close. I ran away. I survived this war’.

When Romek wants to know whether Dieter has any souvenirs from Warsaw, Dieter browses through his drawers nervously. Some papers fall on the floor. ‘When you fight for your life you don’t think about souvenirs’, he says nervously, holding postcards in his hands. ‘Have them, take them for historical documentation, it has no worth to me. There were twelve in that series, but I’ve sent four to friends. Good bye’, he cuts the chat short.

Eight postcards feature ruins of Warsaw: Krasiński Square, Królewska St., Piłsudskiego St., Nowy Świat, Krakowskie Przedmieście and Wierzbowa St. Ruins and cinders. One postcard signed “famine” features people in the street, bending over a dead horse’s body trying cut out some meat. This is the only postcard series with ruins of Warsaw issued during the war.
‘I don’t think this German man wanted to pay some historical debt giving me these postcards. He just wanted to get rid of me quick‘, – Romek was unimpressed.

Romek had been meeting up with Germans fighting the Warsaw Uprising for six consecutive weekends. The last meeting was to take place in Munich. He drove there without faith, with the feeling of senseless of what he was doing. ‘No one really wanted to talk. I had met elderly men blundered between memories. Jürgen was the oldest, he was 102, therefore I didn’t expect him to tell me anything of historical value or emotional weight. That he’d help me understand those Germans. And my meeting with him was so surreal. I felt like I found myself within that poem about SS-soldier sipping tea from the last cup left in once piece in Dresden’.
Jürgen received him in his library with oak parquet flooring. Mahogany bar in one corner, samovar with orange-flavoured tea in other. Bookcase covering the whole wall hosting pre-war editions of Goethe, Schiller and atlases. Massive desk stands next to the window. Jürgen, wearing a shirt and a waistcoat, is not sitting behind it – but in an armchair next to the steaming samovar. Romek feels a bit out of place with his T-shirt in this bourgeois interior. He’s comforted when he notices Jürgen’s old fluffy slippers.

Jürgen says he’d been in Warsaw several times. He used to spend his days-off there. He was stationed in Poznan, his friends used to go to the seaside. But he travelled to Warsaw and walked around with a camera.

‘The city was in psychosis. People were terrified of the Germans. They didn’t want to pose to the pictures. When I started making photos, suddenly all people around me were gone. Just a building and nothing more. It was different in Kraków, there was no fear. People made me pictures when I asked them’, Jürgen recalls.

The photos from Kraków were gone. Out of twenty suitcases he packed, only four survived the chaos of war. He’s also lost the photographs he’d made in Warsaw’s ghetto, in Gdynia, Gdańsk and Łódź. Romek finds it hard to sympathise with this high Wehrmacht officer’s, loss. And when he’s asked to pass a beige photoalbum entitled “Reise nach Warschau”, Romek notices “Mein Kampf” from 1939 on a bookshelf.

‘I felt shivers going down my spine when I saw it’, says Romek, ‘then I froze in my armchair’.

Jürgen opened the diary documenting his first stay in Warsaw in August 1st/2nd 1941. Each photo is described, some with personal notes.

Leafing through page by page.. the bridges, Saski Palace, main train station, his portrait with Wierzbowa St. in the background, then some photos from the ghetto – at the sight of which Jürgen raises his voice:

‘Jews perceive themselves as victims of war – but they are not victims, they are perpetrators!’ – he says irritated, and goes on telling a story of how a Jew cheated his father before the war in a real-estate transaction.
Jürgen is so loud, his grandson shows up at the door to check what’s happening. And stays there leaning against door frame, to listen to the rest of the story.

Romek tries to change the subject. They return to uprising. Jürgen was in Warsaw in the moment of outbreak and worked in an administrative building on Krakowskie Przedmieście – and during the three weeks he spent in Warsaw only once he saw young people with white and red armbands.

‘I never walked out in uniform, although it was forbidden. And I never carried weapon. Therefore no one paid attention to me. Because I was afraid. But not when I heard gunshots somewhere – then I knew that since the fights are there, I am safe where I am’, he says.

‘But Poles were barbarians. My friend’s son died during the uprising. His body was found naked, completely naked! How could they deprive him of intimacy like that?’ – Jürgen raises his voice again, while Romek is thinking about the people in Auchwitz and Jews transported from his home-town Opole to Czech Terezin.
Romek explains: ‘I didn’t want to engage in discussion. I didn’t want to persuade him, to convert him. Because this man lived for 102 years and it was unlikely he’d change at the end of his way’, says Romek.

He asked for more tea. Jürgen’s hand was firm, and there was not a sign of shaking. He stood up, and came to the window smoking his pipe. Grandson stood at the door. Romek broke the silence asking if he could buy this photo-album. He was able to pay 250 euro – for which Jürgen agreed, although his grandson thought the photographs are worth 400.

Then he opened a desk drawer and took out a full pack of Warsaw’s gingerbread cookies from 1941, a German eagle with a sign in German “Souvenir from Warsaw”, and five menus from Warsaw’s restaurants. ‘I’d go back to Warsaw for the food – it was absolutely superb’. We talked for three hours, and then he said he was tired.

* * *

Please note that the pictures used in this blog to illustrate this topic are not the ones made by Jurgen.

Interested in Warsaw Uprising? Here are some links
CNN Presents Classroom Edition: Forgotten Soldiers
warsawuprising.com
The Warsaw Rising Museum
Norman Davies Rising ’44


If you enjoyed this post why not visit Polandian, a collaborative blog on Poland.





Thanking for participation in Afghanistan mission Bush omits Poland

20 12 2007

Source: Onet.pl & PAP Polish Press Agency; 20 Dec 2007
Translation from Polish: MoPoPressReview

* * *

On a press conference the American President George W. Bush said, he’s not satisfied with the political progress in Iraq. He also thanked the allied countries for their participation in Afghanistan mission, expressing his fears over their possible withdrawal from this country.

Mr Bush expressed his concern for some allied countries’ intention to withdraw from this country before the situation in Afghanistan stabilises. – ‘I’m most concerned that some people say <<We’re tiered with Afghanistan, we’re thinking about backing out>> – he said.

‘My aim is to help the allies in finding a task they will be able to realise, and to convince them that we need time before the experience of democracy in Afghanistan works‘ – declared Mr Bush thanking the British, the Canadian, the Danish, the Australian and “other allies” for their effort.

* * *


If you enjoyed this post why not visit Polandian, a collaborative blog on Poland.

 





Gay pensioners not welcome in town (on posters)

19 12 2007

Source: Gazeta Wyborcza daily (19 Dec 2007)
Authors: Emilia Iwanciw, Aleksandra Lewińska
Translation: MoPoPressReview
link to the original article

* * *

Posters containg confessions like ‘I’m a pensioner, I’m gay’, ‘I’m a pharmacist, I’m lesbian’ will not be hung in the city of Bydgoszcz. The company managing the advertising pillars did not agree. Therefore Bydgoszcz will not be taking part in the nationwide campaign, aiming to raise the gay people’s self-esteem.

The action called ‘You are not alone’ is an initiative of the Toruń branch of the Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH) Association. 500 posters were placed in Toruń on Monday, previously similar posters appeared in Tricity. The characters featured in the posers admit to having different sexual orientations. Although it is not possible to recognise them, each is signed with a name, we’re told what they do for living, and in which city district they live. –‘Our message is aimed to reach both homosexual and heterosexual people’, says Agnieszka Szpak, KPH coordinator. – ‘The former we want to make aware of the fact they are not alone, and the latter that just next to them live people who although seem different, are very similar.’

We showed the posters to several people passing-by the Gdańska street in Bydgoszcz yesterday afternoon. They didn’t seem outrageous to most people we met. 23-ear-old Karol was surprised: – ‘I didn’t know there are so many gay people in Bydgoszcz.’

75-year-old Zofia was upset at first: – ‘A gay pensioner? When someone is a pensioner does he have to be gay?’ letnia pani Zofia początkowo się obruszyła: – When we explained her what is this action for, her attitude softened: – ‘These posters make no harm to anyone. People are born like that.’

The agency managing the advertising pillars thought the opposite. The action that will run nationwide, was supposed to begin in Bydgoszcz yesteday as well. I didn’t because the ReMedia company denied the advertising space. – At the agency at first I heard that our posters could offend the dignity of onlookers. Then in their official e-mail I read about a “possible disapproval of the passers-by” – says Szpak.

Remedia’s employee admits she didn’t agree to cooperate with the association – ‘The subject of the posters is cntroversial. Although it doesn’t offend my dignity, people are different’ – she says, asking for her name not to be published. – ‘I was worried that the City Council (which owns the pillars) might not like these posters. And if so, we could have been fined.’

‘An action like this doesn’t offend anyone’ – says Maciej Grześkowiak, deputy mayor of Bydgoszcz, responsible for the city’s image. – But since it inflicts controversies, I’ll order the content of the posters to be analysed. I would also like ReMedia t o have a meeting with the Public Roads Department and settle what to do in such instances in the future.’

Is there a chance to still have the Campaign Against Homophobia in Bydgoszcz? – I ask the ReMedia co-owner.
‘Since there is so much fuss about this, the association can come and hang their posters even today’ – answers Magdalena Florek.

KPH coordinator: – This year we won’t make t to print more posters, but we’ll decide on what we’ll do in the next days. If all of us agree, we might launch this action in Bydgoszcz in January.

COMMENT
Michał Cichoracki, a sociologist for Gazeta Wyborcza- The company which denied posters to be hung, has auto-censored themselves. Probably due to fear from the different. It’s because for many years this subject was being swept under the carpet. Luckily the younger generation homosexuality doesn’t inflict negative emotions. Young people are not affraid of the different. However as long as we’re still discussing this, it means the problem of homophobia still exists in our society.

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