“On what Poles and Jews don’t like to remember”

2 06 2007

Note from the blog’s editor: I decided to translate this text after having read comments posted to THIS (click) article. I would like to thank Nemeczek. All texts on this website, apart from this one, are current media reports.

Author: Adam Michnik (editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza daily, former leader of anti-communist opposition, human rights activist, Pole and Jew)
Source: dialog.org. (Lecture given in July 1995 in Krakow, on a conference entitled “Polish remembrance – Jewish remembrance”, first published in Tygodnik Powszechny of 16th July 1995)
Translation: MoPoPressReview (beta version)

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The problem of Jewish remembrance of Poland is anti-Semitism. But the problem of Polish remembrance, is that Poles often encounter hostility from Jews.

My roots

My perspective is very specific, and that is why I reluctantly express my views on that mater. I always have a sense that my status is unclear. The status of Pole of Jewish origin rather than a Polish Jew. Moreover, such a Pole, who very much wants to be a Jew for anti-Semites and who always tells them “I am a Jew”. This is that specific kind of Pole. I don’t have complexes in pointing to anti-Semitism in Poland when I see it. That is why I am a Pole. This is my national pride, and my cultural identity. If I have done anything good in my life, I have done it within the Polish culture.

At the same time I have the feeling, forgive me my egocentricity, that all my grandparents died in Holocaust. No one asked them whether they were Poles, Jews or perhaps Ukrainians. It was decided for them that they were Jewish and that they had to die. It is my duty to repeat “I am a Jew”. Otherwise, I would be spitting on the ashes of my murdered family. And therefore I am a strange kind of Pole, who identifies with Poland, who doesn’t have any other identity nor cultural nor moral, nor ideological, but also who whenever hears anti-Semitic cliché, says “I am a Jew”. I hope I will have enough determination to keep doing so until the end of my life.

What our Jewish friends don’t remember about

When I repeatedly wonder where does such dramatic tension in Polish-Jewish relations come from, I notice that Jewish publicists don’t talk with that passion about any other nation but Poland. Not about Germans, not about Russians, not about Ukrainians. Why? Where does it come from? I think this is the unrequited love mechanism.
When we analyse the documents of Jews living in Poland – letters, diaries, and other documents – what we see in them is the love to the Polish ethos, to the Polish culture, to the Polish system of values. And that love was rejected. If I may, I will risk a thesis: the tension, the drama, the hurting on the Jewish side is the result of unrequited love mechanism. No one hates a man, like rejected wife or lover. And I think that is why there is the taboo in the Polish side.

Stanisław Krajewski wrote somewhere, that for two nations which see themselves as chosen nations, it is very difficult to coexist. We have had our Messianism, and Jews have had theirs. Jewish rabbi from United States, Mr Klenicki, said wisely that in the Polish-Jewish dialogue there are a lot of mistakes and vices on the Polish side, but on the Jewish side there is something what you could call “triumphalism of pain”: which means that only we, the Jews, have the right to pain, only we have the right to be the object of compassion as sufferers. While this is a perspective, which Poles will never accept. Poles have had their Auschwitz. Poles have had their executions, have had their martyrdom. To expect that the Poles will forget about this, is to not understand the essence of the Polish nation’s spirit.

I would also like to reply to several remarks that Mr Jean Kahn, made speaking before me. I see nothing strange in the fact that during a mass a Catholic bishop talks about the suffering and agony of Christ, that in every speech a bishop talks about Jesus Christ – because that is what the Catholic religion is about. And I see nothing strange in the fact that Polish bishops do not want to talk about responsibility for the Jews’ disaster in the joint letter with German bishops. Because whatever you can say about anti-Semitism in Poland and within Polish Catholicism, and you can say a lot, you cannot compare and name responsibility of Polish bishops for Polish Catholics’ anti-Semitism alongside the German bishops’ responsibility for the German Catholics’ participation in Holocaust. These are two very different things.

And one more remark to Jean Kahn. When you create an image of allegedly only country, with concentration camps during the war, and pogroms after the war, the whole thing perfectly clicks together: Poles are a specific nation, which just dreams to persecute Jews. And when I hear such a thing, I am very afraid of it, for hundred of reasons. But three are the most important. First: because it’s a lie. Second: because it’s not good to stick to lies. Third: I went through this subject in the Balkans, what people in Croatia say about Serbs, and what people in Serbia say about Croats. So all of this is just untrue.

Need for Church’s voice and a certain kind of sensitivity

I am not going to spare our Jewish friends unpleasant truths. But we have to remember about the other side too, and here I would like to be very frank. So when we think about where do anti-Semitic slogans come from in Poland, then at least partial answer has to be clear. Although the existence of “Tygodnik Powszechny” weekly, although Jerzy Turowicz, although the priest professor Tischner, the Polish Church hasn’t yet come clear with its fault for anti-Semitism. That single pastoral letter, which no one even remembers, is not enough. And you have to say very clearly that there is one institution in Poland, only one, and it is the Catholic Church, which can and has to say it clearly, and painfully frankly, that anti-Semitism is a sin, a sin which you have to confess, and that everyone who commits anti-Semitic propaganda sins. Everyone who shouts “Gas the Jews” needs to know they have committed a sin against the Holy Spirit. You cannot be silent when faced with anti-Semitic language. Underestimating silence is a sign of permission.

I would also like to briefly talk about a specific aspect of Polish-Jewish relations, for our Jewish brothers as I think, not quite clear. Romain Rollan in “Jean Christopher”, Maria Dąbrowska in “Dzienniki” reflect on such a phenomenon: how does it happen that Jews in France, in Poland, try to be better French patriots then the French and in Poland better patriots then the Polish. These questions seem anti-Semitic, and at first are inconceivable. But hear I would like to address our friend, Mr Gershon Zohar, Israel’s ambassador: what would be the reaction of Israeli elites, if suddenly their Israeli literature was stormed by a mass of wonderful Palestinian poets, writing in Hebrew, and who are better poets then all Israeli poets? Wouldn’t that have caused some confusion within the public opinion in Israel? Here I want to somehow appeal to the sensitivity. I know this is not simple. Everything, which is new, is often shocking. Why does someone of different roots, different background, should suddenly be a star of Polish literature. He, who came from ghetto and not me who came from country estate? This is one of the phenomenons of the Inter-war period (1918-1939). I am not justifying, I am just explaining that this is a real problem, encountered by everyone of us.

Think before you accuse

Within the polish spirituality the Jewish subject is still basically taboo. Of course it is not a taboo for Polish anti-Semites, who keep repeating that the Jews are guilty for everything. It is a taboo for everything that is good and noble in Polish culture. Polish culture cannot cope with this, because it cannot cope with what professor Jan Błoński described first, and what I will name using my own ineffectual words – the Polish culture cannot cope with the phenomenon of “unfaulty fault”. Because it is not the Poles’ fault that Holocaust was on Polish soil. Yes, it is the Poles’ fault that anti-Semitism, pogroms and discrimination were here. But it is not the Poles’ fault that Hitler built concentration camps here, in which he murdered the whole Jewish nation. But this happened on Polish eyes. And a normal Pole, also a Pole of Jewish descent, cannot cope with this. How can we? Of course thank God for people like Władydsław Bartoszewski, but basically we were all leading normal lives and suddenly we closed our eyes because we couldn’t cope.

I cannot cope with this myself. If I was in a war situation: would I take two people to my apartment, who speak bad Polish, whom I don’t know, who stand out, whom probably my neighbours will identify, and for me helping them my wife and my 7-year-old son will die.. So I cannot cope with this, and I thank God it was not me who had to make such decisions. But I know one thing, and I agree with what minister Bartoszewski has said: that you cannot accuse people, due to the fact they have been afraid. Marek Edelman is of course right, when he says that in extreme situations giving up equals guilt. But he is allowed to say that, because he survived the hell of ghetto. However none of us has the right to say that, us who didn’t live through this. And who says that, is commiting a political manipulation, for very dirty reasons.

The stereotype of Pole vs Yalta

I have been reflecting many times, why in the world there is no such stereotype, that Russians are anti-Semites. There is no such stereotype. Or why today in Israel it is said that Holocaust was done by Nazis not by the Germans? It’s not that Poles didn’t have their fascists. We did. Every nation has them. And the fact that Hitler didn’t find here any Quisling or Laval I don’t see as some Polish merit. He probably would have found if he looked for. But it is a different matter. People are talking around the world about the Poles as anti-Semites, although they didn’t have their Laval or Brasillach, and they aren’t talking like that about the French, who had. Why? Because there had to be some way to justify Yalta. So that the West could say to themselves “There was such a nation, that did fight Hitler from the first day of war, but it was a dreadful nation, intolerant, and they have done much evil to the Jews”. This nation was then sold in Yalta to Stalin, and there had to be found a way to justify oneself for that. And it was very easy to say: Poles are such terrible anti-Semites, that giving them freedom would have meant that they would be doing pogroms. However Russia was then too powerful, to accuse it in such a way.

Here I see the harm done to Poland, and I identify with this harm. I am one of those publicists, who tell the worst things to their own nation. And maybe it legitimises me, to say here what I think, about the meanness that is being done and was being done to Poland. And there weren’t many people like Alain Finkielkraut. When Lanzmann accused Andrzej Wajda of anti-Semitism because of his film about Korczak, Alain Finkielkraut said that if Wajda is anti-Semite, then he is anti-Semite too. There weren’t many people like him, and I would like to thank him today.

We didn’t have the right to say anything

I think we will never have enough time to pay tribute to those, who during occupation were helping the death-facing Jews. Never. And a discussion on whether there was a lot of them or little is senseless. Whatever was their number, their existence is an empirical evidence of God’s existence. Because in times like those, to bring oneself to this kind of heroism means to be someone absolutely exceptional. And we can only pay them tribute and thank God that he sent them.
But I should say one more thing. An anthology of underground, resistance press, connected with the Warsaw Ghetto Rising was published. It has to said clearly: yes, in our Polish resistance there were any heroic attitudes, and that press proves that. But there also were foul, and anti-Semitic attitudes, and these weren’t rare. And the fact that we weren’t able to settle this tiny bit of our history is our moral responsibility for what is going on today. Such texts exist too. I agree with what Alain Finkielkraut had said, that this is a family secret, that this is the secret of my, your, every family on this soil, Polish family, Jewish family and Ukrainian family. And basically it is hard to live normally knowing what our parents and brothers went through.

An important element of that family secret, is what Mrs. Simone Veil said about the brutal manipulation of the communists (March 1968), who incorporated it, and then it became very hard to modify it, due to censorship and dictatorship. It is said sometimes, that it reflected the views of the Poles. Maybe. I don’t know. I know that no one asked Poles. No one has given them a chance, to democratically choose anti-Semitism. They all were gagged. And when they could finally open their mouths, it turned ambiguous.

It is not that the subject is difficult and painful, but the majority would like to annihilate, reject anti-Semitism, I wouldn’t say that. Too ofte I hear anti-Semitic slogans. But on the other hand, how many parliament seats did the parties with anti-Semite views get? How many? Zero. Zero seats. In sauch a reportedly anti-Semitic country. No seats with current electoral law, when every idiot who could scream loud enough got a seat.

Politics and anti-Semitism in Poland

I am the last person who wants to falsify anything. Different times, we have freedom and sovereignty. So: were there people who reported Jews? Yes, we have t say it clearly – there were. But it would be indecent not to mention underground resistance courts’ death sentences on them – which were usually executed. There were the underground courts, these people were condemned and their crimes were condemned. In what sense I feel responsible for these people? Me, who identifies with Poland and Polish culture? In the same sense, like I feel responsible for those Polish people who everyday murder or rape. I can’t be responsible for people, with whom I fight whole my life, whose enemy I am. I can take the fault for all my actions, but I can’t be responsible for the actions of Polish communists, who closed me in jail, because I didn’t want to share their faults. And we have the obligation to make that distinction.
Poland was an enslaved nation, it was a conquered country, and you cannot talk about Polish anti-Semitism from before the war, which was disgusting and vile, together with that dry pogrom in 1968. Because the dry pogrom, was in fact a pogrom on Polish democratic Intelligentsia under anti-Semitic slogans. It was then when that weird phenomenon has started, the phenomenon of anti-Semitism in a country without Jews, anti-Semitism that wasn’t really aiming at the Jewish community, but at the polish democratic and freedom aspirations. I will say sarcastically: normal healthy anti-Semitism is such anti-Semitism that says “Adam Michnik is a Jew, and that’s why he’s hooligan”. Whereas the Polish refined anti-Semitism says “Adam Michnik is a hooligan, which means he probably is a Jew”.

I say that in Poland you get nominated to be a Jew. Well, I have deserved those offences, which I am not spared by the anti-Semitic press. But for what sins for example Hanna Suchocka was declared a Jew? She was good for everyone and so self-restrained. But it only takes to know the alphabe, to make someone a Jew on the political scene.
We will be talking about these matters for a long time. I am comforted however, that today in Krakow, although we argue radically, we talk about about painful things knowing that our adversaries too have the good will to reach the truth.

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Catholic bishops: We need to change the constitution

15 03 2007

Source: Gazeta Wyborcza of 15 March 2007
Author: Katarzyna Wisniewska

A regulation protecting life from the moment of conception should be included in the Constitution – says the Episcopate. This is the first joint statement of bishops in the Constitution-row.

Bishops voice in the debate about the Constitution amendments came as a surprise – that subject was not included in the agenda of the Episcopate proceedings. They stated that they support unambiguously the undertaken actions aiming to guarantee the protection of life since conception.

‘The dignity and inviolability of human life since conception until the natural death comes out from natural law, which had always been the subject of the Church’s teachings, and is what the God’s Servant John Paul II had always reminded about’ – the bishops have written.

‘Respect for the dignity of human being from conception to natural death is a test for our humanity: will we show the sacrifice for love, or egoism? Human dignity is not connected with religion – emphatically commented archbishop Józef Michalik.

The chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference had already made it clear before, that he supports the change in constitution. In an unprecedented letter to the to the Speaker of Sejm, in October 2006, prior to the parliamentary debate on constitutional protection of the unborn, he asked the MPs to “put aside all political motives and respect the highest virtue of rightful conscience, which makes “thou shalt not kill” one of the indications constructing our humanity’.

The discussion about the Constitution has begun in September 2006, when the League of Polish Families Party (LPR) has issued a project of supplementing the Article 38. The project is supported by a part of Law and Justice Party (PiS) and Selfderence (Samoobrona) MPs.

However the bishops distance themselves from the ongoing rows surrounding the issue of changing the Constitution. Thy did not say which Article in their opinion should be changed: Article 30 about the dignity of man, or Article 38 about the protection of human life.

‘We avoid political matters in this debate. We do not want to sympathise with any of the parties. We sympathise with the ideals of protecting life’ – pointed out archbishop Michalik.

‘Does constitution not give enough protection for human life? Cannot it stay as it is?’ – we asked archbishop Sławoj Leszek Głódź.

‘We do not interfere with editing. And anyway this is MPs initiative‘ – replied archbishop avoiding direct answer.

However not all the bishops think that the Constitution needs changing.
– I am convinced that at this moment the Constitution definitely protects life sufficient. – said not so long ago archbishop Tadeusz Gocłowski in an interview for TOK FM radio.

Episcopate objects the row be solved in a referendum (which Democratic Left Alliance, SLD, wants). – ‘Moral dilemmas concerning human life cannot be solved that way’.


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





“Women sacrificed on the altar of the Holy Mary”

13 03 2007

An interview with Agnieszka Graff, published in Przekrój (no.10/3220, March 8th, 2007), conducted by Piotr Najsztub on March 1st, 2007.

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Agnieszka Graff (37) writer, translator, publicist and feminist studied at Oxford University, Amherst College and School of Social Sciences at The Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN). In 1999 she received doctoral degree in English literature. In 2001 she published World Without Women, in which she described the absence of women in Polish public life and the patterns upon which the discrimination in Poland has been signed. She has had translated works of Virginia Woolf. She works for Warsaw University’s Institute of Americas and Europe, where she lectures Gender Studies to sociology students. Her essays are being published in Gazeta Wyborcza, Zadra, Literatura na Świecie and Katedra. She is a co-founder of Porozumienie 8 Marca, which organises the annual Women’s Day March. She’s married to a photographer Bernard Osser.

Przekrój: Do Polish women have anything to celebrate during this year’s 8th March Women’s Day?

AgnieszkaGraff: – No. The situation is dramatically bad and the fact that both: the majority of women, and the general public underestimate it is even more dramatic.

So what is dramatic about what is going on?

– The situation is symbolised by the constitution amendment, that is being forced by Deputy Prime Minister Giertych and a part of the Law and Justice Party (PiS). Which de facto leads to total ban for abortion. However this is a part of a bigger thing: the total seizure of Women issues by the extreme right.

Because only they talk about it?

– This subject has been given away to them like they owned it. They became experts for Women issues.

Who has given it away?

– Other parties, and most of the media. This obviously sprung due to the number of scandals the left side were engaged in. However before it collapsed under all the scandals, there was a very clear “non-agression pact” between them and The Catholic Church. For the price of its support for joining The EU, the left has given up the debate on abortion. And the view that this odd, current abortion law, one of the most restrictive in Europe, cannot be changed, has consolidated. That it is better not to touch it, because something terrible may happen.

Some call that law “the wonderful compromise”.

– This is reputed-comprimise. Comprimise of the rightwing with other rightwing. And the thing that is happening now, I think, is seen also by a part of The Church as dreadful, or deeply immoral.

What could be dreadful for them?

– The idea of a total abortion ban, including the cases of rape, adultery, and handicapped foetus.

Why would it be dreadful for them?

– Because The Church is not a ferocious institution. It is, from my point of view, an anti-women institution, deeply traditionalistic, but it is not a criminal institution. However the idea to force a woman to give birth, a woman who can lose her life during the labour, i see as criminal, as threatening the biological existence of women. The newest proposals for constitution amendments are being ignored in Poland, and seen as some kind of folklore, because no one believes the extreme-right will ever execute those regulations.

And will they introduce it?

– I think many people believe they will, but no one believes that they will execute it effectively. To let them for such antics in Polish constitution seems to me like like giving up completely. This is a coup on democracy – closing the debate on a subject that divides the Poles. This is frightening for me, however Poland is not the only country in which such things happen. Nationalists, when let to power, take over the control over women, and the whole rest agrees for that. You cannot let the extreme nationalists govern the foreign policy, you cannot give the extreme populists the power over economy, but since something has to be given to them, women are being sacrificed. And this is happening in Poland.

Do you feel it personally?

– I am not in the position of a woman living for 180 euro a month, who gets unwanted pregnancy. So I do not feel personally threatened -I will be fine. But this is my country, and I do not want to live in a country that despises of women. The situation of most women is similar to the situation of people being hijacked on a plane. Giertych and company are the hijackers – and the rest of ruling class negotiate. On our expense.

But maybe most of these women, having the alternative of being hijacked or not, would have chosen to be hijacked?

– No. The number of people supporting the total ban for abortion is 9 – 10 percent, and these are mostly people who have long passed their reproductive age. This is some kind of an extreme group. I also represent a statistically extreme group, because I believe that abortion should be safe and legal – and with the easy availability of counterception – should be treated as a medical service. This is a cliche in the West. Well, 10 percent of the Polish society shares my view. All others are somewhere in between. They think for example that abortion should be available for economical reasons, or they more or less support the current pseudocompromise. Which is abortion legal in the instance of rape, serious foetus handicap, or a threat to mother’s life. Many women say “I would never have an abortion, but I think women should be allowed the choice”. Or: “Abortion should be banned, but if my younger 15-year-old sister got pregnant, of course I would have helped her to get a surgery”. There are many inconsequent and self-contradictory emotions involved.

Should only women decide on the right for abortion, or men too?

– Many people from my environment think that women should decide. I do not fully agree with that. The right for abortion is a part of a set of women’s rights called ‘reproductive rights’. These are human rights. Rights of a human, who is a woman. And I don’t think, let’s say that only Afroamericans in The USA should support fighting racism – this is an issie importaint for the whole America. Similarly, I believe that it is an issue of all citizens of this country to decide, how will women’s rights be. Reproductive rights are some kind of an emancipation of civilisation level and level of Church interference with the state. So not only women, children also have fathers. And the childless do not have to be keen to live in a country where Marek Jurek and Wojciech Wierzejski are Women issues experts.

You said that the attitude to women’s rights is the gauge of civilisation level. Measured like that, where are we?

– You want me to say that…

No, it is not like I want you to say something.

– … that we live in The Middle Ages or in Africa, but I don’t believe that progress in inevitable.

So is it The Middle Ages all the time?

No. I think all kinds of occurrences – even not related to women issues – have influence on the attitude towards women’s rights. At this moment the issue of women’s rights in Poland is greatly influenced by the increase of nationalist moods. Nationalism debases women. These mechanisms were very beautifully and deeply analised by Professor Maria Janion in her last book Niesamowita Slowianszczyzna (The Incredible Slavs). To make the long story short, nationalism is the ideology praising the manhood. Manhood based on a certain vision of “brotherhood”, a bond between men. But at the same time the fatherland is really the motherland. This universal phenomenon, that the personification, the symbol of the country nationalist loves, the nation he feels part of, is in fact idealised womanhood. In Poland it is the Holy Mother, together with Polonia and the mythical “Polish Mother”. We hear all the time the right wing MPs idealising that womanhood, who is supposed to make sacrifices for them. They show their mentality very clearly. But the same can be said about nationalists in Ireland, Singapore or Sri Lanka. From research and observation we know now, that the more idealised is the symbolic womanhood, the more humiliated, and the more powerless the real women are.

So we should destroy that myth of Polonia-Holy Mother-“Polish Mother”?

– You cannot destroy myths. You can cure yourself from myths, you can mock and ridicule the myth in a creative way. Professor Janion believes that is what the contemporary Polish literature (for example Maslowska, Kuczok) and art (Nieznalska, Zielinska, Baumgart) does. I am more of a pessimist. These works of high culture, very interesting, have no influence over the Polish mentality. Roman Giertych very effectively communicates with that mentality. It is his great symbolical success and should be not depreciated as extremity. I have found an information published by the Polish Press Agency (PAP) in August 2006 describing the beginning of the campaign for changing the constitution. Roman Giertych visited the Jasna Gora shrine and has made a vow to the Holy Mother that he will change the constitution. He added that the abortion can be “analogically compared” to Holocaust. This is the classical example of sacrificing the real women on the altar of the symbolical woman. And the Holy Mother of Jasna Gora, is here basically personification of Poland itself. Giertych’s Holy Mary is some kind of a ferocious goddess, to which women have to be sacrificed. This is incredibly graphical and powerful rhetorics – today it strikes PiS too. They are afraid to be against it, to say: it’s cruel. It would mean they are not patriotic enough, that they signed out of the “brotherhood”.

So maybe Jerzy Urban is right calling the Holy Mother of Czestochowa “an indian woman with cuts on her face”, maybe this is the way to fight it?

– No, disdain and tainting the symbols is not the right way, because it’s basically doing the same thing au rebours. What we need is a strong, alternative, secular discourse. A discourse that neither puts the Holy Mother into the centre of Polishness nor does it offend her or throw objects at her. Some serious feminist force from inside The Church would also be handy…

Maybe there is no alternative to the Holy Mother as the centre of Polishness, and that’s why it’s happening?

– That’s why we will probably end up having the total ban on abortion in our constitution. A terrible thing is happening: women’s rights have been made equal to betrayal of Polishness. What Polishness is about is that our women our different than that bitches in the West, our men are real men not some transvestites or transsexuals from Berlin.

Our real men will introduce the ban on abortion into constitution. Do you think nothing will change and we still will have such widespread underground abortion service? It’s estimated that 80-200 thousand surgeries are carried out every year.

– The question is will the underground abortion service be safe? Now the underground service is very civilised. It is expensive, but abortions are being conducted by doctors. Before the Second World War or in the 50s-60s in the United States, before abortion was legalised, abortion was the cause of death of many women, often already mothers, who died in hands of some freaks. I don’t know if PiS will bend to the next idea of the extreme-right, to the idea of liquidating the underground abortion services. If they start sueing doctors doing those surgeries we may end up again in “women’s hell” as Boy-Zelenski called it. The League Of Polish Families (LPR) party are religious fanatics, they could do that. I hope for the optimistic alternative, that this will cause the women’s rebellion.

How could it look?

– For example forming a women’s party, which in opposition to Manuela Gretkowska’a party will take care of the subject of abortion.

So one more women’s party?

– I don’t know if one more. Manuela Gretkowska’s Manifesto published in Przekrój has pointed to the barbarianism of the idea of a total abortion ban. And it was a Manifesto of justified anger against making women powerless. Since then from what Manuela’s been saying, it seems she’s scared of this subject. Lately she said in an interview for Dziennik, that she can imagine herself voting both for and against the right for abortion. That doesn’t mean anything, only that she pulled out, that she got scared – like the whole Polish political scene – of The Church and that odd idea that Poland equals the Holy Mother, and the Holy Mother equals no abortion. I hope that women is this party will realise, that this matter cannot be postponed until later, because these mad people will eat and digest all of us.

Apart the abortion, do Polish women taking part in this years Women’s Day March have other reasons to worry?

– Job market for the starters: sexual harassment, pay gap, or employers during the job-interview demanding a declaration that a woman will not have children. I can go on like that for long. Poland is the country in Europe in which there is the biggest difference between the level of employment of men and women. 59% of men aged 15-64 are employed, compared to 47% of women. That’s 12 percent. In Denmark or Sweden it’s only 4.

It has been worse, so maybe it’s better now? And I don’t mean the communist era, but the 90s. In the communist era there was full employment.

– It’s not about full employment. It’s what womanhood is. Then women identified themselves as functioning in public life. Now, because of the discrimination, and the attack of the nationalist ideology, many women don’t even attempt going back on the job market after having a child. This is of course related to the problems with kindergarte. If a woman earns 180 euro per month and there is no kindergarten near her, or the kindergarten cost 150 euro, it’s more appealing for her to stay home with the child. From many years there were attempts to push women back on the job arket with other methods. And childbirth-benefit is one of the most scandalous idea. Its main result is, i think, the fact that women who would have given their children for adoption after giving birth, now decide to keep them.

You don’t see any positive outcomes of childbirth-benefit?

– No.

For some women these money mean they can buy something.

– Of course, but this money can be spent in a more reasonable way. Encouraging having children should not have the form of single time financial benefit, but a complex system of supporting the parenting.

And when the state is not able to create such a system, maybe it’s bette for it to give away the child-birth benefits?

– Well yes, but that generates lots of pathologies. Already couple thousand children in dysfunctional families were born. Only to receive the benefit, and go drinking or other things like that. Because of the childbirth-benefit less women leave their children for adoption at the hospitals. After few months they end up in foster care.

Do you see in the Polish parliament anyone thinking similarly?

– I have great sympathy to Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka. What she says always makes sense, however it not always is reflected in what later happens. In relation to the current parliament I have chosen the attitude of something like internal emigration. I no longer listen to every debate.

Before have you?

– Yes, I had the parliamentary debates downloaded from the internet, i knew the names of MPs, I was interested in the actions of the Parliamentarian Group of Women. When I returned to Poland after graduation in 1995, I was in such a naive and enthusiastic way a patriot. I thought to myself that Poland has regained independence, that we’re building a modern democracy, that this my feminism is my input to the common good. When I read now some fragments of my old books, I smile. I was so excited, so patriotic, so optimistic.

PiS needs patiots.

– I never predicted that the word patriotism will be seized by people, who in my books act as weirdos throwing rotten eggs at us. The boys who were throwing object at me in Wladyslawowo couple years ago, are MPs now.

They are in LPR, but PiS… PiS needs patriots.

– No. PiS uses the word patriotism, to describe something, which is nationalism. This patriotism we have now, is not from my world. That’s why I stopped saying “this country”, and I say “my country”. Because I got scared that me and my environment will get pushed on the position of ironists, distancing themselves from Poland.

Why did you get scared of such perspective, if you already are on “internal emigration”?

– Because this is after all my country. I am on my internal emigration in my favourite district of Warsaw. I love this city, I love those landscapes. I returned with full understanding, that after seven years of emigration, this is the place where I want to live, and I don’t want to be offended by some…

Do you want to live in a country in which women will have their rights taken away?

– Where would a feminist live if not in a such country? This is the place, where things need to be done. This is my country, and it has been stolen from me by PiS inc. I’m not shopping, I’m not looking for a cool place, with best options for women.

Do you feel Manifa (the Women’s Day March) has supporters in the media, or not really?

– This year Porozumienie 8 Marca has decided that there shall be no more happenings, no more funny wigs and stuff. Manifa is serious. And this is a serious ideological decision, and also a challange for the media. Because the media got used to that a colourful March of girls and boys walks down the streets of Warsaw, and no one really knows what its about, but there are funny signs like “Sex yes, sexism no” or “Feminism, I’m worth it”. But we are no longer on the stage of celebrating our internal unity, that we’re so emancipated, that we have read those cool feminist books. Our country is now gripped by nationalist plague. And I hope that the media will see what is happening, that there is something importaint going on, which concerns all of us. Not only women in reproductive age.

What would be your dream parliament-act concerning women’s rights?

– Gender Equality Act, like they have in many EU states. And which we still don’t have in Poland. However in the matter of abortion, the best act would be a blank sheet of paper. It’s just not a matter for politicians or lawyers, but doctors and women. Or first – women, and doctors second. It is the women who takes the costs: both economical and emotional – of having a baby. It’s mostly men who make law, but they leave the whole responsibility to women.

So your dream is to cross abortion matters out of law regulations and constitution?

– Yes, maybe except medical regulations defining the moment until which abortion should be available.

You have convined me, I’ll come to the March. What do you expect from men, who don’t share the ideas of nationalist ideology?

– A serious interest in women’s rights, including reproductive rights. Not as one of many issues, but an issue that has become the symbol of fight for Poland. Because everyone in the media thinks it’s the matter of lustration and everyone argues about it constantly. But this will pass, together with the generation concerned. However the women’s rights can be lost for many years. And it’s not only about women, but also about what you tell children in schools, on those lessons that re no longer called “sexual education” but, i don’t know “preparation to life in virtue”. This is the moments that decides about atmosphere in Poland for generations.

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