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Vol 2, No 29
4 September 2000
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News from Poland
All the important news
since 24 August 2000

Joanna Rohozińska

Delayed apologies

The leaders of the Polish Roman Catholic Church formally asked forgiveness for what they called historical failings among the clergy and their followers, including tolerance of anti-Semitism.

In a letter of apology, which was read out in churches across the country last Sunday, the bishops admitted that although Poles made noble efforts to save Jews during the Second World War, they had also showed indifference and enmity toward them.

This is the first statement from the Polish bishops since the Pope apologised in March 2000 for the role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust. The Conference of Bishops of Poland's Roman Catholic Church issued a letter on 26 August calling the year 2000 a "time of reconciliation and grace."

We ask forgiveness for those among us who show disdain for people of other denominations or tolerate anti-Semitism...anti-Semitism, just like anti-Christianism, is a sin.

They went on to state that, "We should also efficiently overcome all signs of anti-Judaism, which stems from a wrong interpretation of the Church's teaching, and of anti-Semitism, which is hatred stemming from nationalist or racial ideas that still exist amongst Christians."

However, the bishops also noted that anti-Polish sentiments among some Jewish groups should be "countered with equal determination."


Down on the farm

Andrzej Lepper, farming union leader and presidential candidate was arrested- for the second time this year for failing to appear on charges relating to last year's farmers' protests. (He was previously arrested in April and actually faces six charges in different towns.)

The arrest warrant was issued after Lepper ignored a summons (again). Apparently Lepper's lawyer, Henryk Dzido, thinks that his client's candidacy is a magical shield against prosecution—maybe he ought to chat with US President Bill Clinton about this.

He stated that Lepper "thinks this arrest is a scandal, because it has no grounds and because of his status as a presidential candidate." The regional court in Gorzów Wielkopolski eventually released Lepper on Thursday 31 August.


Lucky thirteen

Thirteen candidates (Aleksander Kwaśniewski, Marian Krzaklewski, Andrzej Olechowski and Lech Wałęsa among them) submitted the necessary 100 000 signatures to the State Electoral Commission in order to register for the upcoming 8 October ballot by the deadline at midnight on 24 August 2000.

Incumbent President Kwaśniewski submitted a record 1.7 million signatures. Opinion polls give Kwaśniewski nearly 65 percent of electoral support, compared with eight percent for Krzaklewski and about ten percent for the centrist independent Andrzej Olechowski.

"Kwaśniewski is tipped to win. His rivals will work to ensure that he gets less than 50 percent of the vote and that a run-off will be needed," said Lena Kolarska-Bobinska, chief of the Public Affairs Institute think-tank.


Solidarność—20 years later

The city of Gdańsk granted honorary citizenship to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former US President Ronald Reagan, on 24 August "for [their] historical role in dismantling the Iron Curtain and effective support for the movement for democracy and freedom in our country."

The honorary citizenships were part of the events intended to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Solidarity movement.

Former Solidarity leader and President and current candidate Wałęsa kicked off the three days of festivities on 29 August saying that "nobody has the sole rights to what happened twenty years ago—it was a joint effort by many people."

He added that things moved so quickly "that we did not manage to express due thanks to all who deserved it... Thus I say thank you 20 years later, to all those who contributed," he said, addressing the crowd from an electrical cart.

A water cannon and an armored personnel carrier were on display to recall how the special police forces had suppressed street protests in the 1980s, just in case memories were faltering.

However, as the BBC reported, the anniversary celebrations failed to arouse much public interest. The giant screens set up in the centre of Gdańsk's old town, to relay the Solidarity conference, attracted just 50 to 60 people.

Despite the low turnout, a recent poll by OBOP revealed that 84 percent of those questioned saw the August 1980 strike in Gdańsk as an important event in Poland's history and a full 81 percent thought Wałęsa, as Solidarity's first leader, deserves to be remembered by future generations.

President Kwaśniewski was not invited to attend the celebrations.


Just another Saturday night

Punks and skinheads temporarily set aside their ideological (sic) differences in Poznań on Saturday 26 August and were united by their animosity for the police.

The police had actually been sent in to break up the two groups who were busy hurling paving stones and bottles at each other when the authorities arrived. They quickly turned against their mutual oppressors.

In the end, six police cars along with a number of private vehicles were damaged and 14 rioters were detained, said police spokesman Andrzej Borowiak. He added that "eleven of those arrested, ranging in age from about 17 to 21, first had to be taken to the sobering chamber."

According to Borowiak it all started when 300 people were turned away from a punk concert for not having tickets. With not much else to do last Saturday night in Kraków, the "hooligans" attacked a Buddhist meditation centre.

Police spokesman Robert Szydlo said, "Eight young toughs, said by witnesses to have been under the influence of alcohol, smashed windows and beat up a security guard at the Buddhist centre." Rock'n'Roll.


Campaign strategies revealed

While campaigning in western Poland, presidential candidate General Tadeusz Wilecki, revealed his admiration for Adolf Hitler's housing policy.

"It was Hitler's greatest achievement — a house for every family...Hitler had ministers with a sense for managing property and who were good administrators. Apart from all the evil, many things were done really well for the Germans."

The head of Wilecki's electoral committee, Boguslaw Kowalski, rushed in to try and save the day by explaining that the remarks were taken out of context: "It was an example of how housing problems in Poland can be solved," and that there was "no similarity between the political programmes of Wilecki and Hitler."

Needless to say, this didn't go over very well. The press had a field day with the weekly Polityka commenting "So we have our own Haider as well." Furthermore, a youth faction of the Union of Labor petitioned the state electoral commission to have Wilecki disqualified.

Wilecki is running under the slogan "A Tough Man for Hard Times" and is polling around one percent. Perhaps "Hard Times for a Thick Man" would be better?

Joanna Rohozińska, 2 September 2000

Moving on:


Gazeta Wyborcza
Prawo i Gospodarka
Zycie Warszawy
Polska Agencja Prasowa

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