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

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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 Although it doesn’t offend my dignity, people are different’ – she says, asking for her name not to be published.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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If you enjoyed this post why not visit Polandian, a collaborative blog on Poland.

 

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Germany: a hostile friend

1 09 2007

Source: Wprost weekly of 2 Sep. 2007
Author: Krystyna Grzybowska
Translation from Polish for this blog: MoPoPressReview

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Should we acknowledge the German domination in Europe and humbly take in the attacks of the German media and some of the German politicians on this country? Or should we continue the hard policy of defending national interests, like the Germans do, on the European and international stage? As far as the relations with Germany are concerned, these are the options Poland has. Think not Poland has to do talk with Germany knelt down. Germany respects a nation that respects itself; and won’t be frightened. This is one of the reasons they treat Russia with such respect. The lesson they’ve got in Stalingrad got deep into their minds.

German patriotism

We are not a superpower; not with us the German government is competing in pursuit of being the first in Europe, or the leading world superpower. Chancellor Merkel receives such praise in Germany not due to her new orders in internal politics or important reforms. She’s so popular because she maintains strong position “in the world of Bush, Sarkozy and Putin”. It’s about influencing the world – because 62 years after the war the Germans are regaining self-confidence, which they lacked for decades. German self-confidence is however always combined with nationalism and arrogance. That’s how it was in history, and how it is now.

For a long time the word ‘patriot’ was regarded in Germany as offence – complained ‘Die Welt’ daily in one of it’s commentaries. And that makes the Polish accusation of German chauvinistic attitude towards them absurd. It is true, that one of the elements of de-Nazification of the West Germany was avoidance of presenting attachment to Vaterland, as there was the fear that it would turn to nationalism. I didn’t, however, notice any indications of patriotism in German everyday life – because patriotism in Polish, French or American style doesn’t exist there. The national euphoria during the recent football world cup faded away together with the event. Despite president Horst Koehler’s calls to continue with this patriotic enthusiasm. Germans don’t know what is patriotism. You need ages of fighting and efforts to keep territory, to have freedom; and also humility, to know what it means to love one’s home country.

German courage

For hundreds of years Germany, or German states and their variable coalitions to be more specific, have been pursuing to take other people’s territories in possession – until it ended with a barbarian war started by Hitler. Today Prussia is being glorified, and called German’s pride. ‘Der Spiegel’ weekly devotes pages to descriptions of the might and great merits the Prussian state made to the Germans. Grateful readers are sending letters thanking the paper for having courage to have this difficult subject published. “You rehabilitate the the biggest, and politically and culturally the most influential German state, dissolved in 1947 by the winners. No institution either in the East, or in the West, has ever had that courage” – wrote Joerg Ulrich Stange from Sleswig-Holsatia. It isn’t the first or the only attempt to rehabilitate the disgraceful German past.

The most worrying is the tone of the media, which accuse Jarosław Kaczynski, and the current Polish administration, of nationalism. “Prime-minister’s rhetoric, seasoned with nationalism, falls on the fertile ground among the elderly, who lived through the German occupation” – wrote the conservative German ‘Focus’ weekly. Is that supposed to mean, that those Poles who made it to survive and escape the death from German barbarians, are nationalists? One is tempted to paraphrase the famous Jacques Chirac’s quote “The Germans didn’t use the opportunity to be quiet”.

There are several words and terms the Germans shouldn’t use in relation to other nations, and most importantly in relation to Jewish and Polish nations. One of those is ‘nationalism’. It sounds cynical, coming from a country that apparently has overcome nationalism; although it’s citizens can freely associate in fascist parties like NPD, and bald-headed “patriots” run around East-German city streets bashing every foreigner who happens to be of different skin colour than a typical blonde would have had. Recent violence, that affected people of Hindu origin, highly-skilled professionals – which the richest country in Europe constantly lacks, prove how multiculturalism and tolerance work in the soul of an average simple German.

In the German East nationalism is visible straight-forward, whereas in the West it proliferates in beer pubs, manifested in complaints on Polish car-thieves and dirty Turks. On the other hand, political correctness and fear of the Muslims mean that the Germans are having even more mosques built, like the one in Cologne, although there already are over 2500 Islamic temples in the country.

Criticising Kaczyński, and accusing him of nationalism, when he warns Civic Platform party (PO) of being over-submissive towards Germany, is another attack on Poland, a country which hasn’t done anything wrong to the Germans, which was ready to put aside the past and reconcile with a nation that has done her so much harm.

Polish-German idyll

It were the Germans who began to revise history, when they recognised they can allow themselves for that. And the recent Expelled Associations’ congress in Berlin showed that this revision could have European dimension. The sole presence of the European Parliament’s president Hans-Gert Poettering on this undoubtedly anti-Polish event, only proves this point. How is the Polish government and the Polish public supposed to react for such demonstration? Should we pretend that everything is all right, and Erika Steinbach and her federation is a margin – like the politicians of German left and right would want us to believe?

Polish politics is a deep crisis. Parliamentary opposition, although among which there are many patriots, is demolishing the state in plain view of Europe and to German praise. The German media for some time have been trying to influence the Polish public, fighting together with the Polish opposition with Kaczyński brothers. They are almost certain that PO will win the next elections and form coalition with The Left and Democrats (LiD), which will finally relieve the nationalist tendencies in Poland. And there will be idyll between Poland and Germany: the way the Germans want of course.

People who defend the theory about the marginal role of the Federation of Expellees cite positive examples: for it was the enthusiasm for “Solidarność” that was the impulse for Merkel to get into politics – wrote Thomas Urban, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung correspondent in Poland. Germans like symbols, symbolic gestures are to fix problems between the two nations. The joint declaration of German president Johannes Rau and his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwaśniewski in 2003, according to Poettering, has provided a final solution for the claims. ‘Bla bla bla’ – one would want to say. 22 families have to leave their homes, because these homes will be returned to the Germans. Further evictions are on their way.

If the next Polish government is to lead the equal partnership policy with Germany through trivial declarations, we will find ourselves in a corner, and without any chance for regaining the position the current government has undoubtedly won. We might also learn that the Polish veto against Russia is a betrayal of European interests – while the Baltic pipeline is only a gesture of German-Russian reconciliation.

We are fed up with the symbols of Polish-German reconciliation. German politicians very eagerly refer to the Letter of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops, and the famous quote “We forgive and we ask for forgiveness”. Today these words are getting new meaning, Poles ask for forgiveness for they must be guilty. Hans-Gert Poettering assured he represents the 27 European Union member states – and this is another example of the German arrogance and disrespect for other nations, especially Polish. Unconvincing is the argument, that Poettering as a German Christian Democrat wants to win the favour of the expelled as voters – because he does it at the expense of Polish fears, and he doesn’t care if he increases the tension between the Polish and the German.

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

 





Young Israelis in Poland – continuation

31 05 2007

Please note: this article is continuation of matters raised HERE (click). It is advised to read the former first.

Source: Przekrój of 31 May 2007
Author: Anna Szulc
Translation: MoPoPressReview

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Recently we have written about hotels and aircrafts being wrecked by young Israelis visiting Poland and the brutal interventions of their bodyguards treating local inhabitants like criminals. Reactions were instant.

We got reactions from diplomats, officials, hospitality workers, and journalists too. First in Israel. The Jewish internet portal ynetnews.com published in mid-May an information on Przekrój’s article together with Israeli politicians’ comments. Including Shmuel Abuav, director general at the Israeli Ministry of Education. David Pelog, Israel’s Ambassador to Polandtold the portal, that articles like this show young Israelis in negative light and threaten the future of trips to Poland programme . (…)

Polish Home Office’s reaction was a bit absurd. After over a month after receiving our questions, the Ministry’s spokesman Michal Rachoń informed that in Krakow both the residents and tourists were able to “almost normally” walk on Szeroka street, which hosted Jewish celebrations in April this year. The spokesman has completely disregarded to the excesses mentioned in our article, which were taking place at that time. According to the ministry, there is absolutely no problem whatsoever. ‘Cooperation with Israeli security, up to date, does not imply that their behaviour could be causing any kind of disturbance of public order’ – wrote the spokesman.

We have also received many e-mails from readers describing their – usually unpleasant – encounters with Israeli bodyguards. Restaurateurs and hoteliers, not only from Krakow but from around the country, describe in their letters (unfortunately usually requesting to remain anonymous) their problems with Israeli teenagers and security.

The owner of Krakow’s Astoria Hotel, whom we have mentioned n the article (young Israeli guests burned his carpet), has informed that there is good will in solving the problems. Teenagers’ guardians settled the matter with him fast and in a proper way – and that is why he decided to keep having Israeli teenagers groups in his hotel.

This, unfortunately, is an exception. Many others resign from having troublemaking guests. Last week some of those entrepreneurs complained to the Krakow City Council. Therefore the council members are persuading the mayor to launch a special action informing tourists from Israel on the Polish law.

Will young Israelis start respecting Polish law? Israel’s ambassador assures yes, and the government of Israel will take a closer look on the bodyguards that accompany children, and the schools that organise the visits.

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Przekrój’s interview with David Peleg, Ambassador of Israel in Poland

What is your opinion on the behaviour of Israeli teenagers and its security officers in Poland?
– The Article in “Przekrój” was a surprise for us, and the incidents described there indeed sound serious. We will investigate each described case carefully, and if the accusations confirm, we will take consequences. You have to remember however, that each year 30 thousand young Israelis come to Poland, and such incidents do not characterise the whole Israeli youth. We are intent for Israelis to see contemporary Poland as it really is, without prejudices and stereotypes. All this demand certain changes in current logistics of the visits. You have to remember, that this is a long-lasting process, that changes will not happen overnight.
But why does it have to take long? Is it so difficult to include several meetings with young Poles in the trips agendas?
– Lets remember, that Poland for Israelis is not the same country as for instance the completely neutral Sweden. Poland is for many Israelis, especially the older generation, emotions, it is the Holocaust, but also the after-war memories, not always good. These people are the grandparents of the teenagers who come to Poland. They are in a way programmed by their families. When during social meetings I tell them that Poles and Jews have lived here for many centuries, that Poles were the victims of war just like Jews, young Israelis look at me surprised. And they add, that until now they have known another story.
The more a dialogue is needed, a living exchange of ideas…
– Yes, but this dialogue is possible only now. Previously about many things both Jews and Poles tried not to talk. I have the impression, that only now we can really look into each other’s eyes, and without beating about the bush talk about the things that are painful to us. About stereotypes Israelis may have, but also about Jedwabne, Kielce Pogrom, about March ’68, but also about anti-Semitic graffiti you can see now in Lódz or about Radio Maryja, about new monuments being raised to Dmowski and Kuraś-Ogień, or about the recent ONR (Polish Nationalists) march in Krakow, witnessed by young Jews. They could leave Poland believing they are not welcome.
Like ordinary residents of Krakow and tourists could have the impression they are not welcome by the same young Jews.
-We are going back to where we started: to the changes that need to happen, because it is about two so closely related nations. I can promise once again: if the accusations described in ‘Przekrój’ confirm, those who are guilty will face consequences.

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





Polish Public Television TVP censored ‘Little Britain’

31 05 2007

Source: gazeta.pl portal, May 31st 2007
Author: asz
Translation: MoPoPressReview

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TVPs decision to broadcast ‘Little Britain’ surprised us. After all it is a crude satire, moreover: it is British. One of the episodes contained for example a scene of gay-priest kissing his partner. “What do do? What to do with this?” – kept thinking TVPs decision makers. They found a solution: they’ve cut it out.
‘The series is of satirical character. Deciding to broadcast it to Polish audience, we took into account the differences in mentality and sensitivity between Poles and the British. What is appropriate even in British public television, may offend polish viewers’ – told TVPs spokeswoman Aneta Wrona to Zycie Warszawy daily. Cut it out? Cut it out! Is it the case that they still remember down there in TVP this method had proven in practice and was effective? (during communism)

And only the Democratic Left Alliance MP Mr Gadzinowski is repulsed with TVPs attitude: ‘These practises are in fact censorship! I will raise this subject on the next TVPs Programme Council, which I am a member of’. How naive of him…

Priest scene, TVP censored version
(please note that polish television usually uses reader instead of subtitles or dubbing for foreign programmes)

The fifth episode broadcast by TVP2 last Friday, ended with a scene at the erotic articles stall, in which a priest assures the “only gay in the village” of his tolerance. This is not the end of the original version. Priest’s homosexual partner comes to the stall and kisses him passionately. Later the pair embraces, and an elderly lady standing nearby sums up the situation with a coarse joke.

Gay-priest scene, BBC original version

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Israeli teenagers are a nuisance in Poland

11 05 2007

Source: Przekrój weekly of May the 10th 2007
Link to original article in Polish
Author: Anna Szulc
English translation: MoPoPressReview

The list of losses Israeli teenagers’ visits leave behind is long and costly. It begins with burned carpets in Polish hotels, and ends with Jewish teenagers’ trauma. But more and more often with local residents’ trauma too.

Roberto Lucchesini, originally from Tuscany, for several years now a resident of Krakow, hasn’t been sleeping well recently. Before he will be able to move his arms normally again, he will have to go through long rehab. All this because of how he was treated, in broad daylight in front of passers-by and several teenagers who were hermetically closed in their coach-buses. Israeli bodyguards, equipped with firearms, binded his arms behind his back over his head with handcuffs. In Krakow, in the middle of the street. A moment before, the Italian was trying to make coach drivers parking in front of his house turn their engines off. – ‘Israelis handcuffed me, threw me on the ground, my face landed in dog excrement, and then they were kicking me’. After that the perpetrators were gone. Italian had to be freed by the Polish police.

Lucchesini moved to Kazimierz, a district of Kraków, that used to be a Jewish commune of which the only things left now are synagogues and memories, often painful. He found an apartment with a view on the synagogue. – ‘Back then I had thought this was the most beautiful place on Earth’ – he says – ‘after some time I understood that the place is indeed beautiful, but not for its today’s residents’.

Kicking instead of answers

Another resident of Kazimierz, Beata W., office worker, is of similar opinion. Israeli security searched her handbag on one of the streets, without telling her why.
‘When I asked what was this all about, they told me to shut up. I listened, I stopped talking, I was afraid they’d tell me to get undressed next’ – she says annoyed.
A young polish Jew, who as usual in Sabbath, went to pray in his synagogue couple months ago, also didn’t get his answer. He only asked, why can’t he enter the temple. Instead of an answer, he got kicked.
‘I saw this with my own eyes’ – says Mike Urbaniak, the editor of Forum Of Polish Jews and correspondent of European Jewish Press in Poland. – ‘I saw how my friend is being brutally attacked by security agents from Israel, without any reason.’

All this apparently in sake of Israeli childrens’ safety.
‘For Poles it may be difficult to understand, but security agents accompany Israelis at all times, both in Israel and abroad’ – explains Michał Sobelman, a spokesman for Israeli embassy in Poland. – ‘This is a parents’ demand, otherwise they wouldn’t agree for any kind of trip. Poland is no exception.’

But it was in Poland, as Mike Urbaniak reports, where Jews from Israel brutally kicked a Polish Jew in front of a synagogue, and then threatened him with prison. In plain view of the Israeli teenagers.

‘We are very sorry when we hear about such incidents’ – Sobelman admits – ‘Detailed analysis is carried out in each case. We will do everything we can, to prevent such situations in the future. Maybe we will have to change training methods of our security agents, so that they would know Poland is not like Israel, that the scale of threats here is insignificant?

Professor Moshe Zimmermann, head of German History Institute at Hebrew University in Jerusalem thinks however, that the problem is not only in the security agents’ behaviour. He thinks Israelis basically think that Poles aren’t equal partners for them. And it’s not only that they think Poles can’t ensure their children’s safety.

‘They are not equal partners to any kind of discussion. It applies also to our common history, contemporary history and politics. In result Israeli youth see Poles as second category people, as potential enemies’ – he explains bluntly.

An instruction on conduct with the local inhabitants given away to Israeli teenagers coming to Poland couple years ago may confirm professor’s opinion. It contained such a paragraph: ‘Everywhere we will be surrounded by Poles. We will hate them because of their participation in Holocaust’.

‘Agendas of our teenagers’ trips to Poland are set in advance by the Israeli government, and are not flexible’ – says Ilona Dworak-Cousin, the chairwoman of the Polish-Israeli Friendship Association in Israel. – ‘Those trips basically come down to visiting, one by one, the places of extermination of Jews. From that perspective Poland is just a huge Jewish graveyard. And nothing more. Meeting living people, for those who organise these trips, is meaningless.’

A resident of Kraków’s Kazimierz district, who is of Jewish descent, says that there is nothing wrong with that: – ‘Israelis don’t come to Poland for holiday. Their aim is to see the sites of Shoah and listen to the terrifying history of their families, history that often is not told to them by their grandparents, because of its emotional weight. Often young people who are leaving, cry, phone their parents and say “why didn’t you tell me it was that horrible?”. To be frank, I am not surprised they have no interest in talking about Lajkonik.

However according to Ilona Dworak-Cousin the lack of contact with Poles, causes Israeli youth to confuse victims with the perpetrators. – ‘They start to think it were the Poles who created concentration camps for Jews, that it is the Polish who were and still are the biggest anti-Semites in the world’ – adds Dworak-Cousin, who is Jewish herself.

The above mentioned Kraków resident has a different opinion. – ‘I don’t believe anyone was telling them that the Poles had been doing this. That’s why there is no need for discussing anything with the Poles’.

Teenagers behaving badly

However, many Israelis say that although the instruction was eventually changed, the attitude to Poles has not changed at all.
‘Someone in Israel some day decided, that our children going to Poland have to be hermetically surrounded by security’ – says Lili Haber president of Cracovians Association in Israel. – ‘Someone decided that young Israelis cannot meet young Poles, and cannot walk the streets. Basically these visits aren’t anything else but a several-day-long voluntary prison.’

Voluntary, but also very expensive: 1400 USD per person. Not every Israeli parent can afford such a trip.

‘Moreover, as it turns out, the children are too young, to visit sites of mass murders’ – adds dr Ilona Dworak-Cousin. Traumatic experiences that accompany visits in death camps have its consequences. Kids become aggressive. And instead of getting to know the country of their ancestors, in which Jews and Poles lived in symbiosis for over 1000 years, Israeli teenagers cause one scandal after another.

It happens sometimes, that somewhere between Majdanek and Treblinka, young Israelis spend their time on striptease ordered via the hotel telephone. It happens sometimes, that the hotel service has to collect human excrement from hotel beds and washbasins. It happens sometimes, that hotels have to give money back to other tourists, who cannot sleep because Israeli kids decided to play football in hotel corridor. In the middle of the night.

6-year-old Krzys from Kazimierz played football too. On Sunday night on 15th April, after shooting two goals, he wanted to go home, as usual. He lives near a synagogue, in front of which hundreds of young Israelis have gathered on celebrations preceding March of Living. Just before Szeroka street he was stopped by some not-so-nice men. – ‘This is a semi-private area today. There is no entry’ – he was told. It didn’t help, when he told them, his mum will get upset if he won’t be home on time.

Security officers, which is interesting, were Polish this time and accompanied by the Polish police. They also denied access to the area to a Dutch couple, who had reserved a table at one of the restaurants on Szeroka street six months ago. – ‘Is this a free country?’ – One of the tourists tried to make sure.

On a normal day you can access Szeroka street from several sides. That evening from none. I tried to get through myself, without any success. Only eventually, the police helped me to pass the security line.

‘There are no official restrictions here’ – they were convincing me a moment later, although the “unofficial practice” was different.

– ‘We have only set certain restrictions in movement’ – Sylvia Bober-Jasnoch, a spokeswoman for Malopolska Region Police press service, explained to me later.

The police cannot say anything else. Polish law does not allow residents to be denied access to the streets they live at. Even during the so called mass events (however the celebrations on Szeroka did not have that status) residents have the right to go back to their homes and tourists have the right to dine in a restaurant. Also Israeli security agents have no right to stop or search passers-by.

I tried to find out more on the rights of Israeli security agents in Poland. First at the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from where my question was sent to…. the Ministry of Education. I have also sent questions to the Home Office. Although I was promised, I received no answer. Only person eager to talk on that matter was Maciej Kozłowski, former ambassador in Israel, currently the Plenipotentiary of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Polish-Israeli relations.

‘Regulations are imprecise’ – admits Kozłowski. ‘Basically bodyguards from a foreign country should not move around Poland armed. However for the government of Israel security matters are a priority. Any convincing that their citizens should use the services of Polish security turned unsuccessful’.

Airplane like battle field

The Polish-Italian couple, Robert Lucchesini, his wife Anna, and their two-year-old daughter, cannot understand Polish government’s attitude. Which contrary to the Israeli government, is not able to ensure the safety of its citizens. Safety is not the only thing among the pair’s priorities, but also peace and quietness. They are however being woken up every morning by the loud noises of engines, of the Polish coach-buses with groups of Israeli youth. Their Polish drivers brake driving regulations all the time. They’re allowed to park at the square near the synagogue (in front of Robert’s house) only for up to 10 minutes. They stay there much longer, even hours. With their engines turned on. Reason? Youth’s safety – they would be able to leave quicker in case of a threat. And because Israeli kids need to be served coffee. Because even though Kazimierz is full of cafes, Israeli teenagers don’t go there. They are being told: no contacts with environment, no talking to passers-by, no smiles nor gestures.

This has been going for years. Israeli groups contact with Poles only there where they have to. First in airplanes.

‘A plane after such group has landed, looks like a battle field’ – admits a worker of LOT Polish Airlines asking for his name not to be published. – ‘The worst thing is these kids’ attitude to Polish staff. Recently a stewardess was slapped by a teenager in her face. Because he had been waiting for his coca-cola too long’.

Leszek Chorzewski, LOT spokesman, admits that Israeli youth is a difficult customer. – ‘They demand not only more attention then other passengers, but also more security precautions’ – he adds. These precautions are long aircraft and airport controls conducted by Israeli services. These are also the high demands of the teenagers’ security agents.

Katarzyna Łazuga, student from Poznań, could see that first hand. She participated in a tourist guides’ training on one of Polish airports. ‘Young people from Israel entered the room we were in’, she recalls. – ‘Our group was then made to stop classes and rushed out of the room. Israeli security officers told us to go out, right now and without any talking. Because… we were “staring” at their clients. Yes, we were looking at them. They were catching attention, they were good looking.’

Young Israelis see Poles also there, where they board – in Polish hotels. If any of them still wants to have them. Most of those in Kraków don’t want to any more.

‘We have resigned from admitting Israeli youth once and for all’ – admits Agnieszka Tomczyk, assistant manageress in a chain of hotels called System. ‘We could not afford to refund the loses after their stays any more’.

These loses being: demolished rooms, broken chairs and tables, human excrements in washbasins or trash bins, or like in Astoria, other hotel in Kraków, burned carpet. Astoria also backs out from having Israeli groups. One of the reasons is that the teenagers’ security agents were ordering other guests, whom they didn’t like, to leave.

‘I understand that Israeli security agents are over-sensitive to any disturbing signals. They are coming from a country where bombs explode almost daily, and young people die in terrorist attacks’ – ensures Mike Urbaniak. – ‘But Poland is one of the safest countries in Europe. Here, excluding tiny number of incidents, Jews are not being attacked, and Jewish institutions don’t need security, which is very unusual on a world scale’.

Huge business

Chasidim, travelling in great numbers from Israel, also (surprisingly) don’t need security agents. Including for example many Orthodox Jews, who came to visit our country recently, as they wanted to pray at Tzadik of Lelów’s grave. They came to the market square in Kazimierz without any security assistance and without any fear.

‘They chatted eagerly with tourists interested in their outfits, with passers-by who don’t see Jews with side curls every day’ – adds Urbaniak.

In Kazimierz chasidim are nothing unusual. Like groups of Israeli teenagers. This year 30,000 Israeli teenagers are coming to Poland, and they will have 800 security agents to protect them.

Roberto Lucchesini reported to the Polish police that he got beaten by Israeli security. Krakow Prosecution Office is investigating the case, and so is its counterpart in Israel.

‘Results of this investigation are of medium importance’ – thinks Ilona Dworak-Cousin. – ‘What matters is if the youth that visits Poland, will still treat it as hostile and completely alien country’.

Polish-Israeli Friendship Association in Israel and Cracovians Association in Israel both try to convince the government of their country, not to send any more teenagers to see only the death camps in Poland. Chances are slim.

‘These trips are mostly a huge business for people who organise them’ – says Lili Haber – ‘including Israeli bodyguards’.

C O M M E N T S

Szewach Weiss, former speaker of Knesseth, former Israel’s ambassador in Poland:
I have a dream: I would like Israeli youth to come to Poland not only to see death camps, but also to see the life of Polish cities and towns. That they would even stay under one roof with Polish young people, so that after some time Poles would visit them back in Israel, that Poles would be invited and welcomed there. Is that one of those dreams that will never come true? I don’t think so, I believe that it will come true in 5 years at worst. In the meanwhile the most important thing is to change the current form of Israeli teenagers’ trips. A perfect solution would be direct contact between Israeli and Polish schools. That would have given a real chance to talk, exchange ideas, or even have an argument. I would however like the Poles to understand our difficult position, how deep is in us that idea that our children could lose their lives, even in a country as peaceful as yours. Of course that does not give anyone right to brutal behaviour towards Poles. Aggression is aggression, regardless of circumstances.

Yuli Amir, Israel’s Education Minister:
I think that Israeli youth doesn’t think good or bad about Poland or Poles. These trips are more about them, their Jewish identity. This is such Jewish feeling, that the whole world was against us, and Poland was on the wrong side too. You have to remember, that for many years Israeli youth has been rejecting Holocaust. For them it was a specimen, of how not to act. “Why did we go like sheep for death?”Holocaust was that weakness, they didn’t want to identify with. By coming to Auschwitz they have started to treat the victims of Shoah differently. This is a moral rehabilitation of Jewish past. of course we are aware of imperfections of the visits programme, we are considering changes. We discuss a lot, we think what influence these trips have on youth, on education. But all changes need time.

Mike Urbaniak, editor of Forum Of Polish Jews and correspondent of European Jewish Press in Poland:
I have met many Israelis in my life. Most of them are great, cheerful and exceptionally open people. They don’t have superiority complex. Everyone, who has at least once been in Israel has to admit that. In Poland however their image is getting worse and worse. And this will continue, if those trips will still look like a visit in countryside museum. This is a problem that needs to be solved in Israel as soon as possible.

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See also » Young Israelis in Poland – continued


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