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Jul 14, 2024

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Latest News Bytes From Poland

Poland to establish freedom-of-speech court, fine illegal censors
Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has announced a legal initiative which would enable internet users to file complaints against the removal of their online posts. Under its provisions, social-media services will not be allowed to remove posts or block accounts simply because their content is not to their liking. If they do, the victim of such ideological censorship will be entitled to file a formal complaint. Big Tech firms could face a staggering fine every time they unconstitutionally censor lawful free speech online. The measure includes the creation of a special freedom-of-speech court to handle such cases. The court will also be able to rule in cases where someone feels slandered by an online post. Although most everyone says they favor freedom of expression, in actuality both social and general media nowadays tend to censor content not in agreement with the leftist-liberal line. Criticizing them is called “hate speech” or is given some other “anti” or “phobe” label.

2021 proclaimed Cardinal Wyszyński year
The Sejm, the main lawmaking chamber of Poland’s parliament, has voted overwhelmingly to proclaim 2021 the Year of the Venerable Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński (1901-1981). Poland’s Primate from 1948 until his death, he was known for shepherding Catholic Poland through decades of Soviet-style totalitarian rule. Wyszyński was imprisoned for three years in the Stalinist 1950s but refused to give in. Upon his release, he continued his campaign for human rights and religious freedom. Largely as a result of these efforts, Poland was the least oppressive country of the Soviet bloc and the only one that resisted forced collectivization of agriculture. Many Poles regarded him as the unquestionable leader of the Polish nation and even the “uncrowned king of Poland.” Numerous events will be held in Poland this year to commemorate the legacy of a religious leader whose beatification had been set for June 2020. It was postponed due to the pandemic and will be held as soon as circumstances permit.

Governor fired for failing to stop illegal “castle in the forest”
Łukasz Mikołajczyk, the voivode (provincial governor) of the Wielkopolskie region, was recently fired for failing to block an illegal construction project at a nature-protected site. Designed to resemble a medieval castle, the 14-story high-rise with a 138-foot tower was to have housed some 50 luxury apartments. Although the Notecka Forest site is part of the European Union’s’ Natura 2000 protected area, its construction was continued after Mikołajczyk failed to override the go-ahead by a county commissioner. Poland’s Chief Building Inspector is expected to decide the fate of the nearly completed project, located in west-central Poland some 30 miles north of Poznań.

Pole wins prestigious Four Hills skijumping tournament
In Bischofshofen, Austria, Poland’s Kamil Stoch won the 69th Four Hills Tournament, one of skijumping’s key tournaments. His victory followed Stoch’s earlier successes in 2017 and 2018. With jumps of 139 and 140.5 meters (456 and 461 feet respectively) the Pole comfortably outclassed his rivals, Norwegian runner-up Marius Lindvik and third-placed Karl Geiger of Germany. In the overall standings, three Poles – Stoch, Dawid Kubacki and Piotr Żyła – made it into the top five. The Polish team came close to being disqualified when one of its members tested positive for COVID-19. They were allowed to compete only after tough negotiations and further checks that showed the remaining Poles to be uninfected. Twenty years ago, skijumping became Poland’s second most popular sport (after soccer), when Adam Małysz soared to stardom and put Poland on the world skijumping map. His younger successors are working hard to uphold that tradition.

Poland thanked for aiding truckers stranded in Dover
The drivers of more than 8,000 heavy-duty trucks hoping to head home for the holidays got stranded at the British Port of Dover after a new strain of the Coronavirus in Britain prompted France to close its borders. Stuck in a huge traffic jam, for days the truckers lacked access to food, water, warm blankets and toilet facilities, and scuffles with police ensued. Poland dispatched a team of medics to check the truckers for Covid-19, since only those tested negative could enter France. They and a back-up Polish Territorial Defense contingent provided food and bottled water, and within days the truck jam was gradually dispersed. The Poles were thanked by the British government and European media for their efforts.

World Bank predicts 2021 3.5% economic growth for Poland
The World Bank has upheld its October 2020 forecast that Poland’s economy will expand by 3.5 percent in 2021. In 2022, the Polish GDP is expected to grow by 4.3 percent. In 2020, the global economy shrank by 4.3 percent, and the World Bank predicts that in 2021 it will grow by 4 percent, one-fifth less than the pre-pandemic forecast. Overall, Poland has so far navigated its way through the pandemic fairly well, deftly balancing between health-related lockdowns and economic concerns. Stimulus packages have helped save jobs and keep companies operating. Poland has the EU’s second lowest unemployment rate of 3 percent (only the Czechs have fewer jobless). Towards the end of 2020 unemployment stood at 4.8% in Germany, 6.9% in Sweden and 8.4% in France. Per capita, Greece had most people out of work – 13.8%.

Russia bolsters militarization of region bordering Poland
Moscow is now vigorously upgrading its land, sea and air defenses in Kaliningrad Oblast which borders Poland and Lithuania and is already one of Russia’s most militarized regions. Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star), the Russian army newspaper, said recently that the newly installed defense systems “will be capable of neutralizing medium-range missiles deployed on Polish and Lithuanian soil.” By the end of 2020, the military upgrades had included 30 new state-of-the-art tanks, a rocket ship and a high-speed assault vessel capable of transporting 13 tanks or up to 30 armored vehicles plus 300 marines. Modern, multi-task fighter planes have replaced the Baltic Fleet’s antiquated Soviet-era aircraft. Since Russia faces no imminent threat from its western neighbors, the sudden upgrades appear to be a political ploy to divert public attention away from the country’s crumbling economy, low birth rate and dwindling support for the Putin regime.

Poland’s Catholic Primate calls abortion referendum fallacious
“A referendum to speak up for or against life is an erroneous cause,” Poland’s Primate Archbishop Wojciech Polak told the Polsat News channel. “As believers, we speak out for life. Of late, Pope Francis has frequently raised that issue saying it is not a religious question but a universal one. It is a question of defending the human being and his rights,” the Primate stressed. “The Church, its clergy and faithful are obligated to defend life from conception to natural death,” he added. Archbishop Polak was responding to calls for a referendum being raised by pro-abortion demonstrations that had streamed through Poland’s streets late last year. They were protesting a Constitutional Court ruling banning the termination of pregnancies expected to produce a retarded or deformed baby. Legal abortions can still be performed in Poland in four separate cases: rape, incest, threat to the mother’s health or life.

Poles in post-Brexit Britain to retain benefits but problems increase
An agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom has laid down the ground rules for mutual relations following the latter’s withdrawal from the formerly 28-nation bloc. The British government is satisfied that cooperation in the trade, security and energy sectors will continue, but also that the EU will no longer be able to interfere in the country’s internal affairs. Poles and other EU citizens who have established residence in Britain will retain their welfare benefits but their university tuition will quadruple. EU visitors who previously could come and go as they pleased are now required to have a passport and visa for stays of over six months. EU citizens wishing to work in the UK will now need a workers’ visa costing up to $1,923 depending on the type of job to be performed. Goods certificates and much more general red tape is now also required of EU citizens.

Poland needs to speed up energy transformation – minister
“Transformation of Poland’s antiquated energy system is becoming increasingly urgent,” Climate Minister Michał Kurtyka said recently. “Seventy percent of our power generation units are over 30 years old and will need to be replaced within two decades. He added that this transformation will cost billions, and that within a decade nearly $16 billion would go to regions most dependent on coal such as southern Poland’s coal-mining stronghold Śląsk. Kurtyka explained. “Poland’s energy policy until 2040” would include the withdrawal of coal for home heating by 2030 in cities and by 2040 in rural areas.” The plan also envisions the construction of nuclear power plants in Poland as well as a significant increase in renewable energy sources such as offshore wind farms, he added.

Polish celebrities criticized over vaccination scandal
A scandal erupted after a group of Polish show-business personalities rushed to get Covid-19 vaccinations out of turn during the initial stage reserved for healthcare staff. They included veteran actress and theater director Krystyna Janda who said they had been invited to become “ambassadors” and popularize the vaccination campaign. She later apologized for misleading the public. Also jumping the line was former ex-communist prime minister Leszek Miller and his wife. Following medical staff, next in line are uniformed personnel such as police, military and border guards, teachers and senior citizens. Two county commissioners were kicked out of the ruling conservative Law and Justice party for getting vaccinated out of turn.

Polish troops, Catholic charity aid Croatian quake victims
Poland was among the first countries to respond to an earthquake that struck Croatia at the turn of the year by rushing to the aid of its victims. At least seven people died, dozens were injured and thousands of buildings were destroyed in the 6.4 magnitude quake. Polish soldiers have supplied army tents which will provide temporary shelter for hundreds of victims who lost their homes in the disaster. Caritas Polska, Poland’s Catholic charity, has wired 50,000 złotys (about $14,600) to Caritas Croatia and launched an online donation drive to help tide the victims through the quake’s chaotic aftermath. Caritas is also supplying victims with tents, sleeping-bags and warm blankets.

St John Paul II’s secretary denies cover-up and bribe allegations
Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, a former private secretary to Pope John Paul II, has repeatedly denied allegations that he had covered up the sexual abuse of children by churchmen and accepted bribes. The 81-year-old prelate was responding to a documentary broadcast by TVN24, Poland’s main anti-government news channel. Its documentary titled “Don Stanislao: The other face of Cardinal Dziwisz,” presented documents selected to suggest that Dziwisz was involved in the cover-up up of sexual crimes by priests around the world and may have received bribes from them. “Never did I accept any money to cover up acts or facts deserving the attention of the Holy Father,” the cardinal avowed. He argued that the accusations were aimed at “destroying the service I provided with full humility to Saint Pope John Paul II.”

Kraków seeks trumpeter to sound centuries-old call
The fire Brigade of Kraków,  Poland’s former royal capital,  has announced a vacancy for a trumpeter to replace a member of the seven-man team that has retired. The successful candidate will be tested for physical fitness, musical skills and possible fear of heights. Whoever qualifies will take turns playing the unfinished trumpet call every hour on the hour from the tallest tower of St Mary’s Church. According to legend, when invading Mongol troops were approaching Kraków in 1241, a sentry atop the tower alerted the townsfolk who managed to close the city gates in the nick of time. But a Mongol arrow pierced the trumpeter’s throat before he could finish the melody, and it has been played that way ever since. The 1928 children’s book “The Trumpeter of Krakow” by American, Eric P. Kelly, contained the first written account of that legend. This year, for the first time, a woman is among the candidates for the job.

Wave of Polish grocery explosions in Holland
An explosion at a Polish deli in the Dutch town of Tilburg that seriously damaged the building and neighboring properties was the latest in what appeared to be a wave of such incidents. The shop’s façade bore the Polish words Warszawa (Warsaw) and Piekarnia (bakery). It was the fourth such attack in a month on groceries and supermarkets stocking imported Polish food products and catering mainly to local Polish immigrants. All the shops are operated by Kurds. Police are investigating whether the latest explosion is linked to the three previous attacks. It was not immediately clear whether the incidents were anti-Polish in nature or motivated by intra-ethnic rivalry within the Kurdish community.

By Robert Strybel
Warsaw Correspondent